How to Recession-Proof Your Sales

Roy Solomon
How to Recession-Proof Your Sales
Table of contents

In a recent LinkedIn poll, we asked 4,839 sellers how they’re planning to adapt to the impending recession.

  • 18% of people will spend more time focusing on price and value.
  • 38% will focus on building trust.
  • 30% will zone in on their capacity to listen.
  • 15% are unphased and don’t plan on changing anything.

It’s clear the focus is on relationships—building trust and better listening. Yet in an increasingly virtual world, sellers are also tasked with finding new ways to build rapport and form connections without the benefits of being in person.

So, how can sellers prepare? In another poll, we asked sellers how they’re preparing for Q4 and the top answer was “How can I do more?” (41%).

If you ask CraftVentures partner, Mike Marg—whose extensive sales history includes selling for Dropbox and Slack—the answer doesn’t have to be more. Instead, a recession presents an opportunity to evaluate and improve on your sales process.

“Selling in a bear market requires massive accountability,” Mike says. “Never blame circumstances. Correctly qualify them out.”

The upcoming quarters will look different. Finding success won’t be about increasing outbound numbers or productivity. Instead, it’ll be about going deeper into your current sales pipeline, recession-proofing your process, and competing through differentiation.

How is the recession impacting sales?

While a recession won’t impact every business the same way, many sellers will feel the stress of slashed budgets and more conservative spending. Two primary things sellers must do during a recession:

  1. Understand the buyer mindset
  2. Cherish every lead.

Understand the buyer mindset

As if sellers weren’t under enough pressure—when the economy takes a turn, picture a giant magnifying glass being held over every discovery call. Sellers must understand that, during a recession, they are under severe scrutiny from buyers.

“The ability to sell has always rested on a foundation of psychology, specifically, buyer psychology,” Mike writes. “At some level, a human being must make a decision to buy, and the way those decisions are made is an equation that must shift when economic times become more difficult.”

Mike outlines the top-of-mind questions for a buyer during a recession:

  • What will break if I don’t buy this product?
  • What ROI do I expect from these products?
  • Who will be mad at me for buying or not buying this product?
  • What’s the cost of not investing?

He argues that these are good questions to consider regardless of the current economic climate. It forces sellers to make the value of their product crystal clear.

Cherish every lead

Working in a downturn market means fewer opportunities and fewer leads. It may be stating the obvious—but this means that every lead during a recession is precious cargo.

Every deal in a recession is more important than it was six months ago.

The “antidote,” is to build better relationships by improving buyer communication. Navigate sales conversations with more data and more context. Use insights to influence what you send to the prospect and when. 

[Note: Tools like Salesroom can help by providing real-time insights that equip sellers during a sales call.]

5 Ways to Recession Proof Your Sales Calls

Good sellers recognize the shift in buyer mindset and the value of leads during a recession—yet this still begs the question: How can sellers run successful sales calls under such scrutiny?

Well, while recessions create unique challenges for sellers, they also present an opportunity to look beyond your original plans and find gaps in the market. Don’t be afraid to get back to the fundamentals: better talk tracks, stronger discovery calls, and a deeper understanding of clients’ pain points and journeys.

Here are five ways you can start recession-proofing your sales and improving your discovery calls:

1. Are you WOW-ing with the first impression?

Research shows that it takes as little as one second to make a first impression. When you’re in person, there is a lot more at play here: physical presence, for one. Virtually, this set of impression-makers shifts. Now on a discovery call, buyers are noticing:

  • Your video platform
  • Your background
  • What you’re wearing
  • Your first sentence

Some of this is simple preparation, such as creating a background that is clean and uncluttered—perhaps with some interesting book titles or artwork— and silencing computer pings and text alerts ahead of the call. The rest, such as how you start the conversation, requires in-depth preparation on the buyer before you join.

All of it is important, as it can be the make-or-break moment for the call.

The impression you give off as you enter the virtual room and begin engaging leads in conversation sets the tone for the rest of the call.

Consider the first thing you say, as a seller; there’s a difference between a typical, “How’s the weather in [fill-in-the-blank-city]?” and a more personalized question about the buyer, such as, “I saw you volunteered at [blank] back in 2015, what was that like?” or “We have a mutual connection, [so-and-so]! How do you know them?”

Starting a call by being attentive, personable, and showing that you’ve prepared for the call are the extra details that make for an above-average experience. Details matter.

<Read our tips on how to master the first 15 seconds of a discovery call, here.>

No matter how well you prepare, sales calls never go as planned. Salesroom helps you course-correct during the call with Real-Time Insights, People Intelligence, and Meeting Hub features. These tools keep you one step ahead of the conversation—and the competition.

2. Are you making the buyer feel pain?

The pain we’re talking about here is the pain of not having your product. A strong SaaS product is core to operations and delivers unquestionable ROI; particularly during an economic downturn, it must be clear that your product is a need, not a want.

“A product worth buying is one that, if a decision is imminent and someone proposes churning or not buying, there would be a revolt,” Mike says.

A product worth buying is one that, if someone proposes churning or not buying, there would be a revolt.” — Mike Marg, CraftVentures

In order to have a successful sales call, you must identify how your products can deliver this level of value to your clients. The first step is figuring out how to uniquely position your product.

Typically, successful SaaS products help a buyer to do one of three things:

  1. Deliver their product
  2. Sell their product
  3. Run their company 

When a buyer gets on a call, they know which bucket the product falls into. It’s up to you as the seller to communicate why yours does it better than your competitors, and how your product is uniquely equipped to meet their pain.

“You have to prove that your product has an ROI and is irreplaceable compared to other products,” Mike says. “If you have a product that can help sell, for example, you have to prove that no other product can help sell to that extent.”

Success happens when the buyer leaves the call with a your-product-shaped-hole in their heart.

“The magic of a good discovery call is making sure that, afterwards, they can feel the pain of not moving forward with the decision,” Mike says.

3. Have you accurately qualified your lead as a good fit?

Nothing puts a lead off more than forcing a product that just doesn't add value to their business.

To make sure you’re not pushing a pain point that doesn't actually exist, always start your calls with 3-4 specific qualifying questions. For example, you can ask:

  • What tools do you currently use for achieving X? 
  • How are those tools working?
  • What could be improved?

The key, Mike says, is to ask highly specific questions and dig for specific answers. For example, sales reps for Salesroom will ask—what video platforms are you currently using? How is that going? Are you able to equip your sellers with a game plan before the meeting? Ah, with your current platform you can’t—so what happens as a result of that?

“You start high-level and then you dig deeper and deeper until you either get to pain that’s worth solving or you realize, there is no pain here,” Mike says.

Don’t be afraid to vocalize if you think it’s not the right fit, he adds. There’s nothing wrong with being candid about this. In fact, you could even try to help educate them on solutions that could help (see our article on the importance of being consultative in your sales calls.)

Your job is to leave the call with one answer: are they a right fit or not?

“Stay binary,” Mike says. “It’s either a yes or a no. Yes, it’s a good fit, or no, it’s not.”

4. Is the decision maker involved?

When scheduling discovery or follow-up calls, look at who is on the virtual meeting list. Ask yourself if those attendees are capable of making a purchase. If not, who else do you need to involve in the next meeting? Find out their names, and know exactly who to ask for.

Average sellers are content to work with one prospect, or aren’t aware of the decision-making power of that individual. But an expert seller recognizes who they’re talking to, if they’re the decision-maker, and, if not, uses multithreading to get connected with the right person.

“What separates an expert seller from a novice seller is the ability to take control of the sales cycle in a customer friendly way,” Mike says. (12:40)

This could look like saying, “Typically, [Title] is involved in the decision. Can we loop in [Person who has that Title at Buyer’s Company] in our next call?”

By connecting with the decision-makers, you reduce the risk of the deal falling through at the end of the sales cycle.

5. Are you effectively following up with leads?

Of course, mastering the first impression and determining if the lead is a good fit are great first steps—but they would be nothing without follow-up. Particularly during a downturn market, following up with urgency and prioritization is an essential part of recession-proofing your sales.

Effective follow-ups will be personalized and have action-oriented prompts. Make sure you’re connecting with the decision-makers. When you reach out, remind them about the pain they felt during the call and why they need you.

Recession-proof = Future-proof

It’s not an easy time to be in sales. End of the year quotas are looming, economic downturn at the door—many sellers are probably harnessing something our friend Ken at Sales Humor calls, “irrational optimism.”

The opportunity here is to evaluate how things are being done, and how they can be done better—not just during a recession, but in a way that creates long-lasting improvements for the future.

Our goal at Salesroom is to help lift some of that weight off your shoulders. Our video platform is designed to help equip sellers during discovery calls, with features like Real-Time Insights that help inform the conversation, and a Co-Pilot feature that takes notes of important phrases and questions asked. It’s the ideal video platform for recession-proofing sales calls.

If you’d like to learn more about recession-proofing your sales, we’re hosting a live event on November 1, 2022, with Mike Marg and Meka Asonye, Partner at First Round Capital: Wartime Sales Leader: how to recession-proof your team & company. Register here and we’ll see you there.

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