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How to Maintain Sales Motivation and Sell in a Recession

  • May 24, 2023
  • 2 minutes

Rumors alone of a looming recession are enough to set alarm bells ringing for sales leaders. 

With clients cutting budgets and team morale slipping, it's important to have strategies in place to overcome the obstacles. Whether you’re in the midst of a recession or just not quite hitting quota, let’s explore effective strategies to sell when times are more challenging.



Controllable vs uncontrollable

Sales motivation is absolutely key. So if you need to sell in a recession, motivate and empower yourself by focusing your energy on what you can control. 

You can’t control that lofty quota figure that's hanging over you, but you can control the individual steps that get you closer to one individual sale. 

Do a great follow-up. 
Prep for that next call the best you can. 
Control the controllables well.

Season 4 Control GIF by The Office


Play to your strengths

Know your strengths and work the market you know you can win right now. Every email sent and call made costs money, so leave the harder ends of the market for now. It’s a classic case of low-hanging fruit.  

But remember: it's not what you sell, it's how you sell it. Even in your target market, there are many competitors out there doing things similar to you. What you do and how you do it are so important to make you stand out as the go-to choice for the people that are going to buy.


Bend, don't break

PSA: Your rigid sales script won’t work here. 

As clients face different and more complex repercussions of ‘lean periods’ in their industry, a more flexible, human approach is needed. Instead of grilling your prospect, sit with them on their side of the table (metaphorically, of course) and work out the issues they are facing together.

Collaborate Bill Nye GIF by NETFLIX

When you know which blockers are real for them, be flexible in your solutions:

  • If it’s a cashflow issue, can you flex on billing terms?
  • If it’s overall budget, is there a reduced package you could offer?
  • If it’s tie-in, could you offer a shorter initial contract?


Sales commissions and incentives

If you’re responsible for a sales team, you’re likely sensing motivation drop as client budgets dry up. Those big wins your team normally chase may be unachievable for a period, so consider the micro-wins you can encourage instead.

Could you incentivize being halfway to quota with an early finish for the day? Can you get lunch for the person who cleans up their pipeline quickest?

These are all milestones that should be celebrated, so think about how you can bring that bit of joy back into the day.


Mental health in a recession

Whether you’re a seasoned sales leader or a newbie BDR, we need to look after everyone’s mental health.

Open up the conversation and ask your team:
On a scale of 1 to 10 how are you coping with this situation? 
What are the reasons for your answer?
If it’s not already, what would make it a 10? 

Talk, listen and learn.

TV gif. Melissa Fumero as Amy from Brooklyn Nine-Nine high-fives Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz, both seated in the precinct.


Key takeaways

#1 To action today

Ask your team - what are some of the things they are doing that are helping them through this time. Likely they are having similar thoughts to you and may even have some solutions you could implement. No harm in asking, right?

#2 To action this week

Review the questions you are asking prospects
Are they relevant to the period we’re in?
Are they getting the answers you need?

#3 To action this month

Consider incentive structures and how these can be adjusted with micro-wins. This may require conversations with people higher up but it’s well worth engaging in. The question alone will show a willingness to work with your team, instead of against them. 


Reps getting ghosted in a quiet period? Arm yourself with our ghost-busting toolkit, everything you need to keep prospects engaged.

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