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We survived last year - now, let’s see what the tactics are for 2021

Anders Holmberg
January 13, 2021

About a year ago, we were all just coming back from celebrating the holidays without knowing what would come. A global pandemic would change lives forever, and the world is probably never going to be the same. From a business standpoint, the recession has also meant that some industries quickly had to adapt or die as new ways of consuming goods and services quickly became the norm.

But here we are at the beginning of the year and now it’s time for you to set new goals and sales strategies for the next year. So, what should you focus on in order to prepare for a new year with so many uncertainties? No one has all the answers, but here are some of the best pieces of advice I have to share.

1. Rebuild your company culture

If you weren’t one of the few companies that already were more or less entirely remote, you probably had to adjust the way of working for all colleagues pretty fast during the spring. To my experience that has worked out fairly well, but I had a strong sense of culture fatigue in the business communities during the end of 2020 and the second wave. No wonder, we are after all humans.

Remote hang-outs can’t fully replace that feeling of grabbing a quick coffee or lunch together, and connecting with all senses. In times like this, I think it’s more important than ever to meet regularly and I think sales teams need each other to get that extra spark of motivation, energy and higher purpose to create magic for each other. For us, this conclusion means we are going back (when possible) to an office first, but remote flexible, working culture where we still can offer our teams the positive effects of working from home occasionally. We genuinely believe this works best for us, since collaboration and "Teamwin" attitude is such a vital part of any sales teams success.

2. Reinforce positive inspiration

More important than ever, we as leaders need to give positive energy and highlight the “yes we can” mentally. But how is this done? Well, it’s not the quarterly 15 min motivational pep talk or kick off that does it. Instead, it’s the combination of your daily actions and communication to your entire team. From that Monday morning team meeting to a casual follow up call to your most senior rep. Focus on the possibilities instead of the problems and help your team to visualize how success looks for them.

Perhaps even more importantly, get involved. According to me, the best sales leaders are the ones that themselves can set that meeting, jump on that call, close that deal and have their ears to the ground. They don’t have to be the best individual sales reps (in fact they rarely are), but just by showing the team that we are in this together can create wonders. In my opinion, there is nothing more motivating and strengthening for your sales culture than leadership involvement and I think this will be needed in 2021.

3. Reinvent your framework for how to close business

Your customers have probably dramatically changed their way of doing business during the last 12 months, which in most cases also means that their way of buying has as well. The virtual and remote way of selling and buying is undoubtedly here to stay and this means you need to update your Go-to-market plan accordingly. 

The challenging part is that there still are many uncertainties for how the future will look. My advice is therefore to create a setup and process that is built for adoption. You need to be able to reach and communicate with customers where they want it; face to face, online or through video. Some buyers want a self-services experience where they do the research and then buy by themselves and some want a consultancy driven approach with expert guidance from your sales and product team. 

Align your team in the fact that change is the new normal, ensure you can handle your customers most desired buying experiences and then be ready to adopt - fast! 

4. Expand with marketing and customer success

According to Gartner “CSO Priorities Heading Into 2021” the most prioritized initiative for sales leaders in 2021 is to accelerate early pipeline and lead generation efforts. As you have heard before, sales is no longer (if it has ever been) something that only involves the sales team. In fact, lead and demand generation is most effectively driven as a collaboration driven by marketing in combination with the word-of-mouth effect from your successful existing customers. And If you are in SaaS, your product is probably your number one lead generation driver. 

Your existing customers are most likely to be able to provide you with more expansion revenue than during 2020. Perhaps it’s time to re-package and create new products and services that are now needed for them to succeed in this new world? 

So team up with your product & marketing peers and create a plan to enable your sales teams to focus on customers that are actively buying!

5. Global mindset

One of my learnings for the year is that 2020 really made me aware of how connected we are with each other. Even if borders are physically closed, we still share the same social media platforms, trends and high level consuming behaviours. GDPR regulations, Brexit and other political insecurities are still challenging factors for many companies to overcome, but as a whole we are one big market.

With this comes great possibilities. Never before has a company had the chance to reach an international market with such ease. So think big, perhaps this is the year your company reaches new grounds in a new and open market?

6. Create different budget scenarios

So, how do we boil this down to a yearly revenue forecast and ultimately, an expected growth and profit for the year? I would say it’s harder than ever to get it right based on the many uncertainties. So instead, make 3 scenarios. 

Scenario A - an ambitious but realistic plan, a “Rooftop”. Gut feeling should say it’s about 50/50 to nail it. 

Scenario B - your worst case scenario. This should be done with 80% confidence. Dare to look this devil in the eyes, and also create actions to minimize the risk of ending up here.

Scenario C - your “Moonshot” plan that you think will be reached with 20% confidence. 

Focus on the actions needed to reach Scenario C, and also to avoid ending up in Scenario B. 

With these tips, I wish you all a happy new year and happy closing in 2021!

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