Worried about the economy, a looming recession, and how that will affect your sales enablement strategy?

This article has you covered, featuring Julie Newhouse (Director of Revenue Enablement at Bill.com), Mo Miller (Director of Revenue Operations at Rivet), and Or Paran (VP of Sales & Business Development at Finaro).

The panel discussion this article is based on originally took place at the Future of Sales Festival in December 2022.

Catch the replay of this chat - and dozens of others from SEC events - on the membership dashboard, exclusively for SEC members.

In this discussion, Julie, Mo, and Or examined:

  • Adjusting your sales strategy to adapt to economic uncertainty
  • How to keep your existing sales team motivated during a hiring freeze
  • Best practices to boost sales team morale
  • How to prepare for the end of the recession
  • Key takeaways for tackling economic uncertainty

Learn from their expertise right after some introductory words from Or. 👇

In many cases, sales is treated as more of an art than a science. But as we in the trade all know, there’s a lot of science behind it, including data analytics, psychology, and certain methodologies that can be used.
Macroeconomic conditions fueled by geo-political events are posing new challenges for organizations across the world.
With economic forecasts showing growth and decline and sales organizations that are helping to drive the growth, we’d like to use this article as an opportunity to discuss this.

Adjusting your sales strategy to adapt to economic uncertainty


How has the current economic uncertainty shifted your sales strategy?


It’s definitely played a big role in regards to what our sales strategy will look like going forward.

From an enablement point of view, it means that we’re trying to guide our sales team and shift who we potentially sell and market to.

It might mean doing some experiments for new ways of engaging, or trying things that we've already done in the past, but trying them now that it’s a different time.

What that looks like, going down another level for the enablement team, is that we're really working to modify the sales plays.

For each of our sales segments, we have a lot of sales playbooks built out.

But now we're really trying to shift to fit what's going on in the market.

For example, a lot of what the Bill sales team goes to market with is helping companies grow their business, helping them simplify, and saving time and money.

We're now switching that talk track a bit now to focus more on stability, predictability, and how Bill provides a way for companies to paint an accurate picture of their business - it’s about shifting the talk track from growth to predictability and stability.

We're working on how we build out those talk tracks with the sales team and do training and enablement around that.

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The other piece is thinking about how we're adjusting who we go after.

Even in times of economic downturn, there are still going to be verticals and sales segments that are flourishing, so let’s really take a look at our current market segments and areas that might be weathering this a little bit differently.

I'm in the SMB space which is interesting because their challenges are both the same and different going into an economic downturn. We’re trying to figure out where we can direct the sales team in these specific sub-market segments.

Then the last piece is that we're looking at how we’re enabling the sales team to refine their outbound sales skills.

Going into the new year, we could potentially be facing a slowdown in the inbound lead funnel - or reduced marketing costs, it's hard to tell.

But the thing that we can control is how we build the muscle of an effective outbound seller.

  • How are they really going to market?
  • How are they doing strong discovery?
  • How are they taking a bad or lukewarm lead, and are they able to flex their outbound sales muscle?

There are lots of things that we can't control, but at least enabling our team in that way is something that we have ownership on.

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How to keep your existing sales team motivated during hiring freezes


During hiring freezes, how are you maximizing the return on investment of your current team members - whilst ensuring that they don’t experience burnout?


I think it's about maximizing that sales output and how we’re actually doing that. We’ve heard a lot about different rifts, and LinkedIn is just a minefield and a bad place to be in a lot of ways right now.

You have to work on your own mental health, keep strong, and also help your salespeople do the same.

You need to keep them afloat, upright, and moving forward through these times, not focusing on the negative energy, and just keeping that growth mindset.

But how do we actually keep that growth mindset? I think it's difficult.

Having a growth mindset for us personally is not having promotion freezes. I've spoken to a few account executives (and specifically one at Salesforce), where they were blocked from a promotion as there was a bit of a promotion freeze going on.

That messaging of freezing promotions doesn't make sense to me.

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If you're going to promote people, as long as you're keeping the same quota multiplier and you give them a larger quota when they’re promoted, your team becomes more effective at the same efficiency and is able to sell more as a team.

Each individual that was promoted now should have a larger quota at the same or a greater efficiency than before.

Those promotions are a great time to even increase or ratchet up that efficiency. Say their quota multiplier was 4, make it 4.5 or 5x on target earnings, and that increases the output and efficiency in doing so.

It seems like a win-win to me, and just gives a blanket, larger quota across the whole team that often happens at the end of a year.

We’ve promoted some salespeople, even in this downturn, and I think it's done amazingly well. We had our best month ever last month with that positive energy and growth mindset.


That's amazing. You guys focus on making sure that you retain your existing talent and the existing knowledge base of the salespeople, in order to increase the motivation of the existing team?


Yes. We keep everybody here happy, excited, pushing forward, moving towards their goals, and on their promotion paths.

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I'll take an alternate approach to this one and talk about what I'm doing specifically for the sales enablement team.

As a people manager, it's an interesting place to be because we've been told that our team is what it is for the foreseeable future.

We have 10 in total in the function, with seven in sales enablement, and three in post-sales enablement.

For us, going into this next year knowing that our charter is going to be that infamous ‘do more with less,’ we're taking a harder look at how we do our quarterly prioritization and ongoing impact assessment.

So we’re putting our energy towards those highest revenue-generating activities, cutting out the noise and some of the other asks that we might be doing.

We might be doing less lunch and learns, or one-off trainings, and really focusing on impact programs.

For each ask and each program we’re running, we’re taking a step back and saying:

  • “What’s the reach?”
  • “What’s the impact?”
  • “Do we have the confidence and the data to back up the impact of what we're doing?”

And then we’re marrying that with, “What's the effort?”. Are there some things that we can do that are a low lift and a quick win?

On a more people manager, personal level, I'm trying to spend time with my team on ongoing wellness checks and our one on ones each week.

Culture Amp, for example, has a great template with a really good sliding scale that has team members rate where they are with work overall, well-being, growth, work relationships, and impact.

So for me, it’s spending time making sure that folks are feeling supported, just being on a human level and connecting with my team.

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Best practices to boost sales team morale


How do you leverage the sales enablement and sales operations functions to help boost the morale of your sales team?


We're really trying to focus on the wins and not on the losses. The way we do that is with Avoma, a conversation intelligence platform, similar to Gong.

We look at specific examples, use cases, and case studies of wins we're experiencing - especially wins on deals that were created and closed quickly within November, or created in the last three to four months and closed in October/November.

Those are deals that we created and closed as the recession was increasing.

They weren't deals that we had back in January or February and we just got them to move and sign as a customer, but deals that under the current economic situation, involved them looking at a software, evaluating it, purchasing it, and implementing it.

Those are the people we want to go after.

And then from an enablement standpoint, we looked at leveraging demo certification, having the sales enablement team manage that, and making sure that our messaging is crisp.

Are we having the right information getting to the right people about the right products?

We have three different products here at Rivet, so getting each one of those delivered to the right people in the right way is super important.

We thought we had good demos, but we've worked to make that better, so that every touch we do get, we have a much higher likelihood of closing it with the messaging that's being reinforced.

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Lastly, managers and sales engineers are doubling down. We're trying to get them on even more demos than we've ever had to try and shrink the number of meetings it takes to close.

If deals close for us in three, four, or five meetings, we're looking to bring those people on earlier, answer harder questions sooner, and limiting how much the salespeople need to say: “Great question. Let me get back to you on that,” by having a solutions engineer or manager on that call that can answer that question.


I feel like I could spend a whole day talking about how to boost morale, and what we can do both as sales leaders and people leaders to really help our teams get through this.

For a lot of us as sales leaders, enablement leaders, and tech leaders, we've been managing in a different space.

We've been in this boom from around 2010 until now. And now, we're in a new place of managing our sellers and our teams through uncertainty.

For many of our younger generation of sellers, it's the first time they're experiencing this in their careers.

That lends itself to a couple of different themes. To boil it down, I’d say:

  • Communication
  • Culture
  • Training & Development

Starting with communication, as a sales leader, you really can't communicate enough when times are hard.

It's not just talking about the high-level thing of what's happening in the market, but really sharing your thoughts as a leader and being open - taking some risks of vulnerability and being empathetic.

Not ignoring what's happening in the space has a lot of power.

For many leaders, I think they just want to put a quick spin: “Times are tough, but we got this.”

But we’re breaking that down a little bit more and humanizing it, just being there for teams.

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The second is the sales culture.

Starting from the top with sales leadership, that growth mindset really has to be there, and continuing to encourage our teams to work hard on the things that we can control - daily activity:

  • Who are we calling?
  • Are we looking at the right sub-verticals?
  • How are we engaging our customers?
  • What tone are we taking with our sales calls?
  • How have we moved our sales plays?

It's times like these when you're really going to see who the stars of your teams are, who can roll with it and adjust and make a change in real-time.

I think it's important that when you see these behaviors floating to the top of your team, you take a minute and really showcase those wins (that could be through Gong snippets).

One thing that we’ve found to be really impactful is doing ‘competitive win of the week.’

So if somebody closes a competitive deal in this climate, we’re posting it and giving kudos and showing what they did in terms of either discovery or the closed-loop methodology.

Were they in our winning zone? How were they able to use those outbound skills to close that deal? We try to keep putting in these learning moments and showcase the wins top of mind.

And then the last part is the ongoing training and coaching. This is the time when you want to take a minute to invest in your people.

Start working on those soft skills that they can use now and in their careers going forward, and spend that extra time on people development to give them the confidence to weather this and know that even though times are tough, they're still able to grow.

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How to prepare for the end of the recession


Recessions historically last around 18 months - we then normally see a boom after that.

In sales leadership, we know that it's about weathering the storm and then planning for the day after, and how we continue to manage our current growth - I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.


I talked about how LinkedIn can be a dangerous minefield right now of layoffs, freezes, and different things like that.

But at the same time, you've probably also seen all the posts of companies that were created in a recession, or companies that hit the gas during a recession.

I don't think those companies thought of it as, “We're going to be the company that comes out of the recession”. I think they just buckled down and worked on themselves and focused on growing.

The recession will end at some point, so 2023 and 2024 planning is absolutely crucial.

Optimizing everything about your path forward as a company is vital to you, your cash, and your ability to continue to pay your employees.

Obviously, it could be longer. Who knows? But it likely won’t be. So what does 2023/2024 look like for you?

First off, I’ve done the planning side of things and we've worked through that and what that looks like. But more importantly, you have to do great in January and Q1 2023.

If you lay an egg in the next few months, you're going to have a really hard time being there at the end of 2023 anyway.

Looking too far out is also another pitfall for the sales team as a whole.

Let's talk about what's happening right here and now and what we can focus on for this month's quota:

  • What does a win look like today?
  • What does a win look like this week?
  • What does getting to your quota this month look like?

And just focusing there.

The other side of the coin is on the backend and optimizing. We've taken our sales stack and revenue tech, and looked at every single software and said:

  • “What are you paying for?”
  • “Which software do we actually need?”
  • “Do we have extra licenses that we don't need?”
  • “Does everyone who has the tool with a paid license actually need it?”

Just making sure that that all makes sense.

Sometimes we overlook having seven extra licenses in a system or having three people in those licenses that you just added from another department because you had extra licenses.

Shrinking those things down and tightening that up is one minor piece, and you can do that across your whole org.

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I definitely agree with what Mo said.

I think a lot of what we're learning at this time is in terms of “what are our best verticals”?, “Who are our best customers?”, and “what retention strategy is really working?”.

That’s something that we’d be able to take moving forward into that next tech boom.

We’re learning some core fundamental best practices about our sellers, our sales team, and the market fit in this time that’ll start to provide insight into the path forward.

The other piece is the relationships right now between enablement, sales operations, and sales leadership.

This is the time that we become a true partnership.

We have to be aligned on every single thing that we're doing, so that everybody is working towards the right things at the right time to maximize the efficiency of our current sellers and team members.

I hope that we can carry that relationship piece forward. I think it's forced us to be in lockstep with one another as team members, for better or for worse.

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Key takeaways for tackling economic uncertainty


Can you both share a few key takeaways so that people can go and have an internal discussion about what they can do to improve the way they’re doing things and how to take on the challenge of these uncertain times?


The high-level takeaway from my point of view is the idea of adjusting.

Looking at your sales plays, adjusting the talking point to fit the times, finding that sweet spot of customer persona and profile for the reps to communicate, and being a good people leader through ongoing communication with your teams.

There’s that culture piece as well, in regards to what you’re doing as a sales organization to keep the team motivated, keep morale up, showcase wins, and focus the team on the things that they can control.


It’s keeping that growth mindset that we talked about.

Maximize, look at your ROI and those buzzwords that you've heard time and time again.

I think it's more important than ever to have that extreme focus and just keep maximizing everything you possibly can within your organization.

And once you think you're done, go take another look.

Dive in and just keep looking over and over again at how you can better go to market. When it's a difficult market, it's even more important to go to market in the best way possible.


I’d also like to add my two cents on additional takeaways that people can take with them.

Invest where needed, and try to take that step back that we were talking about before and see where it adds the best value overall.

It’s important for salespeople to understand the key company cash flow levers. Where's the biggest return on the buck?

You should also think about diversifying the customer base if possible as you tend to be more protected in times of economic uncertainty.

Thanks for reading - we hope you found Or, Julie, and Mo’s conversation insightful!

Catch the replay of this chat - and dozens of others from SEC events - on the membership dashboard, exclusively for SEC members.