It’s critical management stay positive themselves, but at the same time realistic. What salespeople value most in their leaders, at times like these, is a demonstration of credible confidence, not knee-jerk stuff, or business bi-polar disorder, one day there is no problem, the next saying we’re doomed!
High levels of ownership are vital. Salespeople have to continue to own their performance. The minute they hear mangers or directors talking down their figures they feel ‘let off the hook’; “It’s not my performance that’s at issue, but the wider economy’s”.
Try not to change things; targets, incentives, structures etc. Bring stability to internal matters so you can focus the team externally.
If you need to change things because of the market, do it quickly, get the focus back to building the business.
Don’t apply the particular to the general. Just because one customer postpones a project it doesn’t mean your market is in recession.
Obsess about effective forecasting; in turbulent markets understanding order intake issues are critical.
Don’t rip into hygiene factors. Cutting business expenses might make managers feel good, and it might have symbolic significance, but the last thing you want is to damage sales force morale by saving less than 1% of the overhead. Better to cut waste. Involve the team in identifying the top 10 areas of waste and cut them immediately.
Continue to place your spending bets. The business has to continue. How you spend business development money needs to demonstrate good judgement and a steady nerve. Don’t confuse reviewing budgets with needing to stimulate business.
Deal with poor performance. There is nothing worse than carrying people who aren’t productive enough. An empty seat might look more worrying than somebody mediocre sitting in it, but when trying to raise average performance levels, and build resilient success culture, it’s a disaster.
Focus on increasing your own leadership behaviours; being visible, showing enthusiasm, working harder than anybody else, bringing creativity to solving business problems, giving time to people and seeing more customers. Rather than the managerial comfort zones of more spreadsheet analysis, more internal meetings, more tell style email, more running round saying don’t panic, don’t panic!