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Webinar recap: 5 strategies to close deals during a downturn

Sarah Taylor|Updated Dec 7, 2022
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While there’s not a lot you can do about economic uncertainty, you can adopt strategies to minimize the uncertainty in your pipeline. Last week, Mark Tanner (co-founder and COO of Qwilr), Jonathan Blackburn (VP Global Sales, Qwilr) and Kendra Berner (Senior Strategic Account Executive, Lattice) discussed “Closing deals during a downturn: 5 strategies for success”, hosted by RevGenius.

Getting deals over the line can be challenging enough, but even more so in a dire economy. Fluctuating markets, shifts in buyer behavior and an increasingly competitive landscape are all impacting sales teams' ability to hit quota as we head towards the end of 2022, with little reprieve in sight.

While there’s not a lot you can do about economic uncertainty, you can adopt strategies to minimize the uncertainty in your pipeline. Last week, Mark Tanner (co-founder and COO of Qwilr), Jonathan Blackburn (VP Global Sales, Qwilr) and Kendra Berner (Senior Strategic Account Executive, Lattice) discussed “Closing deals during a downturn: 5 strategies for success”, hosted by RevGenius.

You can watch the webinar on YouTube, but let's explore the main points.

What challenges are sales teams faced with?

The reality is that the sales landscape has shifted and not just due to the economic downturn. Over the past couple of years, virtual sales have overtaken face-to-face sales due to the pandemic and buyers have fully embraced a new way of buying. 75% of business buyers say sales conversations are more asynchronous than they used to be, and buyers now spend just 17% of the entire buying process in direct contact with vendors.

Buyers are more elusive than they used to be and there is far less opportunity to meet and build relationships face-to-face, and often difficult to reach via phone. Older sales methodologies aren’t necessarily going to impress and engage buyers, and when you throw an economic downturn into the mix the task of closing deals becomes even harder. Budgets get cut, projects get reprioritized, and sellers are faced with increasing pressure from sales leaders to meet quota. Sure, there will always be deals that slip regardless of the economy (see this article on ‘Where deals go to die. Understanding the buyer-seller gap’), but with changes in buyer behavior and economic uncertainty, sellers need to adopt a more considered, strategic approach to successfully close deals.

5 strategies to close deals in a downturn

#1 Know where you win

It sounds obvious, but when reviewing pipelines, sellers must understand and define the criteria for a good deal, ie. what are the common characteristics of deals that successfully close? In good times, mediocre deals can look decent. In bad times, you need to know where you win and ruthlessly prioritize working on deals in that space.

And if you don’t know what a “good deal” looks like, it's up to you to find out. Work with RevOps, Sales Leadership, or with that savvy rep on your team to figure it out. When you know where you win, you can do a better job at enabling your prospect to make a decision and save time in the process.


  • Know where you win. What are the ideal verticals, org size and buyer personas? Simple, but it will help you prioritize.
  • Decide how to balance deal size versus deal quantity. Should you prioritize landing whales? They take more time and effort but there is also more risk.
  • Can you genuinely deliver value to your prospect? If your product doesn’t solve your prospects' problem (or doesn’t do what they need it to do within their existing environment), there is a high probability the deal is a dud.

Added bonus:
Defining your criteria for a good deal can also help to identify new “upside” opportunities relatively quickly, such as opportunities to expand or cross-sell.

#2 Pipeline

The default playbook utilized by most companies and leaders is a volume-based approach, with the rationale being that if we’re expecting deals to slip and win rates to drop, we need more in our pipeline to fill the gap.

While increasing volume isn’t necessarily the wrong approach, the right approach is more nuanced. This comes back to point #1 and knowing where you win. When armed with that knowledge, sellers can avoid pipeline stuffing and be honest about what's real, and get more from their efforts by having more time to work on genuine deals. It’s time to get ruthless.


  • Identify what is sitting outside of your average sales cycle and cull it. The longer the sales cycle, the more unlikely it is to close.
  • Be honest about which prospects are actively engaged and whether you’ve identified the decision maker. (If you don’t know, you are likely pipeline stuffing.)
  • What deals have business urgency? If it's not a priority for your prospect, chances are it shouldn’t be for you either.

Added bonus:
A clean pipeline minimizes risk, and allows you to spend your time where it matters. You’ll also have better predictability by removing deals that are likely to be lost to no decision.

#3 Ask the hard questions.

So you’ve qualified your prospect. They have the right criteria for a good deal, your champion is engaged and responsive, and they have budget, authority and need. But, it's what you don’t know that will kill the deal.

Knowledge is power, and that means asking the questions that you don’t want to ask, but need to. For example, is the problem important enough for the business to solve? Your champion may be engaged, but who is actually involved in the decision-making process? And in a downturn, how is the economy impacting decisions and priorities?


  • Together with the above, understand as much as possible about the opportunity and its business drivers.
    • What's the largest business pain the company is experiencing?
    • What are the biggest budget asks?
    • What are the concerns of the executive team?
    • Does your buyer know how to sell your solution internally?
  • If your champion can’t answer your questions, find out who can.

Added bonus:
You’ll get the insight you need to drive the deal forward, and can thank yourself for saving time in the long run.

#4 Drive the decision-making.

Okay, you’ve got a clean pipeline, your prospects meet your deal criteria and you fully understand (or at least, are getting close to understanding) the priorities and challenges they are facing. Now, where is the risk?

40-60% of the average salesperson's total opportunity set is actually lost to no decision. In the current economic climate buyer hesitancy or indecision is even more prolific. Sellers must reassure buyers that they are making the right decision, and enable them to do so with confidence to drive the deal forward. It can be a lot of work, but this is another reason why it’s important to have a clean pipeline, so you can focus your efforts where it matters.


  • Acting as a consultant to support your buyer will build trust. Develop and adopt mutual action plans with your champion to drive the deal forward.
  • Ask yourself if your prospect has direct access to the information they need to make a decision. Is it clear, transparent and easy to share with their buying committee? 48% of buyers won’t buy from sellers who proffer misleading information.
  • If budget becomes a challenge, work with your champion buyer to find alternative budget sources from other departments.
  • Close to buyer indecision is buyer overwhelm. Use the opportunity intel you’ve built to reassure the buyer that:
    • Your product/service supports the business and its current priorities
    • Your product/service is a viable and logical investment that meets an immediate need
    • They have what they need to position the value internally to overcome budget challenges

Added bonus:
By working closely with your champion you’ll establish yourself as a trusted partner, and hopefully avoid any unexpected surprises in the decision-making process.

#5 Impress your buyers

Finally, another critical thing to consider when closing deals (regardless of a downturn) is “What are you doing to stand out?”. It sounds obvious but it’s often overlooked. Sellers must think about how to impress their buyers, and the buying committee, and differentiate themselves against the competition.

In the virtual era of sales, there is less opportunity for schmoozing, and information overload will only add to buyer indecision/overwhelm. Instead, provide buyers with a memorable buyer journey, that puts them at the very center of the sales experience.


  • Absolute number 1: Make it easy for your buyer…
    • With readily accessible and relevant information that they can easily share to champion for you internally
    • By ensuring that pricing is 100% transparent. You don’t want unnecessary surprises to agitate buyer indecision and/or negate the trust that has been established.
    • By understanding how the buyer wants to buy, and then making it easy for them to do so.
  • Does your proposal represent the quality of your brand? Multiple, static documents littered with mistakes not only confuse your prospects, but they don’t instil confidence in your brand.

Added bonus

You’re not just selling your product, you’re selling your brand. Taking time to impress your buyers with a world-class sales experience, that directly meets their needs and makes it easy to buy will turn your champion into an advocate.

Book a demo to see qwilr in action and understand how we help teams to increase win rates and reduce sales cycles.

About the author

Sarah Taylor, Senior Content Marketing Manager

Sarah Taylor|Senior Content Marketing Manager

Sarah leads Qwilr's content marketing efforts – specialising in field marketing, campaign planning, content, brand and communications. Sarah has both agency and global corporate experience spanning Australia, Asia and the UK.