How to Sell in a Down Market

Can you increase sales in a down market? Absolutely! In this episode of the Rialto Marketing Podcast, we've got Mike King of 5280 Sales Solutions with us today to provide some tips on how to sell effectively in the current COVID environment. 

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How to Sell in a Down Market


Tim Fitzpatrick:

How can you increase sales in the current downmarket that we are experiencing? I've got a guest with me today and that is what we're going to get into. Hi, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing and I am really excited to have with me Mike King, with 5280 Sales Solutions. Mike, thanks for joining me and taking the time to chat.


Mike King:

Thanks for having me, Tim. Happy Friday. I'm glad to do it.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yes. Yes, happy Friday. We've hit another weekend. It's crazy how fast the weeks go by when you're sitting in your house.


Mike King:

I know. The days all run together.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yes, they do. They absolutely do. Well, before we get into it, do me a favor. Just tell me a little bit more about how you help businesses at 5280 Sales Solutions. What do you guys do?


Mike King:

Great question. 5280 is my own LLC, but I'm partnering with a national organization called Sales Acceleration. That's really the backbone of my business. Sales Acceleration is a national sales consultancy, sales advisory company. Probably 120 advisors nationally, and I primarily focus on the Colorado market for my business. We work in the small to midsize business space, generally with companies with a handful of millions of sales in annual revenue up to probably 50 million.


Mike King:

It's a very hands-on engagement, focusing on really three areas. We focus on sales strategy, sales process and sales execution. So when we engage a client, we're helping them build out a sales plan, helping them find their best customers and helping them grow their sales. That's really the number one priority. We just don't tell them what to do, we actually do it. So it's a very hands-on building engagement.


Mike King:

The goal for us is to build that sales strategy foundation, that sales process foundation, that sales execution foundation, while leading the sales team throughout the engagement process. A big part of what I do is provide fractional or outsourced sales leadership to small businesses with the goal of getting their sales going in the right direction and building that foundation to win for the long term.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

That's awesome. Definitely on the marketing side, I always find implementation is key. You can give people great information, you can give them a plan, but oftentimes they struggle with implementation if you're not there to help. So that's awesome that you do that. Let's get into it. We've got this global pandemic we're dealing with. What kind of just quick tips do you have for business owners to help maintain sales during this time?


Mike King:

Obviously, everybody's being impacted. I think unless you're on the other side of the coin that's benefiting from this crisis, which is a small majority of businesses out there, your sales are impacted. It's probably north of 90% of companies that are being impacted on a survey that results that we just saw. I think the key thing here, it's really all about adapting. You've got to adapt to the times. You just can't just hope and pray. That's not a strategy. You've got to lean in on things.


Mike King:

I focus on three things and it's really adapting your mindset. It's not about focusing on the problem so much. Focus on the solution. Get forward thinking, lean into the problems and think about solutions. Don't get bogged down with problems. Everybody's got problems right now, and it's just about focusing on that area.


Mike King:

The other thing I would say too, I got about seven key things here, but don't panic. Just settle down, but keep selling. The interesting thing is now, think about your buyers out there, the people you're generally dealing with. They're not on vacation, they're not in meetings, they're not on conference calls. They're relatively accessible, so take advantage of that opportunity and engage them. Keep the sales process going with presentations, demonstrations. Just reaching out to them to let them know what's going on with your business and that you're still going to serve them, as best you can, however you can. Via Zoom or a phone call, whatever it may be.


Mike King:

The other thing too speaking of Zoom is adjusting your presentations. Now that you can't show up to them and take them to lunch and have that sales call, what are you going to do? So I encourage my teams to be creative. Stand out from your competitors. How are you delivering your presentation? So beef up those Zoom skills. Show them a video of a new product offering that you have, maybe a virtual tour of your facility or your manufacturing line, or something unique that maybe they haven't seen before to really set yourself apart from your peers.


Mike King:

The other thing is don't forget about your existing customers. We always want that new client, that new customer, which is important to every business, but hey, don't forget about the bread and butter of your business. And it's not about selling them per se, it's really about just checking in with them, saying "Hey, how's it going? How are you doing, personally?" If I was going to chat with you, "How's it going, Tim? How's the family? How are you guys holding up? How's the business?" Those kinds of things go a long way. And don't even bring up one sales thing, just the fact that you're checking in with them.


Mike King:

And maybe, is there something you can help them with? It's maybe not something that you provide as a company, as a service, but maybe you've got a connection to, or an idea for them to solve a problem that they're having. So if you can get to that point of being a great resource for a company, you're going to be one of the first people they call back when they need help, and that's where you want to be a nine times out of 10.


Mike King:

As I said before, it's adjusting yourself. You don't have these face-to-face meetings, how do you adjust? What do you do? A good idea is to maybe reach out to some of your prospective customers, say, "Hey, I'd like to show you and tell you about our business, but what kind of information can I provide to you? How can I provide it to you to show you our products or services so that you can make a decision? What do you need?" So that kind of feedback, those kinds of insights that you can gather from reaching out to a few potential clients would be huge in these times, because it's maybe even great stuff that you could take forward, call it post-crisis, as part of your sales process earlier.


Mike King:

Really, but I think using technology and using it well is key. Everybody's got to get comfortable with the video conferencing, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, whatever platform. The Google Chat that you're using, get comfortable with it. And I think authenticity is huge. I'm generally pretty casual, but it's like being casual but being professional. Be prepared and keep your presentations tight. Less is more, I think, in these times. Don't overwhelm them with information. They've got a lot going on as it is, so just stick to the facts so that the key bullet points, it's going to stick with them after you hang up on the call.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

That's awesome. Adding value has always been important in sales, but I think it is even more important now. And it's not about selling people. It's like you said, it's adding that value. And if you know that you have a solution that is going to help somebody right now, not only do you owe it to them to talk about it, you owe it to yourself. We all have to find ways to thrive here, because if we can't, it's not helping anybody. So I love that.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

This is a huge adjustment for a lot of salespeople. A lot of salespeople are used to getting out there, meeting face to face. What tips do you have to help sales managers, business owners to keep their sales team motivated in this market?


Mike King:

Great question. The thing that comes to mind for me, the number one thing I think from a leadership or ownership standpoint is, be a person first, be a sales manager, sales leader second. You're going to have to have the mindset that your sales team needs support. They need direction, they need understanding and they need confidence that you're going to take them through this tough time. There's light at the end of the tunnel, and we're going to make it through this.


Mike King:

And if you're proactive in your action, in your communication, your actions are going to speak loudly right now. That's going to instill confidence in your team. Because if you're just like, "Well, we're just going to hang in here and wait for this thing to pass, and whatever happens happens," is not the good plan, right?


Tim Fitzpatrick:

No.


Mike King:

So it's like, "Guys, we're going to take this head on. It's time to lean in to this opportunity. Let's go see if we can grab some market share. Let's try to get into that new channel, that new vertical, that new customer that we've been chasing for years. Let's go for it." So a proactive mindset and a proactive approach is going to get your sales team rowing behind you and motivated to go on.


Mike King:

Now, the other thing too, I would say, Tim, is be calm in the storm. It's crazy right now. With the kind of uncertainty out there, it's turbulent for people at work and at home. Think about kids with young families. They're homeschooling, video conferencing. You're trying to do your work and the dog is barking in the background, the kids, they're running around. So you've got to level set and all that. Just go, "It's the new norm right now," and just be empathetic to what's going on with your employees on a personal and the business front.


Mike King:

And that speaks to flexibility. You've got to be flexible and plantable during these times. Think about sales goals. Your sales team's going, "We just had our goal meeting at the end of the year and now we're five months into the year and those goals are looking tough."


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Mike King:

So maybe look at adjusting the sales goals to what's now possible for the year. That's not completely known, but just know that that's something that you're thinking about from a sales team standpoint. Because if you let them know that you're going to do them right and do what's right for them, you're going to keep that energy. You're going to keep that commitment level at a high level and they're going to keep pushing for you, knowing you've got their back and you're going to take care of them.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

That's good. I love to be human. Super, super important. Now is not the time to start laying into your sales team, putting the hammer down. It's just not going to help anyone. I do think too, that transparency is really important now. Just let people know on your teams what the reality is; where are we at, how are we doing? We can't make decisions in a box as managers. I think bringing in our entire team to be involved in that process is really, really important because sometimes it's hard for us as managers and business owners to see the forest through the trees. And our salespeople are the people that really have their feet on the street. They have a better pulse, I think, in a lot of cases of what's going on. So I love that.


Mike King:

One thing I would add to that, and you touched on it about bringing your sales team in, but encourage innovation, right?


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah.


Mike King:

Brainstorm with your sales team on, "Hey guys, let's have a contest. Let's brainstorm on different ways that we can engage our customers. What can we do that's creative, that's innovative, that's going to set us apart from our competition in this environment?" Right?


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Mike King:

Again, it's the new norm. So how are we sending out? What are we doing differently? So rally that sales team because sometimes the answers are within the company, not always external.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Right. Yeah, absolutely. What about sales comp plans? My guess is there are a number of companies where this current situation has just flipped their sales comp plans upside down. What kind of implications and considerations do business owners and leaders need to think about right now?


Mike King:

Yeah, it's important. I think what we're seeing, most of corporate America is, I would say they're in a holding pattern. We're in a wait-and-see mode right now, just because, when's it going to end? How much impact is it going to have? Obviously, the impact is being felt right now, but what does that mean to the annual goal, if you will? And if you think about sales compensation plans, in our minds, a good sales compensation plan will be about 50% variable compensation. So if you think about that, there's a lot on the line for your sales team.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Absolutely.


Mike King:

And if their goals are completely just obliterated right now because they've got three months of downtime where they haven't sold, that's a problem. So one of the best anecdotal things I've seen as a company, we took that Q2 goal and put it into Q4, and back-loaded the goal. But then they made the Q2 goals more objective and activity-based. So they still have an opportunity to earn some commission in the second quarter, but it was based on customer engagement activities, just gen activities. So to that nature, to keep them, and again, in the game, keep the peace of mind there with the sales team and know that, "Hey, again, the company has got my back. They're being fair to me. I'm going to keep continuing to sell and keep highly motivated. And knowing that I've got a chance to make a decent change in my compensation plan for this coming year."


Mike King:

There's other things you can do there if you decide to change your compensation plan. My mindset is, do what's fair and do what's right. Because I think the short term, call it lost or impact, maybe to your P&L on taking care of your sales team versus the long term impact of keeping your best sales team in the game and motivated with you, so that as soon as the dust settles, that your best guys aren't leaving because you didn't do anything with the comp plan. You just said, "Yeah, too bad, it is what it is," kind of an attitude.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Mike King:

You're not going to keep your best sales guys. They're going to be going to your competition or looking to go with companies that are going to take your people. So there's a different way. You can adjust threshold payments to where they start making money, look at the metrics and how you pay them. Or maybe you just say, "Hey, we're going to adjust it to the end of the year based on how the dust settles." But again, with the mindset of doing right for your people, doing right for your sales team. Because at the end of the day, this is no fault of theirs, right?


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Mike King:

And with half of their compensation tied to sales and hitting sales numbers that maybe are not realistic, you've got to find a way to be fair and be realistic there.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Well, and obviously adjusting sales plans. I love the idea of going more activity-based because that's more what they can control at this point. If you just keep your same sales plan, it's not motivating at all. A lot of sales people are just going to go, "Well, okay. I guess I'm just going to wait this out. Why am I going to work? Because I'm never going to hit these numbers right now." So I love that tip. What about steps for implementing a crisis sales plan at this point, which is obviously where we're at?


Mike King:

Most good companies are going to have a standard sales plan in place. They're blocking and tackling how they go to market, knowing their best customers, how they're going to market, et cetera. So you've got to take a look at where you're at in this context and be ready to make changes to that sales plan. I'd say during a time of crisis, the best companies that are agile, creative and quickly adapt to their sales plans are the ones that are going to come out ahead in the end. It's the companies that lean in and go, "Alright. Hey, we realize the situation. Boom, we're moving and shaking. Let's go for it."


Mike King:

That's critical. You got to think about it, but you can't think about it too. You got to really act and get going. Again, think about what your competitors are doing. Everybody's got competition out there, so if you can stay a step ahead of your competition and adjust, that's going to be huge. So I think when you look at it holistically, you have to really step back a little bit though and say, "Hey, what's the scope of the crisis that we're in right now?"


Mike King:

There's so much uncertainty, of course, but, does this impact all of our channels of business? Does it impact all of our products? What geographies does it impact? A holistic view of the scope. And then, what's the duration like? And what does that mean? Is this thing going to be a few months? Are we going to be in this mode for several months? Well, if that's the case, if it's longer term in nature, then you've got to plan for that. Then how are you changing your sales plan based on that reality, that new reality? You have to do it.


Mike King:

So it's implement the changes that are critical for now, but it's not just make them and run with them. You have to continue to refine those changes that you're making in your sales plan, because they may not be working. Right?


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Right.


Mike King:

We change, we adapt it and we shift it. Are we still making things happen? Are we hitting our revised goals? Yes, no. Well, if not, then you need to continue to refine and change those plans.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

So because of that, do you recommend people use shorter timeframe sales plans right now?


Mike King:

Yeah, I think you have to. I think in the mindset of, "Here's our 90 day plan. Let's run with that." And I think then, it's a quick after action review on, "Hey, what went well? What's working, what's not working? Adjust. Let's go forward for the next 90 days and keep the momentum going."


Mike King:

Another good thing about doing that is it keeps your team engaged. Because during that process, you want to pull that feedback from your sales team and go, "Dang, what's working out there? How's the video conference going on? What tools do you need? What other resources in the company do you need on your Zoom call to help close these deals?"


Mike King:

Because you've got to keep moving down the sales goal, right? It's the goal because coming out of a crisis, you want to be in a position to thrive and to win. And by pushing forward and doing what's necessary.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

I love that, because we're doing the same thing with marketing plans at this point. Having a marketing plan that's more than 90 days right now, I think is a waste of time. I think you implement, like you said, you've got an after action review. You make your adjustments and then you keep going because things are changing really, really rapidly at this point. Mike, these are awesome tips, man. I love it. You've helped me, I know that. So, where can people learn more about you?


Mike King:

I think the best way to get a hold of me is through LinkedIn, Mike King-Colorado. That's the best way to link to my website. If you need some help, I'm offering a free consultation for people to get a hold of me. We've got a quick 10 question sales agility assessment, a crisis agility assessment, if you will. So you can go in there and take a quick survey. And that's another way to get a hold of me as well too. I have a benchmark scoring on where you're at, just on the whole sales, infrastructure and foundational piece. And then we can start a conversation from there.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Awesome. Well, Mike, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat this morning.


Mike King:

Yeah, it's been great. Thanks, Tim. I appreciate the time.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

It's awesome. Well, listen, thanks so much for tuning in. I really appreciate you being here. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing. Just remember, marketing your business should not be a challenge. All you need is a plan. Thanks so much, and we'll talk to you soon.


Mike King:

Thanks, Tim.


Tim Fitzpatrick:

Yeah, you bet.


Connect With Mike King

  • Email: mking@salesxceleration.com
  • Call at 303-229-7447
  • Linkedin


About the Author Tim Fitzpatrick

Tim Fitzpatrick is the President of Rialto Marketing. At Rialto Marketing, we help small businesses & entrepreneurs eliminate the confusion of marketing by focusing on the fundamentals. As a marketing partner, we help clients put in place and manage a simple marketing plan so they can grow. Marketing your business shouldn't be a challenge. All you need is a plan.

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