The economy has been reopening — and with that comes the expectation of offices reopening their doors too. There are many reasons to be eager to “get back to normal” and to restart business face-to-face. Organizations rely on alignment to attain sustainable revenue performance, and what better way to achieve that than physical proximity and regular meetings? In-person business and selling is paramount in effectiveness and engagement.
Yet, the recent social distancing mandates have sent people home for half of 2020. The work-from-home environment has required organizations to invest in technology, to develop procedures and to shift practices. As such, the short-term requirement to work from home has accelerated a trend toward greater infrastructure and acceptance of virtual business environments.
While some organizations may eventually return to a more-traditional workplace environment, and in-person selling will resume in the future, business practices will forever be changed. Here is what you can expect:
Technologic Foundations Built in the Pandemic Have Set the Stage for Future Business Norms
Many organizations did not have the technological or procedural foundations to support a remote workforce prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Early 2020 saw large investments in computers, software, telecommunications equipment and tools, security protocols and procedures. All this will stick with leaders in a sunk cost type of mindset. They cannot feasibly and responsibly abandon the infrastructure they have created.
With these investments in mind, leadership will need to consider the best path forward with restrictions lifting. Most offices cannot meet safe social distancing without pricy office space updates. At a minimum, leadership may decide to shift to regional operations in lieu of central offices. They may decide to move their teams to remote capacity.
Though it was unplanned and unexpected, the pandemic provided a trial run of virtual business practices. Leadership can take this time to review the efficacy of the last months:
- Were there any surprising benefits?
- Were there major roadblocks to operations?
- Are there solutions moving forward to overcome those?
- Are the travel and expense savings substantial and sustainable?
- Are there compromises between “operations as usual” and “full virtual business practices”?
Not only will internal impacts ensue. Your buyers will also be navigating virtual business practices. Leadership will need to keep an eye on the external industry and buyer environment. Are your buyers comfortable taking face-to-face visits yet? Are business practices in your industry shifting to a more sterile, virtual environment as the preferred? Are there new lasting pains and focuses for your buyers? For example, for industries like IT, secure cloud-based solutions will continue to increase in importance. Data replication and security will be on the minds of IT and finance professionals. Are there opportunities for your organization to Seek to Serve™?
A Future Compromise of In-Person and Virtual Business
The pandemic turned age-old business practices on its head. There are drawbacks to virtual selling and business practices. Many of these things people and digital solution providers are working hastily to overcome. But, additionally, many leaders surely were surprised to uncover some benefits too. The key point is for leadership to analyze opportunities moving forward for using virtual tools to support agile, transparent and robust selling.
A shift to longer-term virtual selling organizations will require formal but lightweight processes. Without a physical presence in the office, there will need to be new methods of accountability. Professionals can expect more checkpoints that track and manage their activities, deal progression and functional performance. Remote coaching will become even more important in the development of personnel and in the obtainment of sales goals. Project planning and tracking will increase in importance, as well as easy-to-use — and secure — collaboration tools. Access to and transparency with data will be critical for successfully moving forward. Heavy oversight will fail; lightweight but formal team engagement is the key to success.
Productive cross-functional engagement, already an issue for many organizations, will become even more critical in remote environments. There will be an even greater need for formal reviews and alignment of financial, go-to-market, product and sales strategies. Cross-functional participation will also need to overcome limits of remote work, including for launch programs, product strategy definition and roadmap definition.
For support navigating virtual business best practices into the future, contact us. As you are looking toward the future, read more Principal Predictions to support the future of your business.