Published on November 9, 2023, 6:56 am
In response to high inflation and recession risk, Gartner has identified three key priorities for chief sales officers (CSOs) to address. These priorities are highlighted as crucial actions that can help sales organizations navigate economic challenges and remain on a path of growth.
The first priority is the adoption of flexible planning techniques. Sales organizations need to incorporate greater flexibility into their strategic planning activities and outputs. CSOs should regularly reassess the organization’s ability to respond to economic disruptions and develop a communication plan to ensure alignment across all parts of the sales organization regarding any changes in strategy. Reviewing data on key sales talent and productivity metrics is essential to track progress towards growth targets. Additionally, the sales leadership team should create an action plan that reflects the urgency of preparation in the face of inflation.
The second priority is retaining and retraining high-performing sellers. Frontline sales managers play a crucial role in developing and managing sellers who can address customer concerns about potential inflation impacts effectively. Clear communication is vital in addressing seller questions before they become distractions. A recent poll conducted by Gartner found that meeting quotas and customer retention were top concerns for 54% of sales and business leaders surveyed regarding an economic downturn. CSOs should clarify any misunderstandings about inflation for their sellers and provide accurate facts about any adjustments to quotas. It is recommended for CSOs to proactively develop a talent management strategy that promotes recession-proof skills, encourages innovation, and improves customer interaction abilities among sellers. By enhancing business acumen and listening skills, sellers can uncover valuable information about how customers are preparing for a potential downturn, thus identifying new business opportunities.
The third priority outlined by Gartner is embracing strategic cost management as opposed to solely relying on cost-cutting measures during challenging economic times. Strategic cost management offers balance by combining cost cuts with targeted spending increases on growth areas. CSOs should focus on protecting investments in talent and technology that are crucial for long-term growth goals. It is essential to evaluate longer-term investments that will outlast budget pressures and eliminate low-usage sales technology platforms to decrease unnecessary expenses. By proactively managing sales costs, organizations can mitigate the disruption caused by urgent cost reductions.
Noah Elkin, VP in the Gartner for Sales Leaders Practice, stresses the significance of taking bold, pre-emptive actions to strengthen sales organizations and drive growth in response to economic headwinds. Elkin emphasizes that cost-cutting should be approached strategically, focusing on protecting key investments while finding areas for targeted spending increases.
In conclusion, CSOs must prioritize adopting flexible planning techniques, retaining/retraining high-performing sellers, and embracing strategic cost management practices. These priorities will help sales organizations navigate economic challenges effectively and position themselves for long-term growth. By incorporating these strategies into their operations, CSOs can ensure that their companies remain resilient and successful even in the face of potential inflation and a recessionary environment.