What do you do if your sales targets are up, but your market is in decline?

What do you do if your sales targets are up, but your market is in decline?

If you’re in corporate sales, right now it may feel like you’re being asked to constantly push a stone uphill, but it needn’t be so.


The good news is that the thing about recessions is that they hit your competitors as hard as they hit you.


If your firm is struggling to hit its revenue targets because your clients are spending less, chances are your competitors are struggling too.


Typically what happens in a recession is that all firms in an industry react to short-term pressure by cutting costs – the theory being that “if we can’t grow revenue, at least by cutting cost we can try and protect our profit”.


That may well look fine from a CFO’s perspective for a quarter or so, but a previously well-run company won’t have inefficient staff or processes to cut.


Which means that where the red pen falls can create grit issues that customers start to notice:


Call centre wait times start to grow, and customers start to grow impatient.


Client service drops, as fewer account managers are retained.


Product development stalls, as NPD research is cut.


Product quality drops, as cheaper ingredients are sourced.


Product returns increase, because the company has cut its Quality Assurance investment.


And so on. By a thousand tiny cuts, chances are in a recession that your competitors’ customers are starting to get disgruntled.


And disgruntled customers can be shaken from their inertia by a timely call from a Sales Rep who knows which of their competitors are experiencing the lowest customer satisfaction levels, and why.


All of a sudden, a Rep armed not only with which competitors are failing their customers but exactly where they are failing – be it on product quality, or service delivery, or uncompetitive pricing – has an empathetic opening to a sales conversation that might otherwise have been a pure cold call.


And so rather than trying to grow a shrinking market, the Rep can focus their time and attention on converting clients of the competitors with the lowest satisfaction levels, and the highest propensity to defect.




So how does a Sales Director struggling to make new sales in a contracting market identify which of their competitors are failing, and where?


Well…one start point might be to engage the services of an independent, experienced market researcher who can:


– contact a number of your competitors’ clients


– ask them to give a mark out of 10 for how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with the service they are currently getting


– ask them a few pertinent questions about why they’ve awarded that mark: what the incumbent is doing well, and where they need to improve


– and whether their perception of the incumbent has risen or fallen in the last 6 months


A competent researcher can then aggregate the respondent data and give you an analysis of which of your competitors are doing well and improving (in which case your sales team might be best advised not to chase their tails on those leads).


And which of your competitors are doing badly and getting worse, and why.


In which case you can focus your sales teams’ attention on those types of businesses – the ones ripest for a timely sales call from a company that can directly evidence they have a better solution than the one the buyer is currently having to put up with.




Trying to grow your sales in a shrinking market might well be asking the impossible – but growing your sales through stealing your competitors’ unhappy clients is certainly possible if your sales team are armed with the right data.


If you sell to other businesses and want to uncover exactly which of your competitors are struggling and where, please get in touch.


I have 25 years’ B2B marketing experience, both client and agency side.


This means that I’m uniquely placed to see each B2B marketing challenge from 3 perspectives: the client’s, the comms agency’s and the end-user’s.


I’ve spent the last 5 years working in B2B market research, and since January 2021 have been running my own independent market research consultancy.


If you have a B2B marketing challenge where powerful market insights might give you an edge over your competition, please feel free to pick my brains.


I project manage the entire research process from initial brief to final report – clients deal with me directly, not an inexperienced junior.


I am accountable for the whole research process – I worked in B2B key account management for over a decade, and I am not in the business of letting clients down.


I can conduct quantitative or qualitative or desk research – whatever discipline the project requires.


I can source quantitative respondents in almost any country, in almost any vertical, in almost any language.


Same for qualitative research respondents (other than that I only conduct qualitative interviews in English).


Quantitative sample sizes usually start at 100. The max sample size is only limited by the size of the attainable research universe.


I don’t take on any brief without first confirming to the client that the personas they need to survey can be reached in the quantity required and the time allowed.


Finally: I love what I do. I find it endlessly fascinating.


You can contact me via [email protected]


More details here: www.hayhurstconsultancy.co.uk


Picture credit: Tumisu on Pixabay

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