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How To Keep Sales Teams Motivated Despite the Downturn

Set your team up for sales success

Written By: CEO and Founder Peter Taunton

If there’s no crying in baseball, there’s certainly no crying in sales. No matter what industry you might be involved in chances are the recession has created added frustrations for your sales team. (Understatement, right?)

Before gathering your sales team and launching into your latest tirade of why there’s no time for excuses, here are a few ideas to keep your team motivated and moving forward despite this challenging economic climate.

The first thing to keep in mind is that strategic growth during a recession is not only favorable, but necessary. Now is your chance to move ahead of competitors. If you play your cards right during the downturn, increased marketshare will be yours now and after the economy rebounds. Since sales teams are pivotal to continued growth, how are you setting the team up for success? Are you listening to their concerns? More so, are you listening to their concerns and responding with solutions? Hint: Motivating your sales teams during a recession is going to take more than an extra bonus or commission. Of course financial rewards are a favored incentive, especially when money’s tight, but to keep the sales-fervor burning during these tough times, sales professionals are going to need increased support and assistance from the executive management team to drum up leads such as merchant services sales leads, online marketing sales leads, or web design sales leads.

As the founder and CEO of Snap Fitness, one of the world’s fastest growing fitness franchises that has more than 1,700 locations in operation or under development worldwide, I recognize the importance of strategic selling during a recession. Our company will sell an additional 300 to 400 franchises in 2009 alone; and we know we wouldn’t be where we’re at today without the skill and dedication of our sales team. Based off our experiences, listed below are easy to implement strategies to keep morale, productivity, and results strong despite the inherent obstacles of an economic downturn.

  1. Identify What’s Working. More Importantly: Identify What Isn’t!

Prior to 2008, sales teams benefited from an easy-to-sell climate from both a consumer and B2B standpoint. Not true today. The executive management team needs to communicate frequently with its sales teams to ascertain what is working – and what isn’t. If a particular sales medium generated massive returns in 2007 but hasn’t generated much ROI since, don’t be afraid to make a change. Even if the new sales tactic does not work as hoped for, it is still a step forward. Keep trying new avenues until you find what works. At Snap Fitness we have moved away from the tried and true focus on internet sales. For many years, the franchise industry has sworn by the viability of an internet-based sales culture. By listening to our sales teams and taking various lead-to-sale health reports, we’ve decided now is the time for a new approach even though many of our competitors still adhere to internet focused selling.

  1. General Sales Message Isn’t Good Enough Anymore

You’ve got a great brand. A great product. No doubting that. But simply touting the brand and/or product isn’t going to cut it anymore. To keep sales strong despite consumer tightening and the reduced budgets of business clients, sales teams need to tailor messages to the specific client like never before. To help your sales team transition to a highly-specific method of selling, be prepared to help them identify what will resonate with each particular client. For instance, how will your product or service help the client operate more successfully, more efficiently during a recession? And now, with clients examining line items more than ever, make sure your team can provide a potential client with reasoning as to why their product or service is necessary, right now! Each sales call or presentation might take longer to prepare than pre-recession sales calls, but the increased morale of your sales team and the appreciation from the potential client will be well worth it when the deal closes as a result of highly- tailored messaging. 

  1. Look at Your Current Customer Base to Identify New Leads

Your future sales are staring you right in the face. Granted, they may be buried in a stacks of files, in cabinets, a ZIP drive, on somewhere on your server – but they’re there! The easiest way to get your sales team excited is by providing them with well-qualified leads. To increase your odds of sourcing a quality-lead with zero to minimal expense, look no further than your current customer list. Instead of conducting a mass mailing based on geographic parameters, why not conduct a mass mailing that targets a specific customer profile? At Snap Fitness, we are doing extensive research into the needs and objectives of our current customers and franchise owners to help us determine how to best reach our future prospects during a time of heightened competition and an economy less conducive to sales.

  1. Seeing the Sale to Completion

Nothing is more de-motivating for a sales professional than to lock-in a deal only to have the deal fall through due to lack of financing or another issue out of his or her control. Although today’s lack of available financing is a major hindrance in the sales process, it is up to the executive management team to constantly seek out innovative and atypical financing opportunities. This extra effort benefits the sales team’s morale as well as the company’s bottom line. If your company’s long-term lender is not giving you the financing you need, it is ok to look elsewhere. Start networking and researching creative financing solutions with vendors, equipment suppliers and other companies that have a vested interest in your business continuing to grow.

  1. Make sure the sales team knows their voices are being heard at the top. 

Funny how the sales culture is reliant and somewhat fanatical in regards to the chain of command. Of course, we both know the system is in place for a reason. But in this economy, it is vital for the sales team to know that their voice is being heard by the upper level executive management team. The executive management team needs to have a heightened awareness of their team of sales professionals – and not just the sales leaders that report directly to them. By reassuring the sales team that their issues are being communicated to those at the top, the sales professional will feel more personally vested in the direction of the company, and increasingly willing to work hard to overcome recession-induced obstacles.

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