For 28 years, through every economic and business cycle, we’ve heard five questions from CEOs and business leaders more often than any others. And, every time we’ve heard them, our answer has been the same. Those questions sound something like this:

“How can my company …
      … grow REVENUE?”
      … sustain GROSS PROFIT?”
      … capture NEW MARKET SHARE?”
      … neutralize COMPETITIVE THREATS?”
      … thrive in the next RECESSION?”

As you would expect, these five questions shift in priority based on each business leader’s situation, industry and expectations for the economy. However, what’s common across the board is the one answer market leaders give, regardless of which question they’re asking. That answer is, “Make sure your sales force is prepared.

Sounds obvious. Why is this insight worth the time it will take you to read this blog, not to mention the time it took me to write? Look at what’s happened to your own business over the last decade. If your sales force woke up and found itself in the middle of a recession tomorrow, how would it fare?

It’s not hard for salespeople and teams to look good when the economy is strong and everyone’s making money. It’s much harder when the economy slows down and the competition heats up.

When times are good sales forces can get sloppy, skip steps and lose their discipline. When times turn bad and too many salespeople are chasing too few dollars, only the best prepared teams have a chance to survive and thrive.

In 2003-04, sales forces that were prepared to take the lead and take control of growth in advance of the recession continued to grow even as competitors suffered. And, according to research by Bain, illustrated in a recent Harvard Business Review article (left), their performance gap continued to widen well into the recovery.

Sales forces that were prepared, produced compound annual growth rates more than 4x greater than competitors who were caught on their heels.

You Have The Growth You Deserve

Today, we are enjoying one of the longest economic expansions in history, and frankly not enough CEOs and sales leaders are asking the right questions, even as the odds of a recession increase with every passing month.

Maybe memories are short, and leaders are forgetting what it was like following the recessions of 2001 and 2010.  Maybe they just don’t believe there’s anything they can do. The fact is, boom-bust economic cycles create amazing opportunities for business leaders and sales organizations who are prepared to capitalize on the mistakes of shortsighted competitors.

The first step is to make the decision that you will NOT become one of those short-sighted competitors. Make the decision that you’ll redefine how you and your sales force think about growth.

Most CEOs and sales leaders default to believing their growth rate is automatically tied to industry and economic trends. If the industry or economy is expected to grow, they plan for a good year. If the industry or economy is expected to shrink, they brace for tough times.

While this correlation may be true on the aggregate, market leaders have a different way of thinking and behaving. As illustrated by the graph above, when CEOs and sales leaders prepared their sales organizations, their companies grew even when the economy slowed … and that growth accelerated as the economy rebounded.

BOTTOM LINE: You have the sales force you deserve, you have the customers you deserve, and you have the growth you deserve.

What will it take to beat the odds and stand out from your competition next year? You will need to step back and assess the strengths and weaknesses of four pillars that comprise your sales force: Your LEADERS, PEOPLE, SYSTEMS and CULTURE.

What’s the best way to get started? Invest two weeks in a simple but powerful, data-driven inventory of these four pillars, exclusively available from Floriss Group. And, as usual, if you don’t think we’ve delivered on our promise, we’ll refund 100% of your investment.  The only way you lose is by doing nothing.

To learn more, reach out to schedule a 30-minute call on my calendar.  To sweeten the deal, the first ten companies to respond receive a Selling Styles Profile™ of their entire sales force at no charge.

Continued success!

– James

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