Focus on How: Value in Uncertainty

You cannot avoid the headlines – recession, economic uncertainty, macroeconomic shifts…These headlines tend to lead to somewhat of a clickbait mentality that triggers fear and anxiety. As humans we are risk averse…it is in our DNA. We are also wired to think negatively when faced with potential risk – even if the reward associated with the risk has a solid foundation for success.

I bring this up, because as a seller we are in a purgatory of sorts with buyers. We’ve faced a lot of challenges since COVID and depending on your unique industry each of those challenges was unique, yet interconnected to risk from COVID – leading to supply chain, employee attrition/absence from illness, work from home, etc..

During COVID the tech sector mostly succeeded in netting record growth. Of course this depends on product and strategy – but for tech companies based on cybersecurity, virtualization and work from home simplicity – technology helped fill a void.

At my previous company I helped empower countless small businesses to purchase technology to help keep their doors option – from e-signature and secure email for lending documents to work from home options that ensured security and collaboration during the trenches of the pandemic.

While many forecasters saw this upswing in the tech segment as an indicator for continued fast paced growth – in truth much of this quick customer acquisition did not need to be tied to long term growth strategy.

The fast-paced growth falsely accelerated normal expansion in many sectors (including technology). I viewed these increased sales as a windfall – a grace to help power through the economy, but not a long term trajectory for natural growth and economic expansion. Unfortunately many companies overreached and assumed buying trends would continue to accelerate at the same level of acquisition versus taking a more conservative view of natural contraction in an expanding market.

While I’m not going to pretend to be an economist, I do have a background in economics and I personally think that we are not moving into a recession, but rather the market is adjusting to a more balanced expansion from an ‘bubble’ of sorts from post COVID.

We are battling inflation however. I hate inflation – who wants to pay $4.00 for gas and have added fees. However this ‘slowing’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Inflation doesn’t equal recession. The housing market was growing way to rapidly and having some contraction on that extreme bidding will long term help retain stability in the market. I know in Raleigh the housing market went from $166,000 from my condo (former owner) to now over $400,000 (much more than I paid) and that is not sustainable.

Some of this contraction is not a bad thing – what is the problem is the panic associated with macroeconomic shifts. The media in general tries to do a good job explaining the issues, but they also are driving headlines and the minute we hear ‘recession’ panic sets in. I think if we truly move into a full recession it will be because of self-prophecy of fear more than even inflation and realistic market contraction.

I bring this up because this shift forces us as sellers and individuals paying our bills to adjust our perspective. Whether it is fully logical or not, many companies – even with plenty of equity and consistent sales choose to ‘pause’ hiring and start to go into ‘recession-mode’ even before we’re fully there. This is frustrating when you are working to sell services because even essential investments are locked down due to ‘fear of risk’

I keep hearing – “we’re fine to invest in this now, but honestly we fear the unknown.” The unknown and status quo are the biggest foes anyone in business from selling apparel to high tech is going to face. As individuals we are feeling the pinch in our pockets with inflation so we can emphasize with this mentality.

I encourage you to be willingly to step out on a limb for your clients and focus on their concerns but also challenge them with the HOW they can not only survive but thrive in the macroeconomic shift.

A successful business needs to invest in technology and strategize on two fronts – short term implications (supply chain, COVID, war for talent – work from home) but the short term focus can never outweigh the long term strategy. You must have a balance. Otherwise a business will not be secure – it will be completely reliant on the ebbs and flows of the economy. The macroeconomic factors are key at any time, but they are only part of the ‘portfolio’ companies need to build with.

It is our job as sales consultants to educate and empower our clients for success within these current challenges (keeping the lights on) and also helping to build a roadmap for longterm success so they can rise to meet any challenge.

Now more than ever -sales professionals are called to be consultants and partners in ensuring clients purchase the correct technology. You need to walk them through a holistic view of the short-term and long-term investment and scalability.

The companies that are primed to survive events from COVID to recessions are flexible and open to change, but also rooted in longterm strategy and mission. They don’t panic simply because of a few off quarters – but use tools, people and dive into their client needs to ensure they are flexible and adjust according to the market. Adjusting to the market – but not panicking because of the market.

Help clients recognize what is working and what is broken through quality discovery and genuinely trying to understand their business. Don’t rush in conversations to assume or push a product, but rather figure out holistically what is working and what is broken. Focus on HOW fixing the broken pain points in the business will affect change – will it be longterm meaningful change. How can we work towards fixing issues permanently instead of a quick band-aid with not transition plan to get to the true problem.

What will help companies successfully navigate market changes (similar to COVID) is a resilient mindset that focuses on people, processes and technology.

The biggest issues that companies I work with face is that they bleed cost (time, revenue, talent attrition, customer attrition) because of broken processes. There is not central source of truth and automation is limited.

Investing in technology that automates client relationship data (like Salesforce) across teams from sales/marketing to service and HR is necessary.

Simply having quality technology is not enough if you cannot organize and access the data efficiently. Companies need automation and integration so their most important asset – PEOPLE (employees who work hard for them and clients who purchase) are not forced to waste valuable time on redundant processes.

Data silos also are big threats for security. SECURITY is often overlooked by smaller companies who don’t want to invest in protections against things like ransomware because ‘we’ve never had issues before’ – but that mindset is going to end up leading to serious potential external threats that could shut down a business. Some technology needs to be invested in regardless of ‘do I have that issue now’ based on ‘what if.’

Time is money – when speaking to your clients in this current economic environment – many may be sold on a product, the features – even the proposed value – but in order to close the deal YOU MUST equate that value to TIME and MONEY – what is the ROI…not perceived ROI but real stats based on analysis.

Focus on details:

  • How many hours do you spend on x task?
  • What would you do if you had that time back
  • How much is that costing you per hour?
  • If you were able to get those hours back and save that cost with investing in an automated tool how can that help your business with x challenge.

In truth many companies handle recession fears in the worst way:

layoffs, budget freezes, etc…

While there are times this is necessary – with the right investment in people, processes you can usually avoid layoffs by simply streamlining time through automation and increase time to value.

These are the sorts of conversations you need to target with your customers now more than ever. The product may work and have value – but you need to focus on crucial conversations on HOW you can help with cost (pay more, but ROI is three fold) and do so in a targeted and precise way that speaks not to uncertainty but lays a solid foundation for growth and scalability even in times of uncertainty.

Sorry if a bit longwinded but I think this is important food for thought.

Quick Summary:

  • Take time to focus on how your clients are losing money/value with current processes. Drill into the pain, but take it further by challenging them with a roadmap to a future state that helps AUTOMATE and remove data silos
  • Security and automation are two critical focus points to ensure time to value for clients
  • Don’t simply speak about value – show the real business value (numbers) of how you will effect meaningful change in the business and help them to not only survive but thrive uncertain economic conditions

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