How to sell in challenging times

These are undeniably challenging times, with the after-effects of the pandemic, rocketing inflation, struggling economies and terrifying conflicts a regular part of everyone’s lives. Challenging times can make it more difficult to sell as people look to save their resources and limit new ventures.


In reality, it is in times like these that investment is sales training provides even greater value to a sales person and a sales team, these are the times when you need your salespeople to be performing at their best.


So how can salespeople effectively sell during challenging times?


Keep talking to your existing customers


It is much more time and cost-effective to retain your current customers than it is to find new ones so don’t let challenging times get in the way of clear and consistent communication.


Staying in regular contact with your existing customer base is essential during challenging times, to help you:


  • Maintain a strong reputation

  • Retain customer base

  • Address customer concerns and questions

  • Learn about the challenges your customers are facing (since your target customers will likely have these too)

  • Upsell additional products or services that can help them through these times

  • Obtain warm leads through customer referrals


Not sure how to keep the conversation going with your customers? Take a look at our Key Account Management sales training course.


Do more prospecting and lead generation activity


When faced with challenging conditions most businesses cut back on activities, but this can be the worst possible course of action, when times are more challenging and difficult sales teams that thrive in these circumstances are the teams that are doing more prospecting and lead generation activity, not only does this produce the sales you need in these more challenging times but it provides longer terms benefits to your pipeline as the work you do no will reap rewards further down the line.

Have a cold calling or telesales strategy to generate more conversations and sales opportunities


Focus on building relationships


Relationships are one of the most valuable things you can work on when it comes to sales, especially when you’re selling through an economic downturn and challenging times. We all know that people buy from people so focus on putting yourself at the forefront of the conversation rather than your product. Prospects will be more likely to hear you out and ultimately convert into sales if they like and trust you. Building relationships can also help you eliminate the competition since prospects who are open to buying will be more likely to buy from the person they already have a good relationship with.


Even with prospects who aren’t ready to buy immediately, these relationships can help you stay front of mind for when they feel more comfortable in their economic situation and help you close the sale further down the line.


Highlight long term value of offering


Challenging times often brings uncertainty which can make it hard to sell a prospect on a short-term or immediate benefit. Instead, you should focus your sales conversations on highlighting the long-term value of your offering and demonstrating the benefits they’ll see once the challenging times have ended.


Utilise a consultative sales approach and find out what their long term goals are so that you can align your sales messaging and conversation with the benefits they’re after. Learn about consultative selling.


Anticipate longer lead times


The uncertainty that comes with challenging times can also make it difficult to close sales as quickly as usual or you may find that your sales opportunities stall. Prospects may be busy with damage control within their own lives or reluctant to speak to sales professionals. When planning your pipeline, anticipate longer lead times so you can adjust your goals, expectations and activities appropriately.


When trying to book appointments with high-value prospects, don’t be deterred by the length of time it may take you, especially during times like these – but make sure that you don’t come across as overly persistent and ‘spammy’. Learn how to take a more intelligent approach to obtain the appointments you want with our Cold Calling and Appointment Setting Sales Course.


Adapt your sales channels and messages


Challenges and economic downturn can lead to significant changes in the way your target customers behave and buy. For example, during the pandemic, there were no opportunities for face to face events which meant that most sales outreach activities happened online. Take the time to research and understand how your target customers are reacting to the challenges in the world, and adapt your sales channels to reflect it.


Similarly, you should adapt your sales messages to reflect your buyer’s current priorities and concerns. For example, during challenging times they may react better to messages about safety and stability rather than those about efficiency and productivity.


Identify prospects with urgent needs


Challenging times never affect everyone equally. There will be some who will need more help to weather through than others.


By identifying prospects with the most urgent needs and helping them solve their problems, you will a) instantly become liked and trusted, and b) enable them to become a long-term customer moving forward.

Sometimes, the solution you need to offer these prospects won’t be the product or service you sell. It might be a contact you can put them in touch with, advice you can share with them, or simply a friendly ear to lend. While this won’t support your sales goals instantly, it will more than likely pay off in the future.


Stay positive


Having a positive mindset in sales is incredibly important when trying to sell in challenging times. This mindset can keep you from dwelling on problems and help you focus on finding solutions. Maintaining a positive outlook will also help you to focus on the long-term and which will help your buyers and customers do the same.


Some tips for staying positive as a sales professional are:


  • Limiting your exposure to the news during the day

  • Keeping inspiring quotes on hand to motivate you

  • Find opportunities for humour – laugh at yourself, joke with colleagues

  • Use mistakes (big and small) as learning opportunities rather than a negative to dwell on


If you’re struggling to sell in challenging times, you may benefit from refreshing your sales skills. Think Selling Sales Training offers a range of courses suited to everyone from individuals looking to develop their own sales skills to companies looking to improve the performance of their whole sales department.


Browse our range of sales courses and bespoke training offers, or get in touch for more information.