The business world is cyclical, and as history has shown, economic recessions are inevitable. For sales leaders, being prepared for the next recession is crucial to ensure the survival and success of their sales teams and organizations. In this blog, we will explore what it means for sales leaders to be ready for the next recession and the potential side effects they may encounter.

First and foremost, being prepared for a recession means having a solid understanding of your business and its resources. You need to know what you have, what you can do without, and where you can make cuts if necessary. This means being proactive and making tough decisions before the recession hits. You don’t want to be caught off guard and scrambling to make cuts when it’s too late.

Prepare for a change in demand.

One of the first things sales leaders need to understand is that during a recession, the dynamics of the market change. Demand for products or services may soften, and clients may struggle with failed businesses or reduced budgets. As a result, salespeople may find that traditional methods of closing business are not as effective. The sales pie may shrink, and competition may increase as organizations fight for a share of the reduced market.

During a recession, the market demand for goods and services typically declines due to a reduction in consumer and business spending. Consumers may reduce their spending as they face financial uncertainty and job losses, leading to a decline in demand for non-essential goods and services. Similarly, businesses may reduce their investments, leading to a decline in demand for capital goods and services that are viewed as non-essential.


The reduction in demand can cause a ripple effect throughout the economy, leading to reduced production, decreased employment, and a slowdown in economic activity. This can lead to a vicious cycle, where reduced economic activity leads to further job losses and reduced consumer spending, further exacerbating the recession.

It’s important to note that the impact of a recession on different industries and products can vary depending on the nature of the recession and the underlying causes. Some industries may be more resilient to economic downturns, while others may be more vulnerable. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, industries such as travel and hospitality were particularly hard hit due to lockdowns and reduced consumer demand, while industries such as e-commerce and technology saw an increase in demand as consumers shifted their spending online.

Right Mindset Right Seat.

Sales leaders also need to focus on developing a sales culture that promotes a “Right Mindset, Right Seat” approach. This means ensuring that salespeople have the right mindset to stay positive, resilient, adaptable. Your sales people need to be committed to owning results and closing business, no matter what the market is doing and must be in the right seat within the organization where their strengths and skills can be best utilized. This may require reevaluating the roles and responsibilities of sales team members, providing opportunities for equipping salespeople with the skills and abilities they’ll need now, rather than allowing them to sink or swim when the waters get rough.

In such challenging times, sales leaders must take an unbiased appraisal of their salespeople. Do you have avid hunters on your team, or has the boom economy left you with a team of account managers and phone answerers who lack the drive (or habit) of prospecting? You may find that individuals who once led your new business efforts have circumstantially fallen out of practice. Get them in the mindset that hunting season is around the come. Challenge them to adapt to the changing market conditions. Can they sell value and differentiate themselves from the competition? Are they in the right mindset and the right seat within the organization?


Motivation is a critical factor in sales success, and sales leaders need to understand the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation comes from within, driven by personal values, passion, and purpose. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from external factors such as rewards, recognition, or compensation. Sales leaders need to acknowledge the existence of both types of motivation and leverage them appropriately to keep their sales team engaged and productive during a recession.

Extrinsic motivation begs the consideration of your compensation plan. You may in fact need to change your compensation plan, but do this as a part of a well-thought and intentional strategy, not as the entire strategy.  

Motivation can come and go. It may increase and decrease over time.  Sales leaders need to be in tune with what historically has motivated their team and to what extent and under what circumstances and adapt their behavior to best motivate their teams.


Plan for a smaller pool with higher standards.

Sales leaders also need to recognize that adding new business during a recession may be more difficult. Prospects may be hesitant to invest in new solutions, enter into longer term contracts, or may have limited budgets. Therefore, sales leaders need to develop strategies to identify new opportunities and address the concerns of potential clients effectively. This may include identifying areas where their products or services can add value to clients’ businesses, offering flexible payment options, or providing solutions that help clients navigate the economic challenges they may be facing.

Being prepared for the next recession is essential for sales leaders to navigate through the challenges and ensure the success of their sales teams and organizations. This includes understanding the changing dynamics of the market, assessing the capabilities of the sales team, leveraging motivation effectively, aligning the compensation plan with the new realities, addressing internal and external challenges, and fostering a sales culture that promotes the right mindset and the right seat. Business leaders must be acutely aware that many of their salespeople and sales leaders could be too young to remember what it was like to work in this capacity during the last recession. CEOs can’t assume shared experience but rather must set their entire team up for success, with clear support, expectations, and development.