You can read it in the news, hear it on podcasts and watch it on the major media channels: the economy is slowing down. Businesses are preparing themselves for headwinds to come. Two years ago, economists predicted a recession due to the pandemic. Yet businesswise,
2020 and 2021 fared better than many expected. Now the market appears to be
softening. Business sentiment dropped to 84.3 in September from 88.6 in August, marking the worst drop since May 2020. We are facing uncertain times.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How can you help them in this turbulent time? According to McKinsey, in times of stress, buyers become risk-averse, but not everybody fares the same. Some see these headwinds coming earlier than others and adjust their strategy. McKinsey’s research shows that the winners in a crisis plan ahead for multiple scenarios. They have prepared to protect their bottom line and accelerate when the opportunity arises. How can you help your customers to be that versatile? How do you sell in an economic slowdown?
Ten years ago, it was the Challenger sales rep that showed better results. They outperformed the average salesperson. But also here things have changed.
Now is the time for Trusted Advisors to stick their head above others. They sell with the buyer’s perspective. But what does that really mean? Above all, early in their conversations, they understand the overall customer’s business objectives. With empathy, they acknowledge the customer’s concerns that in an economic slowdown, achieving their initial goals have become more challenging. In these situations, they know that stakeholders are focused on maximising customer loyalty and protecting the bottom line and their cash flows. With that in mind, Trusted Advisors bring different ideas to the table. Then, collaboratively, they discuss alternative strategies, top and bottom lines. Let’s go over six examples you can raise at customer meetings during an economic slowdown;
- Explore trimming the fat in unexpected ways. As they say, the devil is in the details. What has your customer been thinking about to save cost? Suppliers operate in different ways. Grab this opportunity to understand better the hidden cost of current solutions with your customer.
- Focus on different growth verticals. In difficult times customers often gravitate to do what they know best. Share, for example, how you have helped similar customers find growth in e-commerce. if you are an expert in e-commerce or any other vertical, be confident and show your customer.
- CX is the new growth accelerator. I recommend reading the blog I posted earlier about using Customer Experience as a differentiator. There are multiple ways of doing this. CX is by far the number one loyalty factor for many end consumers.
- Stress test new ideas. Encourage customers to dust off any expansion plans they had before the start of the pandemic. When going to market, you want it to go right the first time. So offer to test the new market with you and your team without distracting existing supply chains.
- Duplicate what works. Ask your customer what their most profitable product is and why. Why wouldn’t that work in different markets? Then, offer you help and expertise.
- Reward customers in the most demanding markets. Which market was recently entered, and why is it not growing fast enough? Discuss the option of incentifying new customers into this market and letting a different supplier do the service.
This is just the tip of the iceberg ideas. What alternative growth strategies can you come up with? Buyers are hungry for insights. Trusted Advisors should have a backpack full of ideas. These, of course, catch the buyer’s interest. But here is the thing, it is not just about bringing new perspectives to the customer’s table. Knowing how to handle conversations when interest is shown is also important.
Trusted Advisors know that Instead of selling their solution to support these ideas, they first need to evaluate with the buyer’s current solution gaps and the solution criteria needed for such growth initiatives. They also know that more stakeholders need to get involved, and a change champion needs to be found. Only after achieving buying room consensus on the importance of seriously exploring these ideas the Trusted Advisor works with the change champion to build a business case for change. They are great at influencing the buying process. And in the end, it is a win-win for the customer and the salesperson.
Trusted Advisors and their customers are the winners in a crisis. They certainly know how to sell in an economic slowdown.
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