One of the most remarkable things about today’s economic slowdown is actually the decade of growth that got us here. From the ashes of the financial crisis to the once-in-a-lifetime shock of the pandemic, the American economy went on a bull run that produced an unbelievable level of innovation and wealth creation.
That also means there’s a generation of emerging business leaders who haven’t worked during a prolonged recession.
So far in my career, I’ve made it through three recessions in various sales roles. Each one offered new challenges and lessons — and required some intense effort to navigate successfully to the other side.
Whether you’re experienced in maneuvering through economic turmoil, or if you’re like many of ZoomInfo’s employees — our demographic leans pretty heavily toward those under 34 — the uncertainty can be overwhelming. But there are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that can help you to better prepare for what may be in store.
Be Cautious. But Most of All, Be Prepared
While this environment is perhaps less predictable than previous downturns, that doesn’t mean you should just sit tight and wait for more clarity. Every decision needs an extra level of consideration and scrutiny right now. Give greater attention to your budgets — and think larger than just sales. Is marketing using the right channels to effectively home in on prospects and drive leads? Is your recruitment strategy aimed at filling the most necessary roles first? If not, it’s a good idea to re-strategize.
Think past the end of the quarter and the end of the year. What does your business need to do to get through the downturn and continue to be successful afterward? You should be taking stock of the things that are mission-critical and putting your resources into those objectives. At ZoomInfo, we obviously want to weather any storms ahead — but we also want to be positioned for even more success after a slowdown.
Narrow Your Focus
You likely had some pretty ambitious goals coming into 2022. But now is probably not the time to invest in a project that will take five years to turn profits. Your focus should be on what can drive immediate value to your business and customers.
At ZoomInfo, we’ve decided to create an integrated experience between our multiple services. Through the years, we’ve acquired and created great products, and our customers must be able to use each one to make their jobs easier without having to move back and forth between systems.
Creating a more integrated experience allows us to focus on our customers while still improving our product. We’ve not lost sight of our other projects, we’ve just shifted our priorities to ensure that our customers are satisfied and we’re still able to market a great product.
Think about how you can remain profitable while still meeting customer needs. Your time, headcount, and money are all going toward things that will keep driving your business forward.
Product Value > Product Roadmap
It may be necessary to recalibrate your offerings along with your messaging. Companies that can’t demonstrate value for every dollar spent in their sales talk tracks or their marketing campaigns will see a drop in sales as buyers evolve toward value.
Understanding the dollar value of your product and how long it will take your customers to see results isn’t easy — it takes extensive research and dedicated tracking of important metrics. But doing so can be the difference between success and failure in both strong and weak economic environments.
Bolster Your Current Talent
A huge focus for us at the moment is making sure we have the best people to sell our products. Currently, every dollar spent is heavily scrutinized, so more people are involved in each prospective sale. And that means your salespeople have to convince more and more folks that your product is a smart buy.
We want our salespeople to navigate these conversations with patience and confidence, and be direct about how our product can add value to a stacked buying committee.
We also want our salespeople to help our customers get the most use out of their purchase. That means proactively talking to customers about how they can better use our features, making sure all seats are being used, and otherwise being an expert on everything ZoomInfo has to offer.
There’s also a business case for prioritizing learning and development (L&D). While it costs companies close to $5,000 on average just to hire a new employee, the average annual training costs to retain the people you have are much lower, at about $1,300 per employee. That’s a big chunk of change when you’re trying to save money.
Proper and continual training can be quite an investment, and while you may be cutting budgets in other areas, ensuring you have the best team that’s continuing to grow with your company is worthwhile.
Realize Your Inefficiencies
All companies have areas that they’ve over-invested in, been complacent in, or otherwise overlooked. It’s totally normal and, frankly, really easy to do. But now’s the time to identify those areas and make changes.
Use data to make informed decisions on these matters and include the necessary stakeholders up front so everyone’s aligned about how to move forward, whether that’s with headcount adjustments, budget cuts, software purchases or pullbacks, or other tactics. Once the decisions have been made, figure out a communication strategy for the whole company so it’s clear to all employees why priorities are shifting.
When the economy is stable and there’s more slack in the rope, you can afford to make a few missteps. Right now, those missteps are a lot more costly. So ensuring your team and priorities are aligned and executed to their fullest potential is imperative.