The Post COVID-19 landscape forms the backdrop for your 2021 Sales Strategy. This means lockdowns, vaccines and supply chains are likely to be topics of conversation for much of the year to come. All of this means more change, more uncertainty. This is the crucial thing to for all businesses to understand – how to strategically plan for sales success in an environment of constant change and uncertainty.
The New Normal
There’s so much talk about the ‘New Normal’. Defining this ‘New Normal’ is challenging and vastly differs depending on whom you’re speaking with.
The New Normal for Sales includes:
- Greater reliance on technology
- More virtual selling tools
- Increased awareness of the need to truly connect with our customers
- New, creative ways to build relationship, both online and offline
All this is set against the backdrop of:
- An international pandemic
- Changes in supply and distribution timelines
- Potential for rolling lockdowns over the next 1-2 years
- Decreased ability to travel to cement new customer relationships
The ‘New Normal’, is not so much a finalised state, as a continuous period of change that likely isn’t going to feel normal for quite some time.
Change has always been a constant, just like rising sea levels around the world. COVID-19 has been a freak wave that came up out of nowhere and drenched us. Now that this has happened once, it would be remiss not to factor change into your strategy for 2021.
Here are some of the factors to consider as you plan your Sales Strategy for the 2021 year ahead.
After 2020, we know that we really can’t take anything for granted. Many things we thought were certain have been challenged or have vanished altogether.
Businesses will benefit from more robust planning for the year ahead. This means creating ‘Plan B’, and perhaps ‘Plan C’.
What bits stay constant?
Change stays constant
Uncertainty is one of the few certain things. The need to be a flexible, agile team, to be able to ‘pack up and go remote’ at very short notice. If rolling lockdowns are a constant for the next while, your team needs to be able to cope. Actually – you want to thrive, not just survive.
- Is everyone competent in the technology they need to operate remotely?
- Where are the gaps?
- What training do you have in place?
- Are your HR and health & safety policies up to date for the changed business environment?
- Do you have enough software licences for everyone to operate remotely?
Your Core Values
COVID-19 has been like a strobe light shining on business this year, revealing who and what your business stands for. Values-driven marketing is now to the fore. Kindness is a super-power. The companies that do well out of this time will be those who continue to serve with humanity. Yes, they will profit, but their profits will be the result of doing something meaningful with integrity throughout.
- How are you serving with humanity and kindness?
- How have you demonstrated integrity this year?
- How have you looked after your customers?
- How are you sharing the stories that demonstrate your business values?
The Core Aspects of your Ideal Customers
The foundational aspects of your ideal customers will stay constant, even some other aspects may change. If you’ve always attracted customers with an appreciation of the finer things in life, this is likely to continue. Those customers may have a reduced budget, so there will be opportunities for you to unpack your offering into a range of solutions. Keep your ideal customers connected through smaller-scale offerings. Building solid, trusted relationships means those smaller customers are ready to increase their share of wallet with you when the good times return.
P.S – see further down this article for the ways that your customers will also be likely to change!
Be Ready to take Decisive Action
Plan for your deal 2021 with the information that you know now. Stay ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. Which means you should probably plan for contingencies. Consider how your customers and supply chains are impacted through COVID-19, and shore up secondary options if these are required.
- Do you have a Plan B?
- How about a Plan C?
Review your Sales Strategy
Even if you’re already in the habit of reviewing your Sales Strategy every quarter, look at stepping this up to monthly. With so much change in our new business environment, you could risk missing critical clues without consciously pausing to look around you more frequently.
Reviewing your Sales Strategy doesn’t just mean checking that you’re on target to meet your goals (although this is important). It’s also important to check that those goals you set at the beginning of the year are still a relevant priority for you.
Being disciplined to pause and reflect will often lead to more change. The good news is that any further change will be proactive and help ensure you stay relevant in the marketplace.
- Are you still happy with your original goals?
- Are they still worth pursuing?
- Do they need to be changed in some way?
- What other new opportunities are rising in your market?
- Should you pause on your original goal, to pursue new opportunities?
What bits change?
The most central part of your Sales Strategy – your customers. Like you, your customers have also been through an immense period of change. The questions below are designed to help you uncover areas where you can help your customers to keep trading. By helping your customers, you’ll also build ‘stickier’ customer relationships and protect your customer base in the year ahead.
- How did your customers cope during lockdowns?
- What feedback are they giving you about their needs for 2021?
- What could you put in place to serve them better in future?
- Have their buying triggers – factors that cause them to enter the market and buy – changed since COVID-19?
- What new problems do your customers now have?
- How can you help them to solve these new problems?
Your Sales Process
‘Virtual selling’ is one of the buzzwords of 2020. For B2B services and SaaS businesses, expect to build most (if not all) of your customer relationships in an online environment. While not the same as a face to face meeting at the pub or in your local café, Zoom calls, MS Teams calls and phone calls can definitely give you what you need to continue trading.
If you were online already, 2020 likely hasn’t been as much of an upset to your business. For anyone not online yet, perhaps you’re breathing a sigh of relief that you’ve got through? Don’t stop for Christmas until you’ve transitioned your sales process and delivery into an online option.
When we return to a more settled normal, you may even decide to keep all/most of your sales process online. Customers have rapidly adapted to online options, and virtual selling is a big saving on travel costs.
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What could you add that would streamline your sales process?
- What could you remove that would streamline your sales process?
- How did your customers respond to the virtual selling environment?
Your Distribution Methods
When everyone moved home, internet usage went right up. The transition to online shopping, which had been progressing for several years, was adopted almost overnight.
More customers moving online potentially means a greater reliance on third party freight and couriers to get your products into the hands of your customers. Companies who already had secure relationships with couriers had an easier time of it than those who had to make a sudden change. All courier companies were busier, which meant delays in some deliveries.
How was your business impacted by changes in distribution?
What could you put in place to minimise impacts of any future changes?
Your Supplier Resilience
Remember those annoying businesses that contact you to try to pitch for work? If your suppliers are unable to support you to the required level, it could be worthwhile setting up business relationship with a Plan B supplier. Even in more stable parts of the world it can be helpful to have relationships with more than one supplier. Especially for critical goods and services that you need to deliver good work to your customers.
- How have your suppliers fared during COVID-19 lockdowns?
- Were they able to deliver what you needed?
- How easy was it to deal with them in a volatile business environment?
- Did you feel supported by them?
- How did they respond to any errors their team may have made?
How does all this work together?
With constant change on the programme for 2011, how can you walk confidently into 2021? More importantly, how do you move forward and keep a healthy balance with the constants and the changes?
Constant review of your Sales Strategy is the best way forward. This is most easily accomplished at regular team meetings. If you had a blame and shame culture pre COVID-19, this needs to go. Your sales team especially needs to be empowered to give honest feedback that will support better decision-making. Meetings should be a safe place where your team are confident in sharing their failures and their successes.
Data-driven decision-making is increasingly important. If you haven’t already got a CRM system, now is the time to get one. For those of you who have a CRM system, take an honest look at how well your CRM is being utilised by everyone in the business who deals with your customers. Without a unified approach to customer relationship management and capturing data, you will risk missing those little nuances that point the way to a market shift before the papers write about it.
The best way to keep ahead of trends is to be on the pulse of your customer. Make sure your strategy includes a plan to grow your existing customer relationships and to gather regular customer feedback.
Fortune favours the bold – Virgil
Finally, stay positive, alert, and open-minded. Strong customer and supplier relationships are the best navigation tool for the uncertain year ahead. There are opportunities out there. Some of them you will see now, others will open as the 2021 year unfolds. COVID-19 has closed some doors. Look for the new doors and stay open to exploring previously unconsidered avenues.
Keep smiling. The human species has gotten through some tough times in history. Your plans may change but you can still step out. Go forth!
Let’s talk about a strategic approach to growing revenue opportunities and sales for your business.