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Blog 16 January 2023

4 Ultimate Pieces of Advice for Leading SDRs in Uncertain Times

Daisy Shevlin
SEO & Content Manager @ Kaspr

There’s been a lot of negativity in the air recently.


Talk of recession in the UK and the US.  


We’ve seen it before in uncertain times with COVID-19.


Redundancies. Longer sales cycles. Tighter budgets. They all come along for the ride.


The first quarter of the year is going to be crucial to nail for sales teams. 💯 


So what can leadership do to make it easier?


Shabri Lakhani, Brand Ambassador & Subject Matter Expert at Kaspr, and Matthew Blanchard, GM EMEA at Varicent, talked about how all this will affect sales leaders.


It’s time to buckle up. Here’s how you can lead sales through uncertainty.


Jump ahead or scroll at your own pace. 👇

  1. Make your product a must-have
  2. Get buy-in from stakeholders
  3. Keep your sales team motivated
  4. Set people up for success 

1. Make your product a must-have

Of course, your product is amazing! But in times of economic stability, businesses will only buy it if it’s 110% needed. 


You’ve got to make the shift from being a nice-to-have to a must-have. 😍


The most important step? Understanding the value, you provide to your ideal customer profile (ICP). 


Matthew says:


“Nobody wakes up and thinks: I must automate X, Y and Z.”


“Varicent helps organizations to understand what the profitability is on their product. So that the sales team know what’s best to sell to their customer. We help businesses get the right revenue.”


Strong matching like this leads to customers that are less likely to churn later down the line. Plus, the assurance that they will sign in the first place.  


Transparency becomes crucial during economic pressure. Matthew outlines how Varicent has created a business value assessment. This helps to quantify the value that the product will provide to its customers.


It looks at:

  • Removal of unnecessary costs. Make better decisions based on data and insights from previous performances.
  • An increase in the right revenue. Sales teams know where to focus their time and the profitability margins of products.
  • Decrease in incorrect payments. Most people not using automated compensation technology are using a spreadsheet. These are open to human errors.  


The clarity of using a business value assessment like this cements that the client should invest in what’s being offered.


Consider what this might look like for your organization. Ask yourself how your product is providing real value in your customer’s language. This helps to shift your product from a nice-to-have to a must-have.   

2. Get buy-in from stakeholders

Business decisions become more about risk in uncertain times. This means stakeholders like procurement get involved. 


Matthew says:


“Procurement has a job. And that is to save the company as much money as possible and reduce the risk.” 


“[When] economies are shrinking, and businesses aren’t seeing the best return at the end of the year, procurement has a bigger role to play.” 


When more stakeholders get involved, it’s likely to make the sales cycle longer. Matthew outlines the importance of formalizing processes in your developing sales strategy


You could use a B2B sales methodology like MEDDIC, explained below. 👇


  • Metrics - This is what a customer hopes to gain from your solution. Once you know the right metrics, you can justify your solution from an economic standpoint and show the ROI. 
  • Economic buyers - These are the people that have the ability to make purchasing decisions. Often they are higher up in the company. In times of recession, it pays (literally) to get these people involved in your demo and discovery. 
  • Decision criteria - Businesses will be looking at your competitors. You need to know which criteria the stakeholders are looking at to make a final decision. Urge them to write it down. It could be factors like integrations, user experience, and budget constraints. 
  • Decision process - This is how the decision is made. It includes the person who makes the decision, their timeline, and the approval processes in place. If you know this, you’re much less likely to lose a deal due to stagnation. 
  • Identify pain - Each prospect will have this. It’s important for salespeople to get specific. For example: wasting four hours every day on a process you could be automating. 
  • Champion - Look for someone on your prospect’s side to champion your product. They are likely to be the individual who is greatly affected by the pain point. Or stands to benefit the most from your solution. 


Following a process like MEDDIC isn’t always realistic. Especially for startups and smaller businesses. But Matthew suggests “getting it down on paper,” whatever the process may be.


He says:


“It’s like when you build a house. You look at it and forget the first part of a building is the foundation. You can’t elevate unless you go down.”


“This is the same in business. Sales leaders can’t tell their SDRs and AEs where they’d like them to move without that solid foundation. That’s why formalizing it and making sure you as a management team understand it is so important.”

3. Keep your sales team motivated

The negative impacts of uncertainty can be a breeding ground for sales anxiety.


It’s so important for sales leaders to keep their team motivated.


Having your process down is another way to stop you from approaching your outbound sales strategy using trial and error.


Matthew says:


“Sales leaders lose time if they don’t have their processes down. Then you get into a cycle of trying to pivot when something doesn’t work.”


“This has a negative effect on our sales reps and AEs because they are likely to lose trust. People are much less likely to question smaller changes where you’re fine-tuning. Rather than making huge shifts away from your previous approach.” 


He explains more in the clip below. 🎬


Prevent gossip and rumors 

Internal communication is so important for keeping up morale. Sales leaders need to understand what they are communicating to their teams fully. 


Matthew says:


“The reality is if you’re not clear on your messaging, it’s irrelevant.”


“Being able to explain the why is also crucial. People feel more like they’re [personally] going along for the journey with you if you explain why it’s important.”

Communicating difficult messages 

Subjects like hiring freezes can be tricky for sales leaders to navigate. Handle these internal communications with care.


Matthew says:


“There isn’t an easy way to give people bad news. But if you give people bad news and enable them to understand why you’re giving it to them, it’s easier to consume.”


Every Thursday at Varicent, the entire organization gets together for a townhall. During this, the CEO gives feedback to the whole company on what’s happening and why. 


This level of transparency helps people feel secure. Rather than worrying about the number of layoffs their seeing on LinkedIn. 

Support for mental fatigue 

Mental fatigue is going to be a challenge. Particularly after going through the uncertainty of COVID-19 and now a looming recession.


Burnout, anxiety, and panic attacks are all very real stress indicators. It’s so important to show your support as a sales leader and be aware of any red flags in the mindset of your reps.


Matthew says:


“A deliberate and clear area of focus can really help. Don’t underestimate how much recognizing little wins can mean to people.”


“Small wins all stem towards bigger wins.” 

4. Set people up for success

It isn’t easy selling in this environment. Good leadership is about setting individual contributors up for success. 


Make sure they know all the transferable skills that exist in the sales development representative role.


Shabri talks about the reasons for SDRs being affected by layoffs going into this year:


“There’s a lot of companies with financial pressure that have realized they have overhired sales reps.”


“For various reasons, this has meant that SDRs are getting laid off first. With the justification that AEs can do both of these roles.”


But is this a good idea? 🤔


Matthew says:


“Inside of my own business at the moment, I don’t think it’s feasible to forecast based on a rep doing 50% of both jobs. My regional salespeople continue to tell me how busy they are.”


“There’s also the fact it’s a different set of skills. The sequence that reps go through to book in a meeting requires practice and dedicated focus.”


“It wouldn’t give us the best foot forward in competing against our competitors to combine the roles. Plus, forecasting is an art. You need the right people with the right skills in the right roles." 


Watch the clip below for more on this discussion. 🎬



You need to make sure your team has everything they need in uncertain times. Not just from a tech stack point of view but from a skillset perspective too.


Matthew says:


“You’ve got to stand out. Executives are always going to be inundated with meeting requests. You need to make sure your sales reps know how to consume data to improve their skills.”


This could look like:

  • Product training. You could set up training to show the features that make your product a must-have. Communicate the clear messaging around this for reps to use on their prospects.
  • 1-2-1 sessions. During regular sessions with individual reps, see what’s working for them. Identify areas that they could take further. Then benchmark how they’ve taken action on this in your next meeting.
  • Qualifying focus. ​​Make sure your reps know how to qualify effectively. Uncertain times mean you need to make more decisions about where to focus your efforts. 

Watch the podcast

For more advice about how to lead sales through uncertainty, watch the podcast.


Shabri and Matthew discuss tactics for weathering the economic storm.




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