We’ve had a lot of turbulence in the last three years. The pandemic, the Great Resignation, and most recently the war in Ukraine which has pushed the price of oil and gas to an all-time high. All this turmoil has increased prices of just about every consumer good and I’m now seeing an impact on business spending because of talk about a looming recession. The result for your sales team and the reps you manage is that companies are or will be delaying purchases or reducing spending in general until they better understand the economic impact of all these events on the next few months or years. This will make it harder to hit quota and get to OTE (on target earnings). So, the time to act is NOW.
We need to be preparing our reps for the next 7 month and make sure they can control what they can control…..the pipeline. Even though there’s inflation happening globally, a full-blown recession isn’t here yet. It is going to be easier for your sales team, that made ambitious 2022 sales goals in Q4, to achieve if not all, then decent percentage of those goals this year by overfilling the pipeline now.
For most of the startups I worked with, this is the first economic challenge they've faced so I’m helping them understand that when a recession starts, like in so many before, a lot of projects will be paused, and it will be much more difficult to put warm leads into your pipeline. So, let’s talk about actions you and your team can take now to try and mitigate any loss of revenue by filling the funnel.
How to overfill your team’s pipeline:
- Treat it like the emergency it is
Most start-ups are already in “sense of urgency” mode on a day-to-day basis, so the next gear will be “this is a state of emergency”. It’s time to reset pipeline goals. Meaning if your current close rate is 20% then your reps needed 5x pipeline. So, if you think the close rate will reduce to 15% then they need 7x pipeline so reset expectation now!
You also need to acknowledge that the sales cycle might increase. Be on the lookout for “stalled” deals that need to be closed as lost to ensure your reps don’t have a false sense of security. A funnel that’s a fantasy doesn’t do anyone any good.
- Referrals and upsells
Provided your NPS is at a good level, this should be a no-brainer. Take those promoters and develop a strategy for upsells and referrals. Offer each promoter a specific time-bound offer to motivate them to expand to a higher level. Incentivize them for referrals with discounted professional services or additional months added onto their contract.
- Outbound to less impacted industries
Do an honest analysis of industry sectors you sell into that you think will not be as directly impacted by a recession. Then partner with your marking team to create specific campaigns to target those industries. Pivot all of your outbound activities towards lead generation to these specific targets.
Here are some things to ask:
- What has been our most effective lead gen strategy so far that we can scale?
- Do we have case studies or testimonials from clients in that sector?
- Are any of our clients in those industries influencers within the industry?
- Do we or should we have partnerships with those industry associations or trade groups that we can leverage?
Think about any potential events, online or in person, that would be attended by your targeted prospects. We need leads at the top of the funnel, that are highly qualified for purchase, so we can reduce the sales cycle and provide some “fast cash” for the company.
- Pay for what you want
If you need pipeline then pay for pipeline - not shit pipeline, but quality pipeline. As an example, for every deal your time adds from a target industry that completes a demo they get $50.
Or better yet, speak with your team what would they like to get if you achieve this goal, whether it’s a retreat, bonuses, learning stipends, additional time off, or collective time off in Q4, or maybe a combo. They’re the ones that will be doing all the hard work, so make sure they are properly stimulated and that they feel the emergency and want to help.
You can’t wait until Q3 to start worrying about Q4. Remember the Kristieism “Panic causes bad decisions”! You need to put a plan in place now and begin executing on it yesterday so that when everyone else is panicking your team is focused on what they know they can control with a plan they are confident in.