Keeping a calm head in a crisis
In a previous blog, I looked into the bad times. The post in case of a BD Emergency, break glass suggests a series of practical ways to come out fighting and generate sales pipeline.
That one was all about tactics to get out of a tricky fix. At the core of it was the mantra of ‘build a list, hit a list.’ A good list is the precursor to a healthy pipeline.
Reading it back today, the ideas in there have stood the test of time and are a useful resource for anyone looking to build a BD plan.
However, what it doesn’t help with is what’s going on up there in the good old grey matter. It doesn’t address the associated stress that comes along with carrying the pressure of BD.
Tactics alone aren’t going to cut it. The psychology of sales is super important. Confidence breeds success and if the head is in panic mode then it’s pretty likely the actions will be adversely affected and not have the desired impact.
So, imagine there is the perfect storm of rising delivery costs, shrinking budgets, cancelling clients and disappearing opportunities. Whether your seat is the head of BD or the plucky founder, the buck stops with you.
How to respond?
If you’re anything like me, the natural response might be to take action straight away. To throw everything at it. Because speed is important and doing nothing is the road to disaster, right? Well I am here to tell you, been there, tried that. It’s not effective.
If there is an air of desperation about you in sales, people sense it, and they don’t like it. The deal desperado is right up there with sales rep commission breath. Don’t be that person.
If we are agreed charging off in the wrong direction isn’t going to save the business, what can we do? Mindset is key. We’re looking to craft a measured response, fully believing that it has the right ingredients to get us back on track.
The good news is it’s pretty unlikely that your business has suddenly become completely out of sync with the market and is totally unattractive. Certainly, it may be the offering needs to evolve, but have some faith that the fundamentals that have got you this far, continue to ring out true. Now is not the time to throw the baby out with the bath water.
If possible, keep panic in its box and use the time for a moment for introspection. Why did those clients leave? Why were the deals not properly qualified? What can you do to improve the outcome next time around?
To discount or not to discount?
The panic monster may also be tempting you to roll out some special offers. Get the sale on, slash the prices, get things going. Solve the crisis.
Be very careful about this approach. Unless your business trades on being the cheapest as the primary point of difference (and if it is, it’s highly unlikely you’re reading this) then what you are doing is failing to address the pipeline blocker and simultaneously creating future price objection pain.
Yes, some short term cash flow might arrive but ask yourself this: are they the right kind of client, will they accept full price later and how are your loyal customers going to feel about them?
Look at what IS selling
Step away from the discount button and instead take time to look at the recent historical revenue mix. What products or services are selling well, have low churn and decent margin?
Is there a relatively straightforward up-sell campaign into your existing client base with proven products? Get some positive cashflow without the pain of discounted clients who don’t value what you do.
Book now to give your business a health check
Our health check will shine a torch around the inside of your sales and marketing set up.
We will identify frictions and highlight what support would help.
Get on the horse
My point here is how you go about it is as important as what you do.
BD is akin to the skill of public speaking. The measured delivery of the subject matter expert is what we need here. We’re looking to make credible approaches to relevant people with useful initiatives. The goal is peer to peer conversations and we are looking to convince prospects we are the right choice for them. We are not desperate. Quite the opposite, we are experts in our field and there should be a two way relationship.
That happy place is not going to be achieved by going in all guns blazing!
Time to raise prices?
It may sound counter intuitive but what better time to look at profitability and consider raising prices? If the game here is to go out and get new customers, before doing the research and making the moves, take a moment to consider numbers, margins and delivery capacity.
While price is often used as an objection often it masks the real reason for choosing another option. Be brave, consider how having a smaller number of new clients, each paying more, might actually be a much happier place for everyone (clients included).
Got a calm head? Now make the moves
There are of course a number of ‘things’ which can happen next. For every business, the response will likely be a unique blend of suitable tactics to create the own plan to get out of the sh*t.
In addition to those in the original blog, there’s some to consider:
1, Squeeze the pipe
An obvious but important one. Looking at it from a timeline point of view, the money that is closest to landing is very likely already sitting inside a live opportunity. Pick up the phone (not email) and speak to every deal.
2, Get out there and network
While the idea of networking might induce a feeling of extreme cringe in some, like it or not, events are back with a bang. In all industries there are events going on, from the big international trade shows right through to local meet ups. And if there isn’t a meet up near you, why not start one!
Events are a swift and often cost effective way to meet new potential customers. My MO is to take a small notebook and pen and shove it in my back pocket. Write down the highlights from each conversation in the moment and then follow up the next day. Rinse and repeat this over a month and, hey presto, new deal pipeline.
3, Prove it
Now is a good moment to invest some time in updating supporting collateral. From case studies, to Testimonials to securing some Google Reviews, all these kind of proof statements can support deal flow both for existing and new opportunities that are about to enter your sales pipeline.
As a step up here. If you are recording why deals are being lost, pick out the consistent trends and work to create messaging to overcome the same challenge next time around.
4, Don’t worry about the competition
The ideas above, combined with those in the original post are suggestions for what to do. Here’s one for what NOT to do.
I don’t believe now is the time to scrutinise the competition. It would be easy to assess what they’re doing, assume from the outside it’s successful and copy it. First of all don’t assume that they’ve got it cracked and being in their shadow isn’t going to set you up for anything more than market mediocrity.
Mindset is key
Back to the main point. Choosing the right tactics for how to respond to a BD crisis is clearly important. But before that comes the mindset. Resist the temptation for meltdown.
In times of strife, a calm and measured response is what’s required.