Driving Sales Efficiency When Facing a Downturn

Sales has never been an easy job, and it’s even harder when the economy is in flux. Enterprise budgets are tightening and companies are more cautious about big purchases, which means B2B sellers have a myriad of new challenges to face. But now is the time to turn lemons into lemonade: Adversity is an opportunity for sales teams to become more efficient and solidify their strategy. 

This is the third economic downturn I’ve worked through. What’s going on now reminds me of 2008. I was at Salesforce at the time, and we knew we had to get really smart really fast to stay viable. And that’s what’s happening. But it’s the hard times that create real opportunity for greatness. 

Right now businesses are thinking about one of three things: increasing revenue, protecting revenue, or reducing costs. Increasing productivity is a surefire way to achieve one or all of these, as adopting and implementing efficient processes can lay the groundwork for a scalable sales strategy and make the lives of sales teams better in the long run. 

Here are two ways sales engagement technology helps foster efficiency so sellers can focus on building pipeline, closing more deals and hitting their targets. 

Accomplishing more with less 

Outside of a recession, enterprises typically plan for about 60% of their sales reps to hit quota. In any other industry, a 40% failure rate would not be acceptable — but in sales, this is the norm. And that’s when things are good! 

One contributing factor to sellers’ oft-missed quotas is the fact that only 30% of their time actually goes toward selling. The rest of that time is spent on internal meetings, training, updating their CRM and other administrative tasks. Especially during an economic downturn, sales leaders have to figure out how to realign sellers and their managers so they’re not spending valuable time on activities that don’t correlate with revenue. 

Part of the efficiency problem lies within the over-saturation of tools sellers must toggle between every day. Tech stacks are bloated with single-point solutions that over-promise, under-deliver and don’t work well together. Instead of spending their time on admin work and swivel-chairing between different tools, apps and spreadsheets, sales reps need tech with integrated capabilities that support intelligent and seamless workflows. 

Plus, it’s no secret that sales reps don’t particularly enjoy manually logging and tracking their activities in the CRM, so managers often lose visibility and deals fall through the cracks. Sales engagement platforms remove the burden of administrative tasks through automation. They do this  by tracking sellers’ activities and syncing back to the CRM, driving accurate forecasting and overall efficiency. An added bonus: A September 2022 study(1) showed that enterprise companies can save $744,000 over three years by consolidating their sales technology — and who doesn’t want that, especially in these market conditions?

But sales engagement platforms do more than help build pipeline. Coaching capabilities allow managers to zero in on the deals their reps actually need help with, a boon to teams operating with limited visibility due to a distributed workforce. Sales engagement tech removes the onus of sales managers having to manually collect activity data on individual team members by surfacing specific challenges, tracking outcomes and identifying key trends. Coaching capabilities can also identify the behaviors of top performers and guide the rest of the team to replicate their success. 

Selling smarter, not harder

According to LinkedIn’s Buyer First Report, 88% of buyers prefer working with sellers they perceive as trusted advisers. It’s important for a prospective buyer to feel connected to their seller, especially as the majority of sales interactions now take place remotely. This means reps are tasked with creating a personalized buyer experience with individual needs in mind. 

Regardless of the economic climate or how reps are connecting with buyers (virtually or in person), sales has always been about building relationships. Instead of trying to fit square pegs in round holes, sellers should focus on trying to understand the problems their prospects are facing and why these problems exist. 

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of your buyers are going to have a personal stake in a deal. For them, finding the right solution for the business may be a professional win if it drives more efficiency, revenue growth and productivity; but it could also mean accomplishing certain career goals. Talking about what buyers actually care about, focusing on the pain of their current experience, and painting a picture of what life could be like with the right solution are all effective means of building lasting relationships with buyers. 

Implementing processes like Design Thinking or MEDDPICC can help sellers hone in on who their buyers are and how to connect with them. These methodologies push sellers to ask themselves and their prospects meaningful questions that create a deeper understanding of their customers and help deliver a more personalized, highly relevant buying experience. 

Furthermore, sales engagement technology leverages account and seller data to reveal:

  • Which prospects are the best fit;
  • Which prospects are showing intent and most likely to buy; 
  • Which accounts are most likely to convert to revenue in the least amount of time; and
  • The best channels and messages to use.

These data-based insights help inform and guide sellers through the more human element of prospecting and relationship building. A strategic shift in a team’s approach to these processes, supplemented by sales engagement tech, will ensure sales reps are spending their time and energy on only the most relevant deals, improving conversion and win rates, and ultimately selling smarter, not harder. 

Turning lemons into lemonade 

Economic uncertainty is just that — uncertain. With so much outside of our control, we must shift our focus to the things we can control. Tech stacks and optimized processes are well within our jurisdiction, and both lead to better seller and buyer experiences across the board. As companies look to shore up their operational expenses and consider how to remain efficient with fewer tools and/or headcount, using the right tech stack to drive sales efficiency is critical. 

Back in ‘08, we had to develop a razor-sharp understanding of what was working and what wasn’t. But one thing is for sure: Regardless of the economic climate, putting your customer first and focusing hard on driving value for them never fails. Just because the future is uncertain doesn’t mean we can’t plan for it. Use this time as an opportunity to solidify your strategy and make the most of the team and resources you have today. If you can drive success during turbulent times, you’ll set yourself, your business and your sales team up to thrive once we’ve weathered the storm. 

(1) Source: The Total Economic Impact™ of Salesloft, a 2022 commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Salesloft

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  • Originally published November 4, 2022