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Selling in uncertain times: 5 questions for your 2021 sales strategy.

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Manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers hoping for some early New Year cheer are now facing up to the reality of a return to continued uncertainty as stringent anti-Covid restrictions remain in place across Europe and parts of the US. 

Planning future sales strategy in such an unpredictable climate can feel like a mammoth task but by considering their short, medium and longer-term challenges and priorities now, businesses can put themselves on the front foot to make the most of evolving marketing conditions. Here are the key questions businesses need to ask to shape their 2021 sales strategy.

Does my sales team have the right tools and software to do the job?

Technology has the potential to revolutionize the way sales teams go about their business but knowing where to start and what to specify can be a challenge, especially for smaller players with limited resources. Equally, those already using a variety of applications in their daily activities can struggle to integrate them with supposedly complementary systems and receive inadequate training on how to use them to the best of their ability. Can your sales function truly say it is using all the tools at its disposal to the best of their ability? Does it have access to a piece of software likes sales-I that effectively ties together the tech stack to enable you to get the most out of your overall tech investment? If the answer to these questions is either ‘no’ or ‘kinda’ then now is the time to audit what’s working, what isn’t and where improvements could be made.


Can AI and machine learning help my business sell better?

Much has been made of the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to have on commerce over the coming decades but ask a group of distributors or wholesalers how relevant AI and machine learning is to their business now and chances are there will be some shrugging of shoulders. The reality is of course that AI is already embedded in a number of technologies and this is only set to become more commonplace in 2021. Looking specifically at sales enablement software for example, 2021 will see AI increasingly integrated into platforms as a matter of course to routinely deliver hugely robust and valuable data on customer buying patterns that will help operators identify lucrative cross and upselling opportunities. In today’s climate, this capability could mean the difference between thriving and mere survival for some businesses while economic conditions remain constrained.


Are there elements of our sales process that perpetuate wider operational challenges?

While sales strategy has long been an important focus for most company boardrooms, it has come under closer scrutiny as businesses seek to maintain cashflow during the Covid crisis. This has led some to make some surprising discoveries about how their sales procedures can negatively impact wider organizational efficiency. For example, dead stock management is a common area where companies with the best of intentions put in place procedures and processes that can actually prove counterproductive over the longer term. As such, now is the time to be considering whether your sales systems and procedures are aligned with overall business strategy and whether they could actually be holding back your wider productivity, efficiency and impacting negatively on the bottom line.


Is my CRM strategy working?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can mean many things to different businesses. Where some organizations will be operating modest, tech-lite and informal approaches others have fully documented, optimized strategies in place supported by a range of complementary technologies. Others will have no formal CRM strategy at all or only undertake activities on a project basis. Whatever their approach, too many businesses fail to adequately measure or understand the return on investment (ROI) delivered by their CRM while others simply fall flat due to being poorly integrated with wider business strategy or too complex to prevail. Getting closer to customers and gaining a deep understanding of their requirements is more important than ever and 2021 should be the year you strongly question whether your CRM is really fit for purpose.


How do we effectively diversify to service new markets and customers?

During what was a hugely challenging 2020, diversification presented some precious opportunity for operators with the foresight and speed of movement to embrace selling new products to new markets. In practice, pivoting to seek new markets isn’t always straightforward, particularly when moving from commercial to more consumer-focussed opportunities and vice versa. The gains on offer can be lucrative, however, particularly when organizations have the wherewithal to move quickly. Is your business positioned to pivot in 2021 and if not, what do you need to do to get there?


Help is at hand…

Of course, there won’t always be easy answers to some of these questions and businesses will need to consider how potential sales strategy changes might impact overall business operation, particularly in light of the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic.

To help businesses get their sales strategy on the right footing for yet another challenging year ahead, we will be returning to investigate these themes in greater detail over the course of the coming weeks, providing a host of practical advice and guidance designed to help you frame and reach your 2021 sales goals, whatever they may be.

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