Sales Leadership in Tough Markets

In a tough market, it’s difficult to predict what happens next, but changes in the market should never catch a good sales manager off guard. Effective sales management executives live each day of a good market as if it is their last. In other words, they maximize the opportunities.

This is not to suggest that there are no opportunities when the market goes soft on you. Quite the contrary.

There are lessons we can learn in a tough market that cannot be learned in a strong one. Tough markets bring better sales skills, greater structural efficiencies, and a renewed focus on operational excellence.

When the market is strong, we are all geniuses, right? When the market slides, it separates the pretenders from the authentic. Consider these four tactical approaches for sales managers in tough markets (if you’re not in a tough market right now, you can still benefit from these disciplines).

1) Your Attitude is Contagious

A slower market brings out frustration, and many sales managers demonstrate that aggravation to their salespeople. The result: a phone call from the sales manager produces a frustrated sales professional, and a frustrated sales professional is likely ineffective at the task.

Though the pressure is great and the problems are mentally draining, you must do everything in your power not to demonstrate your anxiety to your sales staff. They will take their cue directly from your attitude.

Show them it’s all good, and they’ll feel better about their jobs. Show them there is reason to panic, and that is exactly what they will do.

2) Get Lots of Ideas

In a fiery hot market, you need inventory. In a slow market, you need ideas on how to move your inventory quickly. The best way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas.

Schedule regular brainstorming sessions, and include people from different perspectives on the issue. Start with your traditional resources (advertising agency, salespeople, other managers, etc.) and then expand your pool of idea possibilities to managers from other industries, subcontractors, and, perhaps most importantly, buyers.

Ironically, we talk to buyers less when the market is soft. Wrong! Talk to them more – lots more. They’ve got some great lessons for you.

3) Try Everything

Now that you’ve got great ideas, try them. Try them all. The fact is that you don’t know what is going to work, so try everything that makes financial sense. Some of the best ideas cost next to nothing, so what’s the harm?

Remember that in a tough market, everyone is trying the same tired things (increase the advertising budget, add more d-mail; throw out an e-blast); they’re all budget-busters, and they’re all tired.

Stand out. Be different. What have you got to lose?

4) Ask for Help

From time to time, I’ll hear a manager say something like, “Last week I almost hung it up; I was so frustrated.”

I’ll ask, “Did you talk to anyone? Did you try to find creative support from other sources?”

“Well, no. I was just too frustrated.”

Sales managers, this job is tough enough in a strong market. Take advantage of your resources when the market goes soft and ask others for input, suggestions, ideas, critique, or just sit there and listen to you vent for a while. Have you joined your new home sales peers in Sales365? It’s free to join, and you can collaborate with new home sales managers like you.

If you internalize your anguish too much, you are likely to let off steam at precisely the wrong time – when you are talking to your boss, your salespeople, or worst of all, your customers.

Understand this about tough markets. There are lessons you can learn in times of adversity that cannot be learned in times of prosperity. That which does not kill us makes us stronger!

And if you’re humming along in genius mode (your market is smokin’, and it’s all because of your expertise) you might consider the plight of those who in the past got a bit too comfy with the strong market only to learn for the first time that markets change.

One last opportunity in a tough market – tough markets demonstrate greatness. You’re not a great manager because you can excel when the market is strong. Greatness is shown through excellence when the market is weak.

After all, if you need a great market to be a great manager, what does a bad market make you?


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About the Author: Jeff Shore

Jeff Shore is the Founder and President of Shore Consulting, Inc. a company specializing in field-tested and proven consumer psychology-based sales training programs.

Jeff is a top-selling author, host of the popular sales podcast, The Buyer’s Mind, and an award-winning keynote speaker. He holds the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association and is a member of the NSA’s exclusive Million Dollar Speaker’s Group.

With over 30 years of real-world, frontline experience, Jeff’s advanced sales strategies spring from extensive research into the psychology of buying and selling. He teaches salespeople how to climb inside the mind of their customers to sell the way their buyers want to buy. Using these modern, game-changing techniques, Jeff Shore’s clients generated over $30 billion in sales last year.