2022 marks the 30th year of my career in B2B sales and marketing. Looking back, I see one constant in all of these years: change.
Some of the changes were gradual, such as the slow but powerful surge of digital transformation that not only affected what businesses buy but how they buy. Some of the changes sprung out of nowhere, such as 9/11, the 2008 crash, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
In all of these circumstances, I saw that businesses that were ready for change thrived. These businesses leveraged their resilient, determined cultures to find opportunities in adversity. Many of these organizations are larger and stronger than they would have been without change.
Other businesses struggled during times of change. They stuck to their old strategies, hoping that things would blow over and return to normal. Many of these companies are shells of what they could have been.
As we plan for growth in 2022, I’m quite confident that change will continue. Look at where we are right now. How many of us thought that by now we’d have returned to normal? Instead, we’ve discovered we are living in a new normal. And this new normal is different than many originally expected. Any observant leader recognizes that the change will only continue
So how do you make plans in a dynamic environment? You invest in the foundational things that enable you to capitalize on change. In the area of revenue growth, I’d like to submit three investments that sales and marketing teams can make to ensure the changes of 2022 result in growth.
1. Invest in people.
My friend and co-author, Scott MacGregor, has a mantra that challenges me every time I hear it: “People over everything!” My strategic mind wants to say, “No, it’s strategy over everything.” The problem is that I’m wrong.
Companies that invested in their people survived the pandemic and are set to thrive in the next season. Why? The strategy will change. It’s the people who are the constant. Invest in your people. Treat them well. Invest time to build the relationship. When things get hard (and they will), these are the people who will be with you.
The same goes for your clients. Their needs will change. Products and services will change. The one constant is the client. Treat them well. Invest time to build the relationship. Truly become a trusted advisor. These clients will be the ones who stay with you through the changes.
What is your plan in 2022 to invest in relationships with your team and your clients?
2. Prioritize processes.
How do you free up the time to invest in your people and clients? The most powerful way is by creating and optimizing sales and marketing processes.
Boil a business down to its most basic level and you get people and processes. What are processes? Simply put, they are a series of steps for a predictable outcome. When you have predictability, you create scalability and free up bandwidth.
Processes form a constant in the midst of change. Without processes, we run fire drills, especially during times of change. This means the core sales and marketing functions that drive revenue growth stopped happening. Your revenue growth engine slows down, and the business suffers.
Sales and marketing are notorious for flying by the seat of our pants. Salespeople are told, “Go sell something!” A few people on the team often seem to set the curve while others struggle. New representatives who come on board are lost and get frustrated. All of this leads to more fire drills. This eats time. In the middle of this, one-on-ones with sales reps and their leaders get neglected. Quarterly business reviews client relationships don’t get scheduled.
Marketing people can struggle with processes as well. In the midst of running campaigns, planning for events, and preparing reports, we tend to lose the forest through the trees. Marketing can also end up stuck in fire drills. Field rides may be neglected. One-on-ones with sales leaders get rescheduled. Case study writing gets put off.
What are the core sales and marketing processes that you need to run to support consistent net-new and cross-sell revenue growth? Make a list of these processes. Document them. Ensure they are happening. Over time, work together as sales and marketing to improve them.
What is your plan to document and improve sales and marketing processes in 2022?
3. Listen to learn.
“God gave you two ears and one mouth” is a phrase I heard many times as I grew up. The challenge with sales and marketing is that in our enthusiasm to communicate, we sometimes forget to listen.
One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits is, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This habit becomes vital during times of change. If you continue to share the message you shared before the change happened, you risk becoming irrelevant to the market. If you make assumptions about the change without listening, you risk being wrong.
How will you listen to your clients in 2022? Listening requires both intention and attention. The intentional component requires setting up conversations with clients. During quarterly business reviews with key clients, salespeople can ask about how change is affecting the business. During case study interviews with clients, marketing can learn about the business outcomes clients are looking for during the change.
In addition to intentionally engaging in these conversations, there needs to be a process to pay attention. How will you pay attention to your marketplace in 2022? How will you listen to news and evaluate trends to spot challenges and opportunities in your market? When you listen, you have the opportunity to get ahead of the change.
What is your plan to listen in 2022?
How do you embrace change? Plan to invest in relationships, build processes and listen. As you do this, you can build a growing organization that is resilient, steady, and scalable.
Originally published on Forbes.