How to maintain fast growth in a low-growth economy

In Europe, the UK and even parts of Asia - including China - economists are predicting that growth is going to slow down. Not a recession, but GDP isn’t going to increase at the same rate as previous years.

In some regions, localised pressure is having an adverse impact (such as Brexit in the UK). In other regions, a mix of debt, inflationary pressures, tariffs and consumer and business confidence are putting the breaks on growth forecasts.

News along those lines can make business owners nervous. Especially when they’re aiming for high-growth targets. How should you approach these challenges and what can a sales team do to maintain growth?

5 ways to maintain growth

#1: Review targets

Are your targets realistic? Are they based on GDP or market/sector-growth set at certain levels; and if so, is this likely over the next 1 to 3 years?

If not, maybe it’s time to review targets. Not necessarily reduce, but certainly take a careful look and review the pipeline and client renewals at the same time. Don’t make assumptions or set new targets without having access to all of the data. And at the same time, don’t always take a rose tinted view on the sales pipeline: make some negative assumptions and revise predictions accordingly. In effect, as a sales manager, you should stress test the figures and projections so you can make the right case for numbers that make sense.

#2: Face reality

Hope is a wonderful thing.

As President Snow said in The Hunger Games, hope is the only thing stronger than fear.

Hope is what U.S. President Barack Obama built an election campaign on, winning two of the most successful and positive presidential terms in recent American history.

Sales pipelines, however, shouldn’t be built on hope. Some hope, but not too much. Doubling down on being hopeful could result in missed targets and tense board meetings. Look into every potential deal with as much detail as possible and aim to predict figures that are as accurate and realistic as possible.

#3: Review activity levels

Salespeople who aren’t active enough won’t close as many deals.

Activity levels should be reviewed across the board. Look at the number of outbound calls and emails being sent. The number of live demos and in-person meetings/pitches - depending on what you are selling and where your customers are, of course. Is your team generating enough output and activity to guarantee a strong healthy pipeline?

Look at marketing the same way: are you getting enough inbound leads through? If not, look at what can be done to improve this.

Another thing worth checking is how many salespeople follow-up. Studies show that:

80% of deals are closed only after at least five follow-ups and that

44% of sales people give up after one “no”

22% give up after two “nos”

14% give up after three “nos”

12% give up after four “nos”

#4: Concentrate sales activity

Being busy is one solution.

But without focus, without your team concentrating on the right sales lead, you risk an uncoordinated effort with everyone rushing around trying to generate sales.

Make sure your team are focusing on a few fundamentals:

  • Are they seeing the right prospects and accounts?

  • Are they meeting with decision makers and internal influencers?

  • Are they bringing them solutions that these potential clients need in a timely fashion (are they important to the client in some way)?

  • Are they communicating over the right medium and finding simple and effective ways to stay in contact using low-touch methods when sales leads go quiet?

#5: An integrated approach

In a low-growth economy, sales is part of a wider process of companies creating value for one another. Generating more revenue and hitting targets in this environment requires an integrated approach.

Make it easier for potential sales leads to find your company, and discover for themselves whether they need your services/products. Marketing, with a focus on content and sales leads, should play a big part in this. Your sales teams should also know or have a clearer idea how your products/services make a positive impact for clients, thereby making it easier for them to build a business case.

It should also be easier for potential sales leads to get a demo straight away. Assuming your product/services benefit from demos, work on the assumption that a sales lead wants to know sooner rather than later whether you can help them. Give them the opportunity and yourself the opportunity to qualify leads quicker. Make instant online demos (using smartphones, tablets and laptops) an integral part of the sales process.