INFLATION, RECESSION, LAYOFFS—none of these words swirling around right now sound like a promising sales environment. So, if you’re in a commercial leadership position, you might be sweating a bit going into 2023. These kinds of environments can quickly separate the excellent from the average and highlight the strengths and weaknesses in your approach to the marketplace. If you’ve been winning in spite of yourself over the last few years, competing on price or capacity alone, you’re going to feel this crunch. If you’ve been creating a solid sales foundation of the model, process, and skills you need, you’ll be in a good spot.
At the core, economic shifts are a form of disruption, something that bumps people out of status quo, and disruption creates opportunities. In fact, a 2022 study published in the International Journal of Operations and Production Management investigated the impact of compounding disruptions and recommended that organizations counteract prolonged uncertainty like we are experiencing today by rethinking their supply chains. Sounds like a promising opportunity for some smart logistics professionals.
The simple truth is that growing your top line in 2023 is about focusing on and improving the things we all should be doing anyway. Smart newand existing-customer growth strategies. But if you want a little extra direction, here are three things we recommend working on in 2023 that will help you get, keep, and grow your ideal clients:
Get: Develop Smart Targets
We’ve all either done it, watched it, or both: spending way too much time on a deal that was never going to happen. The best way to efficiently get more customers is focusing on opportunities you’re more likely to win. Easy to nod your head and roll your eyes on that one, but too many companies try to be everything to everyone, or don’t want to “fence in” their salespeople too tightly. Save your organization time and save your sales team headaches by helping them identify the deals they can win, and give them the skills and support they need to bring them in. This includes:
- Clarify your ideal customer, as specifically as you can, and develop a value proposition that speaks to what matters most to them.
- Identify trigger events (changes that impact the customer enough that it disrupts the status quo) that create new opportunities your company can nail.
- Build key skills your sales teams may be lacking. For example, if your sales reps have been selling for less than two years, they have never sold in a market like this. Do they know how to negotiate? Do they know how to communicate your unique value? Do they know how to talk to the decision makers you need them targeting?
Keep: Protect Your Core
Right now, think about your current book of business. Which are the customers you can’t afford to lose? What are you doing to make sure they stay? Would others in your company answer those questions the same way as you?
There are a lot of other companies that would love to add that customer to their client list, so now is not the time to assume you’re all on the same page with your retention strategy. Here are a few considerations:
- Enhance your existing relationships and build new connections. If you didn’t learn this during the “great reshuffle,” here’s your reminder. Relationships mean a lot. Build strong relationships with individuals and protect your company relationships by expanding to new contacts.
- No matter what role, kind of organization, or unique individual you are selling to, there is one overarching need that binds us all. Everyone wants to feel understood. Make sure you’re taking the time, regularly, to dig deep into your customer and what’s going on in their business. Great discovery skills and the ability to analyze and consult on their supply chain will position you well and set you apart from a sea of vendors.
- Establishing cadences like business reviews can provide you an easy forum for both above. It’s easy to get too focused on the day-to-day execution of an account. Regular business reviews (we love a cadence of a quarterly review that’s a bit more tactical and an annual strategic review) provide the forum and a reminder to look at the big picture and find opportunities for both improvement and growth.
Grow: Focus on Providing Value
Supply chains have always been a crucial part of business success. The silver lining that many of us have noticed in the past few years, is that now more people are realizing it. In a recent study my McKinsey, 97% of the respondents had recently made a change in their supply chain to boost resiliency. An efficient and resilient supply chain matters more than ever. The pace of change is astounding, and businesses everywhere are doing what they can to position themselves to succeed.
Logistics professionals can create instant value by having a real grasp on the marketplace—the economy, our industry, and your customer’s industry—and bring insights and recommendations to their contacts. Unfortunately, so many of the smart salespeople and account managers we encounter either don’t know enough about what’s going on or aren’t confident being able to speak to their customers about it.
Successful individuals will create an approach to keep themselves informed about the marketplace. But successful sales organizations should help their employees translate that information into customer insights and communicate it confidently.
- The structured approach: If you have the resources internally, prepare regular bulletins sharing highlights with your team. Include easy links and template for passing that information on to customers as appropriate.
- The grassroots approach: Many on your team are already doing this, so ask them what information sources they are using to stay up to speed and how they work gathering this information into their routine. Make it a regular part of your team communications. Share information with each other and talk about it in meetings. And practice talking about it! Next level strategy—don’t take all of this on as the leader. Assign the responsibility of bringing market updates to a different team member for every team meeting, for example. They’ll learn so much more when they do it themselves, especially if you model it first.
Over the last few years, the supply chain industry boomed. It’s easy to forget it when all we are hear is doom and gloom, but even during economic downturns there will be industries that are growing and those that need supply chain help more than ever. Try a few of these strategies to ensure your team makes the most of the year ahead and that you continue to get, keep, and grow your ideal clients.