How to Sell in a Challenging Economic Environment

At a time when customers are reluctant to buy, follow these tips to find sales success.

Written by Fiona Gellatly
Published on Jun. 14, 2023
How to Sell in a Challenging Economic Environment
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Tech sales can be intimidating even in the most stable of markets. There’s new terminology to translate, competitive landscapes to figure out and demos to master

3 Sales Tips for Navigating a Challenging Economic Environment 

  1. Focus on the fundamentals.
  2. Optimize your messaging around value proposition and ROI.
  3. Stay mentally strong.

But when the broader economy experiences challenges, such as tightening capital conditions, inflation and workforce turnover, tech sales can feel like an uphill battle. Budgets, conflicting priorities and resistance to or fear of change are all significant factors in today’s economic climate


How the Economic Challenges Impact Buyer Engagement

Buyers living through uncertain economic conditions tend to say no to new services, delay launching new products, and in some cases, turn to cost-cutting measures.

For a salesperson, that may translate to a prospect suddenly withdrawing on a deal you had in the pipeline or a request for the sales demo you had on their calendar to be pushed back six months later after things become a little more “certain.” 

Luckily, there are strategies you can employ that are simple to implement into your existing processes, and I’ve always seen results from them.

More on SalesHow to Adapt Your Sales Outreach Strategy for a Recession


Focus on the Fundamentals

Good sales practices remain good no matter what state the economy is in. People will respond better to sales professionals who are prepared, organized and enthusiastic. When conditions shift, and someone is suddenly making a much higher stakes decision about where to invest their dollars, they aren’t going to part with that money for just anyone. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

How do you do that? Have a plan and be prepared for every customer interaction. Make sure you have a clear goal for the value that you can create for customers in every meeting, call or every time you engage a prospect while networking.

One way we do this at Highnote is through customer empathy sessions. This involves putting yourself in your customer’s shoes and going through the process of using your product. Think about how a prospect would feel if they were trying you out for the first time as they’re doing their research. 

For example, is the signup process easy? Would the buyer going through the website feel confident that you understand their particular challenges, such as optimal user experience (UX) or straightforward navigation of the regulatory landscape? Are you clear on which particular messaging resonates with the buyer personas you want to target, such as CFOs, developers, or product managers? Have you thought through the scenarios you’d use to get prospects to see beyond the most common initial reasons for rejection?

In each customer empathy session, put on the hat of a different potential customer and think through these challenges and needs. Then document everything and go over it as a team.


Organize Your Messaging Around Value Proposition and ROI

In an uncertain market where businesses are starting to look at price tags with more scrutiny, your instinct for attracting new buyers might be to offer discounts, but that’s an unsustainable race to the bottom.

What to do instead? Take the time to understand the customer and focus your efforts on how your company can add value. In all your sales messaging, show how you solve their unique problems more effectively than anyone else. Demonstrate to them not only the value of what they gain if they partner with you but also what prospects potentially stand to lose if they don’t. 

ROI-first messaging becomes even more crucial during challenging periods. While you can convince a buyer of your product's potential during better economic conditions, buyers need to know precisely what investment a new product will bring to convince their CFOs or other stakeholders to make the purchase.

Another way to demonstrate ROI? Show how you are personally invested in their success. With the market’s increasing focus on the efficiencies that can be enabled through technology, it’s easy for customers to feel that vendors are outsourcing their business’ customer-facing needs to impersonal bots. Maintain genuine relationships with people by engaging with a prospect’s social media or sending the occasional email to check in on how a customer is doing.

Staying close with your prospects, even if by simply wishing them a happy birthday on LinkedIn, will help you stay top of mind when projects come back into play.


Stay Mentally Strong

Selling during an economic shift can be incredibly draining. There is pressure to maintain company revenue while experiencing an increase in rejections. The important thing to remember is that this is entirely normal, and it’s critical not to tie your results to your mental well-being

I’ve found that incorporating small acts of self-care and mindfulness into my routine is the best defense against this. Figure out what activity helps you stay focused but also don’t be afraid to walk away for a break. When I am feeling stuck and unmotivated, the best thing I can do for myself is walk away for a bit, think about what is working and what isn’t, and refocus my energy.

Other self-care tactics that might work? Talk about your challenges with your manager. It can be tempting to make it seem like nothing phases us and we don’t need help, but your manager wants to help you succeed, and if that means helping you navigate where you feel stuck, they are likely more than happy to do so. 

You can also shake things up by experimenting with a new tool or process. Even the simple act of shifting a routine and trying something new can clear your head and re-ignite your motivation. Try something new and see how it resonates with your prospects. 

Finally, don’t forget to be intentional about making your time away from work completely away. When the pressure is on to close deals, you might find yourself tempted to email prospects with your phone in one hand while eating your lunch salad with the other. Trust that the time you intentionally spend away from work is just as vital to your performance as the time you do.

Hang in there, keep grinding, and your hard work will pay off both from a personal achievement perspective and financially.

More on SalesDon’t Ask Your Customers What They Want


Use a Challenging Market to Your Advantage

While it may not look like it when you’re going through it, a shifting economy can be a significant boost to your sales career. It’s easy to coast on easy money when times are good, but tougher environments allow you to challenge yourself and hone your skills in ways you may never otherwise have. 

They force you to revisit your first principles, reexamining how you organize yourself and prepare for meetings. They can also teach you the power of problem: solution messaging, showing you how to communicate the exact value your product brings to a customer. 

Finally, challenging times can teach you how to work with yourself, separating smaller ups and downs in day-to-day performance from a larger goal of continuous improvement and learning how to drive greater value. Focus on these, and you’ll finish even the most challenging year on a high note.

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