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The recession tests the health of a business, it makes it necessary for a business to be in shape, to get in shape. In all these ways, the recession is a spur to sustainable growth, rather than the superficial growth of an economic rising tide.
“The marriage of imaginative style for entrepreneurial creativity and diligent application of process is a perfect combination to drive growth.”
It’s no secret that the UK economy is in deep trouble. A failed mini-budget, the ensuing U-turn and change of leadership leaves an uncertain economic background for companies.
In fact, the UK is the only G7 economy that has not recovered to its pre-Covid levels. It remains 0.2% below where it was in the last quarter of 2019. And with mortgage rates rising, by the common consent of economists, we are headed for a proper recession in this last quarter of the year.
This could be good news.
The recession is good for business. Or rather, it’s good for good business.
This is as relevant to the agency market as it is to any other business. The recession eliminates weak agencies and eliminates the lowest levels of competition. The recession rewards smart leadership and disciplined behavior.
Growth, however, must be earned. It stems from the imaginative flair of entrepreneurial creativity harnessed for the diligent application of the process. One without the other will not produce growth.
So what can agencies (and other companies) do to weather the storm and emerge stronger?
1. Recognize the need to change and act now
Growing through a recession requires a quick acceptance of the need to catalyze and accelerate business conversations with customers and prospects through a strong, qualified sales funnel. It requires a mindset of actively seeking profitable opportunities to help clients who are struggling in a downturn.
This requires a totally different skill set from the passive, sporadic approach most companies take in good times when the tide is turning for everyone.
In a downturn, you truly become the master of your own destiny: your focus is outbound, not inbound, and you need to understand customer and market buying behaviors to inform how structured sales processes and sales conversations work. The first step to recovery is to stop denying that something is wrong.
2. Evaluate your sales and marketing strategy
Work with the incumbent team to fully understand current go-to-market strategies, review messaging, value proposition, supporting assets and tools, as well as the people and processes that drive sales. You’ll need to repackage your offer to change circumstances based on what customers in a downturn want from their partners.
3. Create a value-based sales process
Develop a customized value-based sales process, targeted training, pro forma sales tools, and a supporting trade approval process that complements marketing, operations, and service delivery functions.
Ensure proper sales incentive schemes are in place to drive performance. You will need systems, structure, and processes to ensure effectiveness and efficiency in your outbound sales efforts to seek only profitable business for customers.
4. Learn and Practice
Enhance the sales and customer service focused resource skills of the right incumbents and appropriate senior team members with value-oriented sales knowledge and core skills. Completion of training, role play practice and skills transfer sessions.
You’ll need a cadre of sales professionals working on both existing customers and new customer opportunities who can identify and capitalize on the needs they identify in their conversations with the customer community. This is the ‘off the pitch’ practice that helps your team win the vital points that matter.
During the six-month post-learning period, support the start-up and adoption of the new way of working. Train and support sales leaders and vendors running deal strategy and inspection clinics on their live opportunities, ensuring completion and excellence as the practices are integrated into the day-to-day work of the company.
You will need to change from sporadic, occasional brilliance to systematic, consistent brilliance. Doing so will impress the clients you want to work with and intimidate your competitors.
This approach is at the heart of Catalyst2, a new joint offering between Catalyst and Waypoint Partners. Catalyst2 is a growth accelerator program for scaled agencies that need to significantly increase their core revenue to meet and exceed their growth aspirations.
Designed as an end-to-end sales transformation program, Catalyst2 aims to provide agencies with a tried and tested sales process, and the right skills to be able to proactively identify, develop and win new business at scale.
The program has four distinct phases that run over the course of 6-9 months: evaluating the current sales proposition, creating a personalized value-based sales proposition, upskilling relevant teams to implement the new process and incorporation of new forms of work.
At Catalyst2, we believe that if you create the best players and train them better than the competition, you play smarter. If you have a team of experts behind you, keeping you honest, keeping you disciplined, and helping you learn better techniques, you will produce scalable, repeatable, and sustainable results.
About the Author:
David Kean, author of three internationally bestselling books: Catalyst: Using Personal Chemistry to Turn Contacts into Contracts (Piatkus 2021), Winning Friends and Influencing Profits (Marshall Cavendish 2009), and How Not to Come Second ( Cyan 2006).
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Why Good Businesses Shouldn’t Fear Recession