Thanks to the housing crash and the financial
scam crisis, many businesses have had to downsize their workforce. But many others are prospering. And hiring.
And the difference between them is in how they “purpose” their people. For example; how many people in your business spend money (creating and delivering products and services) vs bring in money (selling products and services)?
And the oddest thing I see are companies that cut their sales and marketing staffs and budgets because sales are down. They do that because they see their sellers as a simple expense on the financial statements. And somehow they’re unable to make the connection that EVERYTHING on the income side of that statement comes from their sales and marketing people.
If you do it smartly, you can hire and/or retain your people in a recession. And doing it smartly, you can make a bundle of cash in the process. Here’s how:
1. Don’t Create More Competition
Tough times are also extraordinary times for the entrepreneurial spirit. Most people enjoy the stability of working for someone else. But pushed out on the street thanks to downsizing, talented go-getters will go and get.
This is especially true of salespeople. Your salespeople know your prices, your suppliers, customers, tricks of the trade. They know what you do wrong. They have everything they need to start their own business and compete with you successfully.
That information is also valuable should your other competitors be hiring. Which brings us to strategy #2 …
2. Hire Your Competition’s Talent
If your competitors are laying off their sales force, grab these people. Quick. They will bring new customers with them. We’re talking instant sales and revenue, plus a few juicy industry secrets.
The selling point to customers is simple and powerful: the old company is on the fast track to extinction, and this new company (yours) is growing, prospering, and will be there for them in the future.
I’ve seen companies steal a competitors sales force before and the effects are always exponential and dramatic.
3. Repurpose Your People
The simple math here is you need more people selling and marketing and fewer people doing everything else. And rather than be layed off, most would love the opportunity to do something a little different.
These sales tasks can be as simple as plastering flyers to every bare telephone pole in town to tracking down leads for your seasoned salespeople to pitch to. With any luck, you might even find a natural born seller wasting their talent in the stock room.
The real key here is to create a basic training program of do’s and don’ts for your non-salespeople. You also want to focus on results; this means doing things that will:
- Get new customers in the door
- Find and pre-qualify new prospects for your experienced sales team to close.
4. Always Say Yes
You’ll always come across customers asking for a product or service you don’t have. That shouldn’t stop you from selling it. Always say yes. Track it down and get it for the customer, outsource the job through a freelancer or competitor. Invent it if you have to. Always say yes to a sale.
What happens a lot is a customer asks for something and they get the time-honored (and lazy) “Sorry, we don’t carry those” answer. And that’s the end of it. But when you go the extra mile you not only get a sale, you get customer loyalty and some kick-ass word-of-mouth advertising.
Train everyone in your company to “escalate” a customer’s query to someone who can source the product or service and make this happen. Even if you only break even on the sale, this level of service can lead to many more sales. And in the meantime you’re creating work for your people.
5. Pay Commission Only
Maybe you just can’t find the cash to bring in new salespeople. This is a dire situation but there’s a solution which is to implement a commission only sales model.
This kind of pay-for-performance model is always controversial but with so many people looking for work, there’s a great opportunity for both companies and can-do salespeople. When you can’t afford a base salary, the only options left are to create work on commission or not at all.
The trick is to sweeten the pot. The sales that salespeople get pay for their commissions, their base salary, and everything else your company does. So raising commission rates will guarantee they’re properly compensated and you only pay for revenue producing results.
It’s all about keeping things in the simplest terms possible. When sales are down, you need more sales and less of everything else. The first thing most companies do is downsize everything and this can set a business’s progress back several years.
But if instead, you either shift people from buying (and spending) tasks to selling tasks or shift the balance by increasing your sales force, you’re still moving forward.
And not only will you come out of the recession at the top of your industry, you’ll understand how continual progress forward creates billion dollar companies.
In good times and in bad.