Planning for 2021: How to thrive during this ‘new normal’?

We are in a global pandemic, all in this together, living and working in a ‘new normal.’ How do you make plans for the year ahead under these circumstances?

Right now, sales and business leaders, and individual members of sales teams, should be making plans for 2021. In the Summer, that looked easier to do. Cases were going down, the infection rate was dropping.

Now it’s back up and rising, across Europe and North America especially. Few countries and regions are escaping this, except for those that got it under control during the first wave, such as South East Asia, Africa and New Zealand.

What does this ‘new normal’ look like?

Articles saying the crisis was over in the summer, and how we can start planning for a world without Covid-19 were premature. This crisis, for global economies and the health of humanity, won’t be over until there is a safe, accessible and widely available series of vaccines, and a clearer understanding of how to beat this.

Although there are glimmers of hope. So far, two vaccine drugs trials showing a 90 and 95% effectiveness rate, which is brilliant. But there is a long way to go, potentially another year before these can be produced in sufficient volume to make an impact.

For now, and the foreseeable future, we are living with a deadly virus. It should not be underestimated, nor can it be dismissed as a ‘hoax’, or ‘plandemic.’ Covid-19 is real, and worth avoiding at all possible costs. Being safe means staying at home as much as possible, avoiding large groups, and working from home (WFH).

On the political and economic front, there is more hope. With the US election behind us, it’s safe to say that the Trump era is over and 2021 is going to be rolling into a Biden administration. President Joe Biden, who was Obama’s Vice President, is looking to get the pandemic under control in America and restore the country to economic health.

In the UK, the election of a Biden administration is forcing a rethink on Brexit, the UK’s attempt to leave the European Union (EU). Other changes are happening across the world, in response to the waning political impact of right-wing populism.

Taking all of these new factors into consideration, 2021 should be quite different from 2020. As Covid-19 isn’t going anywhere, we are still going to be living and operating within a ‘new normal’, but it should be a normal that is gradually improving, in the US, Europe and UK. Gradual improvements are always preferable to rapid declines, which is what this year has been about.

How can sales teams thrive in the new normal?

In some countries, especially across Europe, lockdowns may come in waves. Ebbs and flows of restrictions as infection rates rise and fall. This isn’t sustainable in the long-term, from an economic or social perspective, but if there are vaccines on the way then things should be more back to normal in 2022.

Under those circumstances, sales leaders should keep teams working from home for the foreseeable future. Sharing office space together isn’t always sensible when infection rates keep rising.

Here are a few practical steps to keep productive and functioning as a sales team during this new normal.

#1: Ensure everyone working from home is supported

As we’ve seen since March 2020, sales teams switching to working from home doesn’t mean that the work stops. Out of sight doesn’t mean the whole team is playing on Xboxes or shopping on Amazon.

Although for parents, when schools were closed, that did make working more challenging. If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that what goes on in our personal/home lives, directly affects work. We can’t hide behind ignorance anymore.

With that in mind, sales leaders need to think about ensuring everyone is supported effectively going into 2021. Support should be all encompassing. It should include checking people have enough space - ideally a quiet space - to work, especially if they’re doing calls.

Salespeople need the right tools for the job, including devices and software (such as CrankWheel). Routines are equally useful, and ones that work for everyone, as not everyone needs or wants the same routine. Real-time check-in calls, for planning or progress, should fit within those routines. Try to avoid micromanaging, while equally ensuring the whole team is looked after during this ongoing pandemic.

#2: Asses what worked and what didn’t in 2020

Now is time to look back on this crazy and incredibly challenging 2020, as a way of planning how to move forward in 2021.

Instead of judging on your performance in the early-days of the pandemic, look at how things have been from around June onwards. How has the team done, compared to fixed or adjusted targets?

Base a strategy for next year on what worked, in these more turbulent times, coupled with an appreciation that 2021 isn’t necessarily going to be smooth sailing either. It depends on the pace of the economic recovery, safety and adoption rates of the vaccines at scale, and how supportive or not governments are of businesses.

#3: Set realistic and achievable goals for 2021

And finally, with the above in mind, you need to set realistic goals for 2021. Everyone, especially salespeople used to earning decent bonuses, business owners, and shareholders, wants fast recovery.

Let’s not go into 2021 with expectations set too high. Recovery is going to take time. It will also be uneven and up and down, not a linear trajectory. It’s also going to be uneven across sectors. Some will recover faster than others.

Take all of that into consideration, based on your pipeline as it currently stands, when planning 2021 sales targets.

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