The best time to prepare for a situation is before it becomes a situation. Organizations that take a moment to recognize what challenges may lie ahead of them will have a much better chance to deal with what may come their way. More specifically, companies that prepare for a recession do far better before, during, and after than those that don’t.

This means organizations should avoid taking things for granted. What worked in the past may not work now and probably won’t work through a recession. It’s about being nimble, agile, and flexible in planning and actions, considering the wide-ranging financial impact a recession could have on the organization’s operations.

This is true for sales teams as well. It’s about reassessing and aligning sales capacity to match market opportunities. This alignment can come in many shapes and sizes and will likely need to be tuned to match the business outlook and market forces driving change throughout the organization.

To help identify areas of opportunity to thrive, here are some tips to help sales teams successfully close deals and generate revenue even during an economic downturn where budgets and resources are likely to be slashed—not just for the sales team itself, but for the prospects’ companies the sales team is to convert into new customers.

  1. Keep the team motivated

Creating and maintaining a culture, an environment, and a team-wide attitude is to win. This becomes even more important when things are looking a bit down for everyone. This may mean that you must adjust how the team meets, communicates, and shares stories of success and failure. If—or, instead, when—the existing team ends up having to pick up the slack because of hiring freezes and layoffs, this can potentially lead to burnout and a lack of incentive to put in the first mile, let alone go the extra mile when needed. Therefore, tuning the sales operations with motivation in mind must be done in a way that provides an open, transparent view of how the team will succeed.

  1. Adjust the focus

Use your data and your tools to understand which regions or sectors to assign the sales team so you can get the best bang for the buck. Be careful not to look at the data in a way that grounds you in the pre-recession mode of operating, as you may miss the best targets. Instead, look at where things could go so the team can focus on the deals most likely to close and, therefore, those that will generate the most revenue.

  1. Adjust the target

You may also need to refine whom you are selling to. Now’s the time to understand the target market, target persona, the impact the recession will have on their business, and your ability to sell to them given the changes resulting from the recession. Perhaps there’s a way to quickly and easily get those narrowly-missed deals from the past over the finish line now with a new mindset and a little finesse. Another opportunity may sit with existing customers that want to streamline some of their operations by consolidating some of their products and services—this could be an excellent time to explore a cross-sell or up-sell.


  1. Stop looking in the mirror

Remember that your prospects are dealing with a recession too. Regardless of whether you change your sales tactics, the people on the other side of the phone call or email thread almost certainly have changed how they run their business. This can impact how you sell to them. The sales and marketing techniques that worked outside of a recession may not be 100% attributable to the “stellar job” performed by the team during the good times. Sometimes success in sales is a simple matter of a buyer having a budget to spend, and they choose to spend it with you. This reality—and the mentality surrounding it—will change during a recession. This understanding could uncover changes needed to the message you create and the methods through which you deliver them. What mattered to your prospects pre-recession—including how they look at their own challenges, problems, plans, and budgets—will impact how they receive your message. Therefore, your messaging should align with their new reality versus trying to jam your new reality down a non-receptive prospect’s inbox. The bottom line here is to meet your prospects where they are instead of trying to get them to come to your new way of doing business.

  1. Streamline the sales process

Now would be a suitable time to get rid of some red tape. While there are undoubtedly good reasons to put checks and balances and approvals and escalations in place when a lot is going on, and it’s vital to control the risk that comes with growth, there’s no reason to make things more complicated than they need to be. Take a moment to analyze how much time is spent in each sales engagement phase. You might find areas ripe for tuning, which could help bring contacts to prospects to proof of concepts faster than ever before. You might also find that for certain situations; it may be better to cut some losses sooner rather than later so the team can focus on other opportunities that are more likely to close.

Also, look for low-cost sales activities that produce notable results and find ways to burst those activities. Consider contacting fewer prospects with more meaningful messaging more frequently and then turn up the heat on some of these low-cost, high-impact activities. Use this opportunity to create some momentum, generate revenue, and boost team morale—a critical point we covered earlier.

Also, remember that some tasks are better left to machines and applications. Some workflows are well suited for automation. Look for repetitive tasks or things that don’t require human interaction and give the humans a break for those activities.

  1. Stimulate productivity

You may experience hiring freezes and layoffs, but the team remaining by your side will help you see the company through the recession. Investing in the people is essential, but the investment needs to be applied to drive productivity, results, and outcomes. Productivity, which is often connected to activity and behavior, can often be misinterpreted. Just because the team is active and busy doesn’t mean they are being productive. Similarly, what may appear to be productive behavior could sometimes be counterproductive. Take a moment to explore the attributes of your team and individual team members’ productivity. When you find a positive behavior demonstrated by a successful sales representative or team, find a way to replicate that. If it’s a negative behavior, explore alternate paths to promote better behaviors and outcomes.

  1. Plan to embrace change

Ultimately, it’s about not getting stuck in a rut that, when a recession approaches, will only get deeper and, over time, strengthen. Create a plan to break free from the rut now, and don’t be afraid to get creative and even fail in some cases. Go ahead, take some risks, and get a little scrappy in how you look at things and run sales operations. Just try to fail as quickly as possible so you can swiftly alter course when needed. It’s about avoiding the status quo and escaping complacency—both of which will likely prove to be faulty—if not fatal—models to follow during an economic downturn. Find what breaks and stop it or fix it. Find what works and amplify it. There’s no sense in creating your own sales recession on top of the global one.



1 – How to Prepare Your Workforce for a Recession and Other Less-Than-Ideal Events, Diversity Inc, June 2022