When I made my predictions for 2020 I'm pretty sure I didn't predict a pandemic. Making predictions isn't easy.
In the US, sales teams are coming off three robust years of sales growth and while revenue was up during that time, the percentage of salespeople hitting quotas was not. That means the top 20% were not only carrying the load, they carried more of the load.
That dynamic growth hit an iron barrier last spring when COVID became the unexpected economic disrupter, but the second half comeback was quite impressive. What does 2021 have in store for those of us in the sales world? In the US, how will Democrat control of all three branches of government affect sales and selling? And how long before that kicks in?
Americans can't be certain that threats to pack the supreme court, make DC a state, and change the rules will come to fruition, but the incoming administration has been very clear about their intent to quickly increase taxes, especially on corporations and people with annual income of more than $400,000. Given the ambitious progressive agenda they wish to implement and the enormous cost - trillions of dollars we don't have - it's likely that the tax increase will include the middle class too. How will that affect our ability to sell stuff for at least the next two years?
Their progressive agenda, some anti-capitalist cabinet appointments, and Biden's history of coziness with China suggest that the next two years will not be very business-friendly. Tax increases lead to reduced spending by corporations, small businesses, and consumers. Lay-offs come next as companies scramble to do more with less. Sound familiar? That was the new normal from 2008-2016 so what's old is new again.
That said, we can be sure of three things thanks to the ripple effect of a China-friendly administration, a massive tax increase and lay-offs:
- Imports from China will be on the rise and that means increased competition from low-cost competitors.
- There will be increased pressure on sales teams to boost revenue and profit to compensate for the cost of the tax increases.
- Companies will be significantly more restrained about what they purchase from sellers.
See the challenge? While sellers will be under tremendous pressure to generate additional revenue, the very companies on which they rely for revenue will be more resistant to buying and more price conscious than ever!
With Democrats in control, fear about the new strain of COVID, and the vaccine still months away for most people, it's likely that many more states besides California will be back in a lockdown. If the new lockdown is anything like the last year's lockdown, the shit show known as 2020 will be back for an encore performance.
You can't endure lockdowns, tax increases, lay-offs and Chinese imports and expect selling to resemble anything routine or easy.
Salespeople will fail. Objective Management Group's (OMG) data on 2,050,385 salespeople shows that the bottom 50% lack the selling skills to handle resistance, competition, and price sensitivity. This screen shot represents the percentage of salespeople who have these ten tactical selling competencies as strengths. See all 21 Sales Core Competencies here.
Mastery of these 10 selling competencies is required for times like these but as mentioned above, fewer than half of all salespeople have them as strengths. We know that the top 20% of all salespeople generate 80% of the revenue so if the bottom 50% are going to fail, that will either reduce revenue by 20%, or place even more pressure on top producers to compensate for the shortfall. Neither option is a winning strategy.
That leaves two viable strategies:
- Evaluate and train the ever living crap out of them. OMG's sales force evaluation will identify the areas in which each salesperson needs help in all 21 Sales Core Competencies and then training and coaching can be targeted. Typically, around 65% will improve but it may take 8-16 months!
- Replace them with top performers. OMG's accurate and predictive sales candidate assessments will help you identify and select those who will succeed in your roles but it won't eliminate the need for on-boarding and you still have to allow for ramp-up time (the length of your learning curve plus the length of your sales cycle plus 30 days).
There is always one more option. Hide under your desk, hope that things work themselves out, and that you won't have to do anything different. We already know from last year how that option worked out! Companies that asked for help during March, April and May of 2020 had absolutely rocking, kick-ass fourth quarters. By the time the US began reopening during the middle of the year, those who didn't ask for help earlier were so far behind the 8-ball, they were no longer in a position to even pay for the help they so desperately needed.
What will you do to make sure that 2021 is a growth year?
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