How To Sell Better In An Economic Downturn

Sep 15, 2022
Collin Stewart

Predictions of an economic downturn have been ongoing since the pandemic, with many organizations left wondering how their B2B sales will survive in this changing market. 

Our recent podcast guest has a framework to help sellers not only survive the current economy but use this downturn to their advantage.

Jeff Koser is the award-winning co-author of Selling to Zebras, as well as the founder and CEO of Zebrafi. Jeff joined the Predictable Revenue podcast to discuss keeping your B2B sales going during an economic downturn.

The impact of market changes on B2B sales

Everyone has felt the economic changes of the pandemic, from supply chain disruption to soaring inflation rates. Venture capital companies are pulling back funding from their portfolio companies, and more and more startups are finding themselves strapped for cash.

When everyone is talking about the market slowing down, it starts to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So how can your B2B sales organization navigate these changes?

According to Jeff, there are three main ways you can prepare your company for an economic downturn: nail down your ideal customer profile (ICP), tie your value messaging to revenue, and sell through your customers.

Find your niche and stick with it

The first piece of advice Jeff offers to any B2B sales organization is to nail down their ICP. This creates predictable value for future customers and allows your outbound sales team to focus only on the most qualified prospects.

Ideally, your ICP will include a measurable metric that tells you whether or not they’re the right fit. This prevents your sales team from wasting time on unqualified prospects. The remaining prospects, once they’ve been properly qualified, can have a close rate of up to 90%.

For more on profiling your perfect prospect, check out Jeff’s previous episode of the podcast.

Understanding the buyer’s journey

Remember that while your organization has an outbound sales cycle, your customers experience everything through their own buyer’s journey. Those two cycles may or may not align. 

Most often, buyers don’t want a salesperson involved in the process until they’re ready to make a buying decision. 80-90% of the deal is complete before the buyer lets the salesperson have a meeting. 

This requires a mindset shift for anyone working in outbound sales; before proposing a meeting, ask yourself whether you’ve earned the right to ask for the prospect’s business. This question helps ensure you’ve covered the right bases and established value in the eyes of the prospect.

If you need help nailing down your ICP and finding those perfect fit prospects, reach out here to book a free discovery call with our outbound sales coaches.

Common ICP mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that come up when trying to find your niche. The most obvious is when companies niche based on their product rather than the customer. 

It’s easy to fall into this trap when you have a great product you know could help people–but the customer doesn’t care how great your product is; they care whether it will help them solve their problem. 

Focus on the pain you solve and the measurable value your product creates. Ideally, this will be financially quantifiable (meaning, it should translate into specific savings or revenue numbers). Especially in times of economic downturn, buyers want to feel good about their return on investment.

Get your value statement right

After you find your niche, it’s time to hone in on your messaging. Make sure your value statement includes quantifiable results. How does your product translate into added revenue? Build a business case around how working with you will lead to hard dollar savings. 

Be crisp and clear about the problem you solve. Don’t be afraid to put your company in a box because if you don’t, your prospects will. 

For example, Zebra recently shifted their messaging from: “Not a CRM” to “A guided selling system that happens to have a free CRM.” This makes it very easy for prospects to understand exactly what they do.

Sell through your customers

The best B2B sales messages come directly from your customers. Do some research into how your current customers describe the problem you solve, as well as why they continue to buy from you.

Whenever possible, connect these statements to a measurable bottom-line value. Use the results of past customers to predict what you can do for the next customer.

Using case studies in B2B sales

Arm your outbound sales team with at least three case studies written in the voice of the customer (VOC). When you make a claim in your messaging, buyers want to see that you can back it up. One case study is a fact, two are a trend, but three are irrefutable. 

Three case studies for each use case or vertical should provide enough evidence for a buyer to make an informed decision. Especially during the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, prospects are looking for proof that you’ve solved this problem before. 

Once they reach the investigative stage, they should receive consistent messaging from your outbound sales team that aligns with their own research. At this stage, you can refine your message even further by speaking directly to that prospect and explain why they fit your ICP.

Final thoughts on outbound sales during an economic downturn

Just because the economy is changing doesn’t mean B2B sales automatically have to suffer. 

Many companies are conserving their cash, but if you’re able to find your niche, quantify your value, and get that all-important social proof, then you’ll be well on your way to outbound sales success–no matter what type of market you find yourself in.

If you want to connect with Jeff to learn more about recession-proofing your B2B sales, reach out via email to jeff@zebrafi.com

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