Arguably, sales teams are the most affected by the economic downturn. With budgets tightening across the board, it’s becoming harder to close those all-too-important deals. However, sales reps are just down — not out. A recent planning guide released by Forrester indicates several ways in which sales leaders can re-energize their teams and increase the likelihood of sales.
To learn about enabling sales in uncertain economic environments, Demand Gen Report sat down with Mike Pregler, VP, Research Director for Forrester, to dive deeper into the planning guide.
Demand Gen Report: What are some steps that organizations can take to build a solid foundation for profitable growth?
Mike Pregler: We recommend organizations experiment with investments in product-led growth and buyer self-service. They should also actively invest in areas such as sales transformation. This includes looking at, developing and building a scalable growth model for the sales organization. A scalable growth model means it’s not based on heroic efforts by a small group of sales reps or simply adding sales headcount; it’s about investing in integrated processes, technology and data/insight-driven actions.
If you look at the B2C side, consumers are comfortable buying digitally and on their own. And we see that trend moving more to B2B, where buyers are becoming more comfortable making significant investment in products in a self-service environment. Some organizations need to build their product model, marketing model and sales model to help enable buyers to buy via self-service. Sales leaders should invest in developing that capability now — or they’re going to be left behind.
Pregler: Along with building out that sales transformation, organizations should also focus on their go-to-market (GTM) optimization to identify the segments that will still buy despite the economic headwinds. Additionally, businesses need to invest in seller awareness. Our research found that sales professionals have a lower level of considered wellness compared to the rest of an organization, so sales leaders should ensure they’re investing in the health and wellness of their reps, which will drive productivity.
One of the ways to achieve good seller wellness is getting regular positive and productive feedback from their sales managers. With the encouragement foundation laid, organizations should then invest in sales training and work with their first-level sales managers on how to be good coaches. That’s the key — investing in coaching and training. Good coaches improve seller wellness, and seller wellness improves sales productivity.
DGR: Are there any coaching platforms or technologies that you recommend these companies invest in?
Pregler: There are several technologies that help and support good coaching, such as conversational intelligence applications that capture buyer-seller interactions. Sales managers and organizations can use those technologies to understand some of the conversations reps are having and utilize that information as they build out their coaching.
DGR: Shifting beyond coaching and training platforms, a major pain point indicated in the planning guide was the use of point solutions and ad-hoc technology. How can organizations work to avoid those?
Pregler: Sales organizations should evaluate the projects they’re working on based on a two-by-two matrix through a high/low lens. First, organizations need to determine how difficult a project would be to implement, and then examine the value that project could deliver to the organization. If it’s low value and low difficulty, that’s somewhat of a red herring. They might be easy to implement, but you’ll get little value out of them.
The areas that give us high value and high difficulty are enterprise projects, which are the ones sales reps should be looking at long-term and continuously investing in. The ones that are low-difficulty and high-value are the quick wins that sales organizations and leaders should focus on immediately. Leaders must balance maximizing sales organizations’ potential by investing in equipment right now while keeping an eye on developing those enterprise projects over the long term.
DGR: With all those investments, I’d imagine the current economic client would impact budgets. Can you elaborate on how sales executives can take that into account to anticipate/plan for any economic downturns?
Pregler: In the face of economic challenges, you should:
- Identify the areas of your GTM segmentation most effected by economic headwinds;
- Examine trends in your pipeline and forecast;
- Conduct won/loss analysis;
- Discuss the climate with your customer advisory board; and
- Determine which GTM segments are most likely to continue buying during challenging times.
Once that analysis is complete, you should shift or reallocate your budget and resources toward those segments. But then you also want to look at those affected market segments and restrain your spending by nurturing them through a lower cost engagement model. Work with your CMO and customer success team to help nurture these potential buyers so they understand you’re there to support them no matter what.
DGR: What are some of the most important things that sales executives should keep in mind when looking ahead into 2023?
Pregler: I'd say keep in mind the idea that you must plan for growth, regardless of any economic challenges. Look at investing in your organization to plan for year-over-year continuous growth and set yourself and your organization up to do that via a scalable growth model. Invest in quick wins and enterprise projects to continuously achieve that scalable growth model.