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How Do You Lead an Organization Through a Volatile Market?

Inspirational leadership to motivate a sales team during a recession

Recessions are perhaps the hardest period of change for leaders to navigate. Through no fault of the business, revenues and profits fall. You may have to make redundancies, cut pay, and tighten your budgets. During this turbulent time, you expect your sales team to work harder and drive sales higher. In a recessionary environment, selling to customers who have taken all the cost-cutting measures you have is a thankless task.

In this article, you’ll learn leadership characteristics and strategies that will help answer the question of how to motivate a sales team during a recession.

6 leadership characteristics to keep morale high

A major challenge for leaders when markets turn down is to maintain morale. It is easy to become negative, but it is a temptation that must be resisted. Here are six characteristics that you should employ in these difficult times to inform your leadership style:

1.     Be objective

Remember that lower sales are a consequence of the market, and not because the previous business strategy and sales methods have failed. While those strategies may need to be revised for evolving conditions, good sales techniques don’t suddenly become bad overnight. Nor do good salespeople. Being objective ensures you don’t make leadership mistakes driven by emotional decisions.

2.     Be confident

You’ve been here before. “Read the book, and worn the T-shirt,” as they say. You know the market will turn around, and things will return to normality (whatever normality is in a VUCA world!). Showing this confidence is key to helping people remain resilient through recessions, and come out stronger the other end, as individuals and teams.

3.     Show empathy

Recessions affect people differently. You need to get even more personal during these tough times. Know your people. Learn what makes them tick. Understand their problems, and show you care. Learn what motivates your people to motivate them.

4.     Show integrity

Be honest with your people. Help them understand the situation that you all face together. Be open and honest, and encourage your sales team to share their thoughts, their concerns, and their ideas.

5.     Negotiate realistic expectations

Create targets that are realistic in the slower market dynamic. Yes, sales targets should be challenging, but don’t make them impossible. Impossible targets demoralize an already fractious sales team. Discuss challenges and targets openly with your sales team, and decide jointly what their targets should be.

6.     Engage your people in decision-making

Being honest is only the start of working through a recession. You must engage your workforce in meaningful discussions about the future – their future. Lay out the issues and possible solutions. Help them to come to a joint team decision that will instill a greater team spirit and sense of togetherness. 

Their decisions may surprise you. For example, if faced with a choice between redundancies or pay cuts, the team may decide it is better to take pay cuts. They may even come up with more creative solutions.

Read our article “7 leadership behaviors to inspire employee engagement” for more tips on how to create the team environment needed to grow through a recessionary environment.

Do your leaders understand your employees, and how to engage and inspire through VUCA markets? Contact Forward Focus today to discuss our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program, which helps develop high-performing managers into inspirational leaders.

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