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  • Writer's pictureMike Hanna

Software Sales Management in a Down Economy



If you’re interested in maritime history, you might know about something called The Doldrums—a place feared by explorers and pirates alike. This particular zone of the ocean has little in the way of winds or currents to keep ships moving.


If that sounds familiar right now, it’s because the economy—and the software market as well—is in somewhat of a doldrums. Since closing deals is the lifeblood of sales organizations, what can sales managers do right now to keep their crew from mutiny?


Deepen Current Customer Relationships


With no new customers on the horizon, it may be time to broaden the horizons with your existing customer base. What new products and solutions can be implemented? Checking in with your current customer base can produce some conversations about what other needs your company can fulfill. Considering that customer acquisition can cost as much as 5 times as retaining an existing customer, this is a good idea to pursue even aside from bad markets. Moreover, making sure customers are satisfied as possible can help build a sizable moat between you and your potential competitors, especially when the market picks up again.


Refine the Sales Process


Every organization has a sales process. Although the particulars of this process may look different from company to company, it typically involves some of the same players. And every sales process has its bottlenecks, where objections prevent the sale from coming to its fullest fruition—or sometimes at all. A downturn in the economy and a slower pace of business can provide you with the opportunity to review previous sales and start assembling flowcharts and data. This information can help you refine the process moving forward so that when business resumes as usual, your team can close even more deals.


Fine-tune the hunt


But actually, studies have shown that the biggest bottleneck to the sales process might occur before it even starts! Around 40% of sales reps say that prospecting is the hardest part of sales, and the same study found that 22% of them say it’s qualifying. A downturn in business activity might be just the space you’re looking for to gather the hunters together, sharpen their spears, reapply the camouflage, and smear everyone with animal scents. Not literally of course. But figuratively speaking, you can discuss the hunting process and determine how it might result in more qualified leads.


Encourage Individual Growth


Slow times can be great times to encourage your reps to focus on personal development. This can even be something you incentivize, such as organizing a book club on sales books, and having a weekly discussion where dinner and drinks are on you (or on the company tab, rather). With fewer immanent tasks at hand, you can also conduct a more thorough performance review of each rep, and discuss potential areas of improvement. If your company has in-house training or education modules, this can be a time to make sure your reps get them done and get as familiar as possible with the products they’re selling.


Tighten the Team


You can also work on developing the group dynamic through teambuilding activities and outings. Why not have a day at a ropes course or an evening at an escape room? These activities may seem frivolous, but they can certainly force a group of people to work together. And the payoff of these investments was gauged in a Gallup poll that saw a 10% increase in productivity and a 20% increase in sales revenue. Aside from field trips, teamwork-building during quiet quarters can also involve some cross-training, shadowing, and presentations. Cross-pollination might include setting up conversations between the marketing and sales departments. Sales engineers can do some presentations on their share of the sales cycle. And SDRs can do some shadowing with field sales reps. These kinds of experiences can result in greater collaboration and more efficiency.


Warp Speed Ahead


We’ll get through this time, but until then, there are still plenty of things to do. And in fact, organizations that do these things will find themselves positioned for acceleration once they leave the slow space of this current market.


Another thing that you can do is explore restructuring your team, which can include adding or replacing reps and engineers. Alternatively, you may be aboard a certain ship and thinking about sailing on another. Whether you’re a manager or a candidate, I can help you get to where you want to go, with almost 4 decades in the industry. Send an email to mike@michaelblair.com and let’s connect.

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