More than two-thirds of US-based economists believe that a recession is on the way, according to a study by The Financial Times.
How that rolls over to affect Australia and New Zealand is unknown. With a global economic impact, organisations in the antipodes may find budget cuts, profit losses, layoffs and more.
How this affects the professional services industry is unique - with little ‘bricks and mortar’ overheads, the majority of these companies' expenditure and revenue comes from people. Paying salaries and billing out staff is the business model, whatever the layer of expertise being applied (i.e. legal services, recruitment services, insurance advisory services and so on).
With our industry expertise, both as a professional services provider and consumer, we have mapped out some ways in which companies can solidify their business foundations to be prepared for any recession.
1. Deliver value to your customers:
Talk of economic thunderstorms has your customers worried. Therefore, professional services providers need to be flexible in their approach and focus on delivering value versus meeting sales quotas. Finding better ways to support your customers, such as a change in processes or services to support an emerging need, or being flexible with payment options or contract terms goes a long way to serving goodwill and budgetary concerns. Being seen as a helpful partner to your customers will be successful in continuing that relationship.
2. Use the time to integrate your CX, Digital and CRM to get data in one place:
Getting a single view of your customers and sales prospects’ buying activity at this time is super crucial to closing opportunities that may well have been missed during busy economic times. An example of this may be connecting your HubSpot Marketing Software, to your sales teams’ Salesforce and your delivery team using Zendesk. If all of these applications are integrated and showing digital buying behaviour and all sorts of interactions - it will be easier to pick up sales opportunities, address communications across groups and offer personalisation. It also means transparency across the entire sales and customer service life cycle, making it easier for multiple stakeholders in your organisation to get on the same page.
3. Set a clear strategy and stick to it:
One of the best things business leaders can do in tough economic times is set a strategy and stick to it - whether that be retention, ‘weathering’ or growth. This provides employees with a clear direction and focus, especially when confidence falters, and positions your business for a strong return to economic bounceback.
For example, make it clear that you want your team to focus on sales pipeline quality, customer retention and team collaboration. Then take the lead by hosting weekly reviews and accountability sessions, and removing roadblocks or distractions.
4. Automate the menial operational tasks:
Simple automation tools implemented correctly can improve efficiency, reduce human error and allow your professional services employees to focus on the jobs they’re good at or help them to focus on delivering value. Some of these may include building workflows, scheduled messages and automatic record updating across various systems including HR, sales, financial and operations. Automation in sales and customer service platforms, such as Salesforce, allows you to create sales momentum without having to hire a whole set of salespeople.
5. Clean up your data
If an economic downturn does hit, it might be tempting to make immediate changes based on anecdotal evidence such as customer feedback or industry news. But this isn’t always the best course of action and can often lead organisations to make irrational decisions. Instead, using the time to focus on cleaning up company data - such as sales pipeline data, customer contact data, account mapping data and delivery utilisation will give you a better view of the intricacies of your organisation. This will point you in the right direction of your customer buying cycle, as well as reiterate what your company does best and has as an asset. Looking at call scripts, Closed/Won feedback, email opens and other tactics will allow you to understand what customers are interested in and how to test them in economic times.
6. Keep your cool
Panic over the economy can be contagious and create uncertainty amongst teams, thus ripping apart culture. It is critical for professional services leaders to keep calm during these times and focus on supporting and uplifting employees - because, employees are the heart of the organisation from sales to delivery. Employees in professional services sectors go where they are celebrated and respected, and they could likely leave if they sense weakness in the leadership or impending employment doom. Setting a strategy and encouraging top performance and cultural excellence will ensure high morale and a group “fight together” mentality.
7. Focus on what you can control
Scared customers, inflation fears, sensationalised media coverage… It’s fair to say that a lot of economic fears are mostly for items that are well and truly out of our control. Professional Services organisations cannot control financial markets, however, they can control where their organisation is heading, what they’re good at and how they can improve. Examples of this may be in the deal analysis phase, whereby deals inside the CRM are analysed for why they are not closing. This can offer a great opportunity to talk to customers about pricing, contract length or payment terms, as well as opening up the conversation to what the prospect is being impacted by. Asking the right questions and focusing on what is in your control, and in the best interest of your customers, will set your professional services organisation to ride out the storm and flourish when it passes.
Professional services organisations have a huge advantage in setting up strong foundations of success during economic downturns, by focusing on all of the points above, and working with customers that need empathy and understanding. Customers will remember who was good to them during the tough times, and employees will stick with leaders who show compassion, confidence and the right strategy. To manage all of these easily, it is good to have the right people, process and technology in place - such as Salesforce - to help keep everything on track.
Want more information on how we’re building their organisations to become recession ready? Make contact with us here.
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