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Sales Strategies for Surviving Economic Downturns

Learn how to navigate and thrive in a soft economy with proven sales strategies.

In 1992, when the United States went to war to remove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait, I was living in Los Angeles. The subsequent Persian Gulf War caused a downturn in the U.S. economy, but my company went about our business. Los Angeles is a huge city with many companies that needed staffing. This was my first recession, and I was unharmed.

About a decade later, I survived the dot-com bubble. The internet was new, and a lot of people bought stocks based on website traffic alone. Investors of all sizes spent a fortune on every new platform or offering, but only a small number of companies generated revenue. Even fewer survived. But as the bubble grew, I loaded up on a stock that was growing fast. Every time the price dipped, I added to my position. When it hit $0.10 per share, no one wanted to buy this dog of a company. I would have been safer putting my money under my mattress.

In 2007, I liquidated my 401(k), turning it into cash. I had a hunch things were going pear-shaped. I didn’t tell anyone what I had done right away, but I eventually told my mother-in-law, who asked why I didn’t tell her to do the same. I explained that my action was based on a vague belief that things were going south. On September 30 of the following year, my company had a record profit. By October 1, we had lost half of our clients.

Even though no one liked having their payments reduced, everyone was still employed. It would take more than two years to reclaim our revenue. The Great Recession hurt staffing businesses, with 40 percent of offices in the United States and Canada shuttering their doors.

Common Mistakes to Avoid During a Recession

  1. Don’t believe that there are no opportunities. There are always opportunities somewhere.
  2. Don’t make excuses, and don’t accept them.
  3. Don’t infect others with your fears, and never let anyone else feed you their fears.
  4. Don’t look at your 401(k) or your investments.

Effective Sales Strategies for a Soft Economy

  1. Retention First: Your first strategy is to prevent churn. In a soft economy, you will find a number of your competitors breaking their models and lowering their prices to displace you and your company. Work with your operations teams to ensure they execute well enough that your competitors are no threat.
  2. Build Better Relationships: When things are not what you hoped, you should work on building better relationships with your contacts. Showing up when others hunker down is the key to building better relationships. If you want to know one secret of selling effectively, it is caring. I love hearing clients say, “You always come to see us.”
  3. Focus on Value Creation: Focusing on value creation is always your best bet. Show up with a new idea, opportunity, or way to help your contacts succeed. To practice this sales strategy, gather a number of reps and brainstorm a list of things you can do to improve your clients’ results.
  4. Increase Your Activity: In an uncertain environment, decision-makers often want to wait things out. Waiting isn’t usually the best decision for a company because they make no progress and are likely to fall further behind. You will have to spend time finding leaders who still intend to reach certain goals. Let your competitors lay down and wait until the economy bounces back to engage.
  5. Diversify Your Client Base: Revenue is revenue. It doesn’t matter if the revenue comes from gargantuan companies or small businesses that need your help. You may also target new industries that will benefit from what you sell. Some industries do better than others during a downturn. Identifying those is part of increasing your activity and diversifying your client base.
  6. B2B Sales Training and Development: If you have spent any time here at thesalesblog.com, you know that we care most about your win rates. This requires you to improve your sales effectiveness. While you will wish you had done this before the soft economy, you can take this opportunity to introduce new sales strategies or sales methodologies to upskill your teams.
  7. Extend Into New Territories: You may be able to increase your ability to improve your results by encroaching into new territories. You may find net new clients who have never seen you or your solution. These new prospects may be as interested in you as you are in them.
  8. Be Positive: No matter what, be positive. Negativity is more powerful than positivity. If you need help with strategies to reduce your negativity and spend more time being positive, you can find them in The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

You must sell in good times, bad times, terrible times, and what seem like the end days. Our sun has around 4 billion years remaining, so you have a lot more time than you thought.

The problem with giving up is that you have to start all over again anyway. Stay the course, and do your best work under difficult circumstances. If you want to feel a whole lot better, you should try to help someone else. This will prevent you from complaining and sharing your woes with others.

If you are a salesperson, act on as many of these ideas as possible. If you are a leader, implement as many of these B2B sales strategies with your team.


Post by Anthony Iannarino on June 17, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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