Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic uncertainty, there is still plenty of opportunity for business development in 2021.
As companies begin to adjust to workforces returning to the office, new budget cycles, and assessments of where they stand, the challenge is to focus sales teams and marketing efforts on initiatives that align with company goals in the “new normal.”
So, how can you incentivize staff, plan in a sea of uncertainty, AND keep stakeholders and shareholders satisfied?
The answer lies in careful planning, driven by an assessment of the trends driving business development today. It will also be fueled, in large part, by technologies that will help propel your business forward.
Consider the transformational role technology played during the pandemic, and will continue to play, as we move forward. Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, and project management platforms - all based in the cloud - became the normative part of our workday.
Without robust data centers, reliable wireless and wired connectivity, and rigorous data security solutions, work-life for much of the business world would have ground to a halt, with disastrous consequences for companies and their employees.
With business development an imperative, and technological advances providing opportunity, let’s take a closer look at some of the core business development trends for 2021.
1. Set Realistic Expectations
Many business norms have changed or will change as we move out of the pandemic. That means how businesses buy goods and services, meaning we need to change how we sell those goods and services.
There are some promising signs when it comes to business. Companies are eager to make up for what many consider a lost year to 18 months. That means businesses in some areas are looking to expand, increase budgets, and hire more people. However, that does not mean business will return to pre-pandemic levels.
You need to set realistic expectations within your company and among board members, stakeholders, and partners. Those expectations should include as much flexibility and adaptability as possible.
2. Plan for Hiring
The pandemic and resultant loss of business mean there are thousands of qualified people looking for work. As you’re looking to expand or restart your business development efforts, you need to be sure you have the right people in place.
Those employee growth plans need to factor in one important consideration – the growing expectation on remote work and flexible work schedules.
The ability to work remotely will factor in on all levels. Will your customers and clients also have increasingly remote workforces? If so, what does that mean for your travel budgets? Can you effectively do business development work remotely, with fewer face-to-face meetings, conferences, and user group meetings where salespeople can engage directly?
What about your employees? Will existing or new employees be expected to return to the office, or will they want to work from home? You’ll need to make sure that policies around compensation and evaluation reflect your business development realities.
3. The Rise of Contactless Services
Contactless was the key solution for many businesses during the pandemic. Consider the rise of telehealth as practitioners, insurers, and patients embraced a new model of delivering care. Online education at every level became the primary way that students learned and teachers taught.
Restaurants, grocery stores, retailers, and other businesses all embraced contactless delivery. For some customers of those establishments, contactless will be how they order goods and services from now on.
For your business, is contactless service feasible? How will it play in the creation of your business development strategy?
4. New Technologies Becoming the Norm
New technologies continue to transform industries at all levels. The use of artificial intelligence, for example, is seen in the chatbots that interact with us on websites and provide us with recommendations for other products to buy when we put something in our online shopping cart.
Robotics, drones, the internet of things (IoT), virtual reality, and artificial reality, operating independently or in tandem with human workers, can deliver excellent results, improve efficiency and accuracy, allow for new revenue sources, and align with the changing way work is done and products or services are delivered.
5. Digital Software Tools For Your Business Development Toolbox
Digital software will play a key role in your business and its business development work. It’s essential to equip your team with the right business tools across the enterprise. From accounting to human resources to customer relations, digital software is the way to ensure that your business development efforts are effective. Be sure your digital software tools have the dashboards, reports, and scalability to grow as your business does.