How to Keep Sales Reps Motivated When You’re Downsizing Image by alexisnyal via Flickr

Downsizing is a scary word today, and it inevitably makes a huge impact on the staff who remain at a company no matter how well the layoff is handled. It’s extremely common for CEOs and managers to underestimate the amount of negativity, confusion, and plain anger it creates among customers and colleagues. And it really only takes one offhand comment about a tepid future to compromise employee morale too, so making your motivation strategy a top priority in the days following a downsizing is a must.

Communication strategies for employees

When companies downsize, it’s not generally discussed until it’s actually happening. To a certain extent, the employees you do keep will be both grateful and honored their skills were valued more than those of their peers. However, in the back of their mind they will be wondering if they’re going to be next.

Practice transparency as much as possible about who was let go, what you did to help them, and what’s going to happen moving forward. The honesty may be difficult to do in the moment as downsizing can be likened to admitting failure, but it will ultimately help the remaining staff appreciate and respect the difficult decision.

Addressing the downsizing with clients

Consistency is still important today, especially in a quickly changing world. For some clients, having someone to count on may be the most important thing there is. In sales, it’s the relationships that end up being more valuable than the product. When you let someone go, you’re asking a client to be flexible and to appreciate that it had to be done. For the most part, they’ll be understanding, but they’ll be on their guard too. Be upfront with them and ask them if they have special requests in terms of who they work with next, and at least try to assign them to sales reps and account managers they already know and have rapport with.

Shouldering the burden

Typically a company will ask their employees to pick up the slack of those who have left during the downsizing, and this can put a significant strain on the team. Managers and senior leadership are often too preoccupied with their own tasks to notice how much strain though. Some employees are bound to wonder why they’re shelling out so much effort for a company that could let them go tomorrow. This is the time to let them know that they all have a part to play in helping improve the business’ current situation, and that their efforts will not go unappreciated. No matter how much positive energy you create, there is going to be at least a little Sinking Ship Syndrome, so this is a particularly crucial time.

Confirming job security

Immediately following a downsizing, the rumor mill will begin to spin around “Who’s next?” And your employees, rightfully so, may begin exploring alternative job options to mitigate their risk of unemployment. So, when someone calls off as ill and their co-workers cast sidelong glances, it might be because that person has an interview. At the same time, cynicism may poison the well and cause your sales reps to feel less invested in their roles. If someone rolls their eyes or is terse when you ask them to complete a task, it can create a ripple effect that goes all the way to the client. At such tense and uncertain times, sales leaders should make it their mission to convince their team that those who remain have job security. That way, your sales reps don’t panic about finding a new job and can continue to keep your sales pipeline flowing.

Eyes on the prize

The more employees feel as if they’re in this together, the more you create a team that relies on each other. Your remaining team members need to understand the role they are expected to play and they need to feel as though they’re up to the task. They also should feel that their presence is critical to making any headway. Accomplish this with your remaining reps, and you’re creating a winning combination that could not only save the company but push it above and beyond where it once was. Sales is a tough business, and it’s contingent on changing as fast as the clients do. It’s pivotal that you keep your eye on the bigger picture. By being able to cope with the worst challenges, the company can sail to even higher ground.


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Danny Wong

Danny Wong

Danny Wong is a marketing consultant, sales strategist, and writer. He is a member of the marketing team at Tenfold, which provides a seamless click-to-dial solution for high-performance sales teams. Connect with him on Twitter @dannywong1190.

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