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When The Going Gets Tough

by David Brock on November 14th, 2022

For the past several years, news gets tougher and tougher. First the pandemic, we and our customers had to discover new ways of working, engaging and moving forward. “Virtual” became the watchword for how things got done–whether it involved internal collaboration, partners, or customer engagement.

Just as we started to learn how to manage in the pandemic, we start seeing supply chain challenges. Lead times became very long, the ability to satisfy our customers’ needs were challenged. We found we could get the order, but delivering it became more challenging–or when customers found we couldn’t deliver, they’d choose to do nothing.

Pile on that changes in the global political/economic situation, exacerbating the challenges from before, prices, particularly energy related skyrocketed. Inflation that we haven’t seen in decades, and now the recession.

Where as little as 12 months ago, we were struggling to find talent to support our growth aspirations, we are now seeing reductions as the dominant strategy. Reducing spending, reducing investments, reducing/eliminating many projects and change initiatives, reducing headcount. In our own organizations, we have to do with much less, many marketing and sales programs are being stopped or eliminated, all spending is being reassessed. And then the layoffs–we see reductions in marketing, sales enablement, sales ops, customer service headcount. Even dramatic reductions in numbers of sales people.

Yet we are still expected to accomplish our goals. We are expected to get more done, with fewer resources and less support; all while our customers are reducing spending.

There are no magic answers to what drives success. No tricks, gimmicks, or techniques that bail us out.

What do we do? How do we achieve our goals–or at least get as close to attaining them as possible.

Over the past 4-5 months, I’ve been having fascinating conversations with many of our clients on how they are dealing with this. Since most are relatively high performers, it’s fascinating to see how they are responding. It’s very different, as one would expect, than so many others.

Some observations:

  1. Since they already are high performers, they are already running pretty lean–sales productivity is very high, win rates, average deal sizes, selling cycles are very high.
  2. They are carefully reviewing discretionary spending, reducing it where they can.
  3. They are slowing hiring but not completely stopping it.
  4. Most are tightening their focus on their ICP. They recognize the customers that will continue to buy are a subset of their ICP. They focus on the customers where they can have the most immediate impact. They are focusing on the solutions and customers where they can have the biggest impact.
  5. Related to the previous point, they recognize their path forward is based on how effectively they can help their customers address their most critical issues.
  6. They are focused on the basics of selling. Disciplined time management, focused prospecting, addressing customer challenges/business problems in meaningful ways–not pitching their products. Disciplined pipeline and deal management. Rather than stuffing their pipelines with junk, they focus on disqualification. There is no wishful thinking, there’s no grasping for miracle cures. They know what works and they are disqualifying everything but those opportunities where they can have a significant impact on the customer business results.
  7. They are as focused on current customer experience. Are they using the products and services in ways that maximize the results they can achieve? Rather than defending their position, hoping for a renewal, they are working proactively with customers making sure they are getting the most out of the current solutions. They offer free audits/assessments to help the customer identify areas in which they can achieve more with these tools.
  8. They recognize with many of customers, now is not the right time for them to consider a solution. They are helping the customer do the best they can with what they have, supporting them where they can, and positioning themselves as key partners when the economy starts to improve.
  9. They are sharing ideas they see from other customers. Ways they are exploiting the current products, ways they are handling current issues.
  10. They are, also. looking beyond their current customers, proactively engaging prospects where they can have a proven impact on helping them with the current economy. One client provides many outsourced services, that can help customers significantly reduce their spending, without adversely impacting results.
  11. They see this as an opportunity to rethink everything they do, to innovate and change. They experiment with new strategies, they look at new opportunities to grow.

There are two ways to look at what we currently face, “how do we survive, minimizing the loss;” or “how do we learn from this, leveraging this as an opportunity to change, and grow?” The glass is either half empty or half full.

From → Leadership

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