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Sales efficiency and agility amid COVID-19 disruption


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Businesses are all feeling the impact of the economic slowdown caused by the widespread global disruption from the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. Uncertainty around how world leaders will respond and unknown recovery timelines have everyone on edge. Not surprisingly, economists are revising their GDP estimates for the remainder of 2020, as consumers practice social distancing and business activity in a range of industries continues to face disruption.

This landscape can prove tricky for sales leaders who must steer businesses forward by delivering revenue commitments while confronting a possible recession. In the face of constantly evolving market conditions and customer needs, sales leaders must deploy agile sales plans that can be adjusted quickly and focus on increasing pipeline without increasing spend.

“The anticipation of a protracted buying slowdown has put added pressure on revenue leaders this year,” said Jason Loh, global head of sales solutions at Anaplan. “The important thing to remember is that the economy will rebound. Sales leaders should be refining their forecasts today and improving their sales and revenue planning processes to position themselves optimally for the future.”

Identifying accounts and customers with the most potential should be a top priority. Often a manual, time-consuming process, account segmentation needs to be as efficient as possible and scoring needs to shift as customers’ circumstances evolve. Even under ideal circumstances, manual trial-and-error segmentation and scoring processes can result in wasted time and sales resources. And with industries from travel and hospitality to oil and gas being affected by the pandemic, the circumstances are far from ideal. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help organizations by enriching the data that companies have collected internally with predictive, third-party attributes, so sales leaders can leverage robust analytics and insights in order to prioritize accounts with a higher propensity to buy—and spot new market opportunities even during an economic slowdown.

Leveraging predictive sales planning capabilities helped one open-source technology company generate a high-definition picture of ideal prospects, which enabled the company to focus its efforts on prospects that consistently became high revenue customers without increasing budget or spend.

Unexpected economic headwinds also make it difficult to predict where new opportunities might arise, so organizations must be nimble and ready to shift quickly. For sales planning purposes, this means that organizations may need to adjust their territories and quotas more frequently.

Think about the ripple effect of necessary business adjustments that come with any change to revenue objectives. From financial forecasts and territory hierarchies to compensation plans, these adjustments can involve extensive lag time and require sales teams to be agile in order to make changes without losing focus. A more collaborative and connected approach to revenue planning can make it easier to optimize these decisions based on actionable metrics and insights. By leveraging an enterprise-wide source of planning data, sales leaders can test drive new territory options, evaluate expansion opportunities, and easily adjust plans to accommodate market changes.

This insights-based approach to sales planning helped a multinational technology company reduce time spent aggregating revenue data from one month to just three days, giving their sales team more time to identify new opportunities for improvement. “It allowed us to make changes that we never would have discovered or uncovered without the insights that we can get from the Anaplan engine,” said the company’s SVP of Indirect Sales.

Accounting for unknown variables during times of increased instability can prove nearly impossible, but sales leaders must be ready to act on the fly when change happens in order to keep business moving forward. Having the ability to model future “what-if” scenarios, review potential outcomes, and develop contingency plans can help decision-makers feel better prepared to make real-time adjustments and ensure optimal sales coverage in any market conditions.

“When market demand makes sudden and dramatic shifts, an effective sales plan can make the difference between strong pipeline performance and missed revenue,” said Loh. “The ability to model various scenarios can empower sales leaders to feel confident with making adjustments, so they can combat real-time changes without sacrificing sales and revenue projections.”

With a connected approach to sales planning, one OEM of car audio systems was able to reduce the time it took to conduct “what-if” scenario analyses from a full day to just 10 seconds, freeing up time for sales teams to focus on driving growth.

During an economic slowdown, having clear insights and the agility to turn on a dime is crucial for business success. Companies battling for market share while also preparing for a further downturn will need to find the right balance of growth and savings. For revenue leaders, the pressure is on to make impactful business decisions that maximize resources and optimize opportunities, all while anticipating market changes. These decisions can not only help businesses react confidently to disruptions but add a new layer of innovation to the sales organization, increasing effectiveness in the future.