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10 Tips for Selling in Economic Uncertainty

10 Tips for Selling in Economic Uncertainty

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Written by Mary Flaherty
Vice President, Research and Thought Leadership

Closing sales in today’s environment is a real challenge.

If you’re in sales or sales leadership, I expect you’re nodding your head.

Sales cycles are getting longer, more opportunities are being lost to no decision, and the economy is unpredictable at best.

In our recent global study of more 300 sales, enablement, and company leaders, selling in an uncertain economy is identified as the #2 challenge facing sales organizations, cited by 86% as very or somewhat challenging.

What Buyers Are Dealing With

Your buyers may be hesitant to buy during an uncertain economy for a variety of reasons:

  • Uncertainty about future demand: Buyers may be hesitant to buy due to the unpredictable nature of consumer demand. They may worry that consumer spending will decrease, which could lead to excess inventory and losses.
  • Cash flow concerns: Buyers may have limited access to cash, making them more cautious about making big purchases. This could be due to decreased revenue or difficulty obtaining financing.
  • Budget constraints: Buyers may be operating on a tight budget, which can make it difficult to justify new purchases. Some companies may have a spending freeze. They may need to prioritize spending on essential items, such as payroll and rent, over non-essential purchases.
  • Fear of loss: Buyers may fear they won’t be able to recoup their investment in large purchases such as equipment or inventory.

Sellers should work to understand the issues facing buyers so they can help to mitigate buyer concerns during the sales process.

What Sales Organizations Should Be Doing

Given the external obstacles to their sales efforts, many sales leaders and sellers alike are wondering whether there’s anything they can possibly do to change their fortunes.

Of course, a strong overall sales enablement program can go a long way towards preparing a sales organization to weather such storms by:

Top-Performing Sales Organizations recognize that an effective sales training and enablement initiative contributes to top performance in good times and bad.

Learn how your organization can overcome sales challenges and achieve your priorities. >>

How Sellers Can Help Themselves Help Their Buyers

In the meantime, sellers can take these 10 actions immediately to help them sell in an uncertain economy.

1. Focus on value

It’s more important than ever to communicate the value your solution brings to the buyer. How will you help buyers save money, increase efficiency, or generate more revenue? Make sure you resonate, differentiate, and substantiate:

  • Resonate: Present your overall value case in a compelling and persuasive way. If buyers don’t see your value, if they don’t want or need what you’re selling, they won’t buy—or won’t buy from you.
  • Differentiate: Make a strong case that differentiates your offerings from other available options (including doing nothing). If buyers don’t see your solution as the best option, they’ll look for a substitute or pressure you on price.
  • Substantiate: Demonstrate that you can do what you say you’ll do by sharing client successes and results achieved. If buyers don’t believe you can deliver on your promises, they won’t risk buying from you.

Be specific about how you can help and the value you provide.

2. Grow existing accounts

Existing customers are often more likely to buy as they already have an established relationship with you and your company. It takes proactive effort with a planned strategy to grow your accounts in a systematic way. To expand accounts, work to:

  • Renew your focus on what you initially set out to achieve with an account, revisit what you actually achieved, and then identify what you can achieve next.
  • Deepen and expand relationships: Strong relationships with individuals help to strengthen the overall relationship with an account and can open the door to bigger and more secure deals.  
  • Find new buying centers: Leverage your connections within accounts to gain access to decision-makers in different departments, divisions, and regions.

3. Develop multiple champions on the buying team

Having multiple champions within an organization—people who will advocate for your solution even when you aren’t in the room—can help insulate you from staffing changes and provide entrée to doing business with different buying centers.

4. Target, target, target

Identify industries and markets that are doing well and focus your prospecting efforts there. Start strong with an effective sales territory plan. Tailor your outreach to be specific to the sectors you target (see tip #5).

5. Customize your outreach

Read up on quarterly earnings, press releases, industry news, and other information sources. Reach out to industry contacts to develop an understanding of current issues and trends. Use what you've learned to develop a customized outreach and offer that's unique to the prospect and valuable to them (see tip #1).

Learn more about starting conversations with prospects. >>

6. Make a strong impact case

Communicate the impact your solution will have on the buyer in the strongest way you can. To do this, be sure to answer the four value proposition questions:

  • Why act?
  • Why now?
  • Why us?
  • Why trust?

If buyers don't have a strong answer to any of the four whys, they’ll delay the purchase because there either isn’t a compelling enough reason to move forward or it's too risky.

7. Collaborate with the buyer

Get the buyer involved in making the case and they’ll be more likely to take ownership of the idea. For example, as you’re doing quantitative estimates of savings, efficiencies, and so on, ask the buyer to fill in the blanks with you.

Plug the numbers into an ROI calculator (estimates are fine) or do the math alongside the buyer. They’ll be more likely to believe and commit to the result if they’re involved in the process.

8. Be flexible

Offer a trade you think might get the buyer to move forward. This could be a discount, additional services, or something else of value to the buyer. Don’t just offer a straight discount, instead think: trade, don’t cave.

This means asking for something in return when a concession is asked of you. For example, this could be a discount paired with an agreement the buyer will publish a case study with you. Or a financing plan paired with an adjusted project schedule.

9. Start small

A great way to get a buyer to move ahead or shorten the sales cycle on larger deals is to break them into phases—focusing on closing a smaller phase first. Once a buyer agrees to begin, it's much easier to get them to move forward with subsequent pieces of the deal.

10. Build a strong case for change

Build a strong case for change: we call this a Buyer Change Blueprint. Sales is about moving a buyer from where they are now to a better future state. In an uncertain economy with many unknowns, buyers are more wary and cautious as they scrutinize purchase decisions and spending.

Themes to Remember

Overall, you should be empathetic, understanding, and flexible. By focusing on building relationships, highlighting value, and being responsive to changing needs, you can increase your chances of closing more deals, even in uncertain times.

Last Updated August 9, 2023

Topics: Sales Performance Improvement Consultative Selling