So you want to sell to the C-suite… during a recession… when companies are pinching pennies and trimming their budgets.
Good for you!
I would argue that a recession is the BEST time to sell to the c-level executives, from the mid-sized company right on up to enterprise outfits.
And today I’m going to share some best practices for converting these prospects into paying customers or clients.
The Principles Still Stand
You always hear me talking about researching your prospect, speaking with authority, listening empathetically, mastering your tonality, etc. These are all critical elements for converting any prospect.
But remember, it’s a recession so let’s get more specific. Here’s how to convert these decision makers during a down market, when it seems like everything is falling apart.
1. Highly-targeted Outreach to Fewer Prospects
Instead of spreading your net far and wide, instead just hand-pick your top 10 ideal buyers and find a way to break through. This is a great time to take some risks. Think BIG with targeted messaging, hand-written letters, very personalized phone calls, thoughtful email follow-ups. To really one-up the competition, a luxury bespoke gift will really set you apart and help you put a meeting on the books. Go big or go home.
The philosophy behind the strategy: Less is more in a recession. If you take a “spray and pray” shotgun approach, you’ll burn through potential buyers fast. But if you take a “laser-focused” rifle approach, and you truly try to build a deeper connection, you are more likely to have real conversations with c-level executives.
2. Don’t Cut Your Prices
This might shock you, but IBM actually raised its prices during the 1973 recession. And although I’m not saying you should follow suit, you should definitely keep cool and not lower your prices. If you do, it shows desperation and your prospect will smell the blood in the water. Your pricing is a signal of the worth of your product or service. If you lower your price, you devalue your offering. Not a good look. Also, it’s important to remember that department heads still have budget to spend during a recession. And they’re going to spend it on something or someone. So why not with you? Go get it.
The philosophy behind the strategy: When you are desperate to fill your quota, or you’re in the mindset that folks aren’t buying, you start to “act out of lack.” I call this the sweaty-palm salesman syndrome. Flip the script and act out of abundance instead. Have confidence in your offer and your prices. When you do, your prospects will too.
3. Become an Investment Advisor
No – don’t really become an investment advisor (stick to sales). What I mean is remind your prospects that a recession is one of the best times to invest in their company to get lightyears ahead of the competition. Advise them to push hard and forge ahead while their competitors are tightening the belt, thinking small, and shrinking back. When the recession ends, guess whose company is on track for massive growth? The companies that invest in their success (where it makes sense) during a down market. That’s who.
The philosophy behind the strategy: While the enemy camp sleeps, the battle-born are sharpening their weapons and training for victory. In the same way, the athlete who puts in 110% effort during the off-season is the star athlete who shines under the bright lights. Use the recession to your advantage, and remind your prospect to do the same.
4. Build A Better Team
If you’re a sales manager, sales director, or VP of sales and you have the authority to hire salespeople, do it. Now is the time to find the real rockstars. During a recession, layoffs are looming and talented salespeople are looking for reliable work. Scout for these free agents on LinkedIn. Bring them in. Train them up. And you’ve got your dream team. Also, be sure to lean into ongoing training for your existing sales team. A bear market requires a fresh approach for selling the c-suite, so be sure to incorporate the economic season into your sales training.
The philosophy behind the strategy: To be savvy and shrewd in business, you must jump on opportunities when they arise. Hiring during a recession (so long as you have the budget for it) is smart because you can select the creme de la creme to work for you. Think of it this way: Would you rather fish in a giant lake or a river teeming with salmon?
Recession Psychology (A reminder that mindset is everything)
To really understand how to convert prospects in a recession, you have to understand recession psychology. During a recession, people adopt a scarcity mindset. The thought process goes, “What I have might disappear tomorrow! So I should conserve my resources and hunker down!” It’s self-preservation, and it makes sense … to a point.
The problem is that logic and common sense fly completely out the window when emotions are involved. And a recession stirs emotions. What happens is that people overcompensate or overcorrect their spending habits and their behaviors. And they do it out of fear. Thankfully, this can be reversed. But it takes a delicate approach, like talking a scared cat out of a tree. The cat wants to come down (your prospect wants to buy), you just have to facilitate and make it happen.
So remember, the antidote to fear and self-preservation is confidence and optimism. Everything is going to turn out all right for your prospect during the recession (in fact, it’ll turn out SO much better than all right)… and it’s your job to remind them of that.
If you’re smart about it, you can play this recession to your advantage. You can reach out to a select bunch of your ideal buyers with highly-targeted messaging. This almost always means a phone call, but why not try something bigger, better, and more personalized?
You should also avoid reducing your prices during a recession. Yes, that means no bargain basement recession deals. If you do, it could be a black eye on your brand for years to come.
You’ll also want to remind your prospect that a recession is the perfect time to get ahead by investing in their company (by purchasing your product or service, of course). The companies that build during a slow economic market are the companies that come out on top when the recession comes to an end … and recessions always come to an end.
And finally, if you’re in the position to do so, I highly recommend recruiting top talent during this recession. You are almost guaranteed to find top-notch salespeople in the midst of industry-wide layoffs. These are the superstars that can help elevate your team to the next level and beyond.
So, recessions aren’t so bad after all, right? They are what you make of them. So get out there and make it happen!
Until next time…