Preparing to Sell in the Next Economic Downturn

It is easy to sell when the economy is booming. When things are going well for everyone, you are selling into a target rich environment. People have needs and money. In really good times salespeople with great selling skills do well—but so do salespeople with poor selling skills. This is true for companies with a hit, companies that happen upon some offering that causes people to beat a path to their door; selling is easy.

When the economy is booming, opportunity acquisition isn’t a problem. When you have a runaway hit product opportunity acquisition is easy, too. But when the economy goes south, opportunity acquisition is difficult—and opportunity acquisition is where sales organizations win and lose.

The Great Recession exposed a lot of sales organizations (and a lot of salespeople). They believed that what they were doing was working, that their overall strategy was sound, and that executing their strategy was working. They believed their sales force was solid. And then the results they were producing disappeared.

This isn’t a booming economy (although it does seem to be opportunity rich for good salespeople). This is not the kind of economy that produces the kind of high water that covers a lot of stumps (or “lifts all boats,” if you like that kinder metaphor better). This is the Disruptive Age. This may be as good an economy as you see for a while. And I’m not trying to scare you, but you can be certain that another recession looms in your future. (Okay, maybe I am trying to scare you.)

Now Is the Time

Now is the time to build the sales skills and habits that allow you to succeed in economies good and bad.

  • Now is the time to focus on developing your skills at prospecting, especially cold calling. Ignore anyone who tells you different. It’s irresponsible and it’s criminal negligence.
  • Now is the time to nurture the relationships you need with your dream clients, the clients for whom the value you create can help them do better in good times and bad. You need to be known before your dream clients decide to change. You can’t sell from behind the buying cycle.
  • Now is the time to focus your learning, your training, and your development on building the front of your pipeline. Focus as much on the front of the pipeline as you do the back of the pipeline.

Now is the time to build the sales skills (and sales force) you need for the next economic downturn.


Are you sure the results you are producing what they should be?

How will the actions today hold up during an economic downturn?

What are the skills that allow you to sell in an economic downturn?

What do you need to change?

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