Don’t panic—here’s how to get your phones actually ringing again.

It’s a very scary time, with lots of uncertainty as we stay shuttered in place. We see deals in our sales pipeline postponed or disappearing. So, what do you do? You take action.

Sales leaders:  Lead generation must be your primary focus. Companies that take action, win. There’s no time to waste.

Ram Charan, author of more than 20 books and consultant to CEOs, said in 2008:

“It’s counterintuitive but true that when the economy slows down, the pace of decision-making has to speed up, because you can’t put off the tough choices anymore. The companies that are readiest to act on solid information are primed to shoot ahead of the business cycle.”

What do businesses typically do when clients stop buying and the sales pipeline dries up? They cut advertising, travel, training, marketing, and discretionary expense line items. Ouch. They take an internal focus, instead of recognizing that lead generation—referral lead generation in particular—is their ticket to the C-Suite. (Or any other suite, for that matter.)

If You Freeze Up, So Does the Sales Pipeline

Many sales organizations freeze during an economic crisis. Leaders think since there’s nothing they can do, they should just do nothing. But “nothing” is futile thinking. Granted, it will be more difficult to find new prospects or even to get clients to take (virtual) meetings. But it’s certainly possible.

Despite what we hear and read, economic upswings and downturns have been the norm throughout history. The period we experienced between the early 1950s and 2000 was an aberration. Hard to believe, isn’t it? We got so accustomed to an upward growth curve, albeit with a few minor downturns, that we never thought we’d hear pundits say, “Things haven’t been this bad since the Great Depression.” History is a repetitive S.O.B., is it not?

Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota, was instrumental in the 2008 bank bailout. He said:

“Key lessons from the 2008 experience were that policy makers should all be erring on the side of overreacting to try and avoid the worst economic outcomes—which means going big with the relief package and not worrying about how targeted the measures are.”

It’s not 2002 and 2003, or 2008 and 2009. It’s 2020. Granted, it’s even tougher for your team to find prospects with this pandemic, as everyone and everything is uncertain. But the reality is this: Each of your salespeople can find prospects who match their ideal client profile, even in a lagging economy, and every salesperson can make more money, even in a lagging economy. You can build revenue, retain your ideal clients, find new prospects, build a strong sales pipeline, and decrease your cost of sales. Even in a lagging economy.

If this sounds like a pipe dream, it’s not. In my recent post, “Not the “R” Word Again,” I shared “8 killer steps to recession-proof your business,” and I promised a ninth step. Well, here it is …

Commit to Building Your Referral Business

Referrals are your #1 way to build your sales pipeline. Think of it as prospecting for gold. You don’t want copper or even silver nuggets clogging up that pipe. You’re looking for introductions to people who fit your ideal client profile. You want quality over quantity, and that’s a good thing when quantity is already dying down.

When your team asks clients for referrals to your ideal client, reps get only qualified leads in the sales pipeline. No more wasting time with cold calls, cold emails, and a cold outreach on social media. Reps get the introduction and get the meeting! Referrals are your proven lead generation strategy.

Save Money. Reduce Costs.

There’s no cost to getting a referral lead. Your clients, colleagues, and others in your network become part of your sales team. You ask them to introduce you to your top prospects. No cost. Your sales prospecting budget collapses. Reduced cost.

There is, however, one cost to referrals. You need to thank your referral source with a handwritten thank-you note and affix a real postage stamp. Enter, The Multiplier Effect. Your new client is a candidate to introduce you to their contacts. And on and on it goes.

Referrals are always powerful, but they mean even more in a lagging economy. When you get an introduction to qualified prospects, you get a new client more than 70 percent of the time. Who are prospects going to talk to when they’re frightened about the future of their own businesses? Someone who’s been introduced by a person they know and trust.

Picture a sales world where your team only talks to people who want to talk to them! That is the power of referrals.

Take charge and make your phone ring again! Let your prospects and clients know how much you care about them. Tell and show just how much you appreciate their business. Inform them that you’d like to help people just like them. And don’t forget to thank your prospects and clients for their referrals.

2020 doesn’t have to be your worst sales year ever. You will attract new business with referrals. You will get prospects who match your ideal client profile. You will accelerate your sales. And you will achieve higher results without increasing your cost of sales. In fact, there’s a great chance that you will decrease your costs!

Yes, the sales landscape has changed. It will never be the same. We have no idea what it will look like going forward, and until we do, we must continually evaluate and adjust our business strategies and, in many cases, work differently. Your only job now is quality lead generation and building a robust sales pipeline. (And, of course, flattening the curve.)

What are you doing to work differently?

For more on the most effective prospecting method of all, read “How to Ask for a Referral from a Client.”

Wondering how your team will keep selling in an economic downturn? Invite Joanne to lead a discussion about “How to Boost Your Sales in a Volatile Economy” at your next virtual or in-person sales meeting. Email or call 415.461.8763.