Should you hire during a recession?

By Michel Privé, a Silver Fox Advisor


Recession is top of mind for every business today.

Business owners will need their “A game” during this period of change. 

What is your plan?

Aggressively chase growth or play defense? 

Well, here are some strategies that are easy to implement and worth considering.

-1- Play defense or try to dodge the crisis or bury your head in the sand? 

Stay close to your customers and manage your cash flow. At the same time, you are putting yourself in a position where you hope your customers, your markets will not vanish, and your staff will stay.

-2- Play offense. You never want to waste a crisis! 

This crisis will end and lead to a new normal. With good planning and a solid strategy, your business can be more robust and ready to thrive in the new normal. 

My advice: keep control of your destiny. Use this period of changes to align your business direction:

– Invest in your clients. Support them in their new product development efforts and continue to work with them when the crisis ends. Become their partners. Offer them solutions they need now to help them gain market share.

– Actively hunt for business from your competitors (the ones who play defense). 

– Develop solutions that meet prospects’ and clients’ needs now and in the future. 

– Be present and over-communicate.

You will need a strong sales leader on your team to help guide your efforts to strengthen the company during this transformation and the negative impact of the recession. 

Do you have this leader today on your staff? 

If you don’t, you need to hire one. Don’t waste this crisis.

One more gut punch to add: Inflation has negatively affected hiring.

Many employers have struggled to fill vacancies for months, and the strain is starting to show. 

Half of the small and medium businesses across the country reported they have open jobs they cannot fill.

Hiring the right sales leader is mission-critical.

Start answering these questions before the hiring process:

  1. What’s the biggest sales-related issue you need to solve now?
  2. What does your business specifically need right now? What about a few months or two years from now?
  3. What are the market and your customers telling you?
  4. What stage is your business – where do you plan to take it in the next few weeks, months, and years?
  5. What do the next two years look like?

Make sure a candidate’s expertise and experience fill in the gaps of what your team lacks but desperately needs.

Additionally, look for a sales leader who:

  1. Is aligned with your mission and the work that needs to be done to succeed
  2. Is resilient
  3. Puts people first
  4. Holds themselves accountable
  5. Doesn’t crack under pressure
  6. Is multi-dimensional
  7. Has solid emotional intelligence
  8. Knows how to hire, onboard, support, and retain their team
  9. Demonstrates GWC (Gets It, Wants It, Capable of delivering It).

 Once you know why you need to hire a new sales leader and the attributes you are looking for, you don’t want to fall into a common trap: 

I have seen too many business owners with unrealistic expectations when hiring a new sales leader. It can lead them to look for a unicorn – the perfect candidate.

Unrealistic criteria turn their hiring initiatives into a chase for the mystical white unicorn with red wings. 

A long, costly hiring process has several adverse outcomes. It unnecessarily puts added pressure on existing staff, and worse – lost opportunity costs accumulate rapidly.

Since this is not a zero-sum game – speed matters.

 • Adjust candidate skills and experience criteria to focus on the most critical responsibilities of the job
 • Focus on potential instead of capabilities or experience. 
 • Match or raise the compensation package to compete with current market demands
 • Do not limit the search to your industry and reach out to those outside your industry or geographic area

Now you are ready to recruit, and candidates are getting interviewed. Be prepared to make a fast move. To help you to select the sales leader and to allow you to make an offer within 24 hours, always use a hiring scorecard during interviews to help your recruiting team to make a fast decision.

A hiring scorecard is an unbiased system that helps you evaluate candidates based on the standards and qualifications you need.
When you create your hiring scorecard, list all the traits and experiences you want your ideal hire to have (see above). Scorecards will be your “North Star” to ensure you stay focused during your interviews. It will help you evaluate and score each candidate on how well they meet those qualifications.
Scorecards also allow you to ask deeper, probing questions to dig well below the surface during your interviews.
They are a powerful visual to help you uncover which candidates make the most sense for your business, not just those who look good on paper or interview well.

Using a hiring scorecard narrows down exactly what your business is expecting. And because you’re vetting each candidate thoroughly using an unbiased system, you’ll naturally reduce your hiring time.

If you say to yourself:
“All this advice on hiring and finding the right candidate is excellent, but I can’t wait. 
This crisis will weaken us, and we will die if we don’t act now”. 
“I want to keep my current sales leader on staff,  but I know her or his skills are not strong enough in change management or simply not aggressive enough for this required transformation.”

I Need Help Now!

Consider using a fractional VP of sales with the right skills and experience in leading or organizing a sales team during changing times. A fractional VP of Sales can help business owners grow sales in a cost-efficient low-risk way. They have been through multiple change management events during their careers. They know what to do and typically achieve desired outcomes quickly.

They are expert sales advisors and practitioners and can address challenges across the spectrum of activities related to revenue generation, including finding your next sales leader or grooming your current leader. 

Interview and select them for the mission described above. Check if they will be a good match for the work to be completed and your company culture. 

If you like your current sales leader’s attitude and potential, you might not need to hire a new one. 

Let the fractional VP of sales lead and execute the required changes. Upon completing the repositioning and transformations of your business, your leader will have learned a lot and be able to take over and let the fractional VP of sales go to save another company.

Never waste a crisis.

If you have questions or would like a more in-depth conversation on sales strategies and tactics in a fast pace changing environment, please contact:

Michel Privé

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