2021 Sales Planning: How to set goals in times of uncertainty?


We cannot deny that the year 2020 was completely atypical for everyone, without exception. In fact, it is very unlikely that any company has foreseen a similar situation and managed to put into practice exactly what it planned for that period. Now, still amidst uncertainties, but a little more familiar with some of the challenges that are being presented, we reach the last quarter of the year. It is, therefore, the decisive moment to start the sales planning for 2021.

It is not a simple task, after all, there are still uncertainties that prevent accurate predictions from being made for the next year. However, this is precisely one of the reasons why planning is important.

By outlining possible scenarios, both positive and negative, it is possible to devise strategies and prepare to go after the best results, no matter what. In this article, we will bring tips and talk about trends to help you design a sales plan for 2021, even in this context that is still troubled and full of doubts.

What has changed in B2B sales in 2020?

The first point to consider before starting to prepare this plan is the need for a reassessment of the B2B sales scenario. Inevitably, the pandemic brought several transformations in virtually all market segments.

It’s time to analyze these changes in more depth, as they may show flaws that need to be revised and/or new paths to follow. Of course, there are a number of factors that should be taken into account at this time. Let’s meet some of the main ones?

Growth of remote sales and use of digital platforms

It wasn’t just in retail that internet sales increased significantly. While online commerce has grown for years in just a few months, the way B2B buyers and sellers interact has also changed a lot.

Faced with new customer habits, your company needs to adjust its way of selling. The digitization of this purchasing relationship, which was a trend, was accelerated and became reality in the blink of an eye. The truth is that sales in the future will be totally different from what they were before the pandemic.

study by McKinsey & Company of B2B companies in 11 different countries showed that organizations currently see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers as traditional sales.

In addition, almost 90% of sales are now made via the internet, videoconference or telephone. What’s more, most respondents believe these models are as effective as or more effective than those used before the pandemic.

Consequently, this means that the use of digital platforms for quotation and contracting, in addition to e-commerce tools and SaaS (Software as a Service) with a focus on B2B is only likely to increase.

Reduced budgets and new hiring models

Another important factor that needs to be considered when planning 2021 sales is the new reality of customers. At a time of economic crisis, organizations need to reduce expenses and many must work with reduced budgets next year . It is therefore worth bearing this in mind and considering a possible revision of pricing policies in order not to lose important customers.

Contracts may also require greater flexibility, as uncertainties make long-term projections difficult. For this reason, many companies are opting for plan models with shorter terms, for example.

Changing seasonality in some sectors

The year of 2020 not only messed up the calendar of people, who had vacations postponed, trips canceled etc., but also of companies. Think that even though the holidays were somehow commemorated, with the suspension of classes, the school calendar was completely messed up.

For organizations selling retail solutions this can make a huge difference. Companies operating in the tourism sector have suffered enormous consequences, for example. However, there are also other sectors that had seasonal changes that need to be identified. Are you closely following the movements in your sector?

How to structure 2021 sales planning

After analyzing the changes brought about by the pandemic, which help to draw the picture we are experiencing and what we may have ahead of us, we can now start preparing the 2021 sales plan. Shall we go? Below we list the main steps to build your plan:

Evaluate your sales history

As we’ve mentioned countless times, metrics are essential, and in order to look ahead, you’ll need to assess what’s gone by. Through the CRM system, access and analyze the company’s sales history, including during the pandemic months. After all, after a few months, we already have some interpretation possibilities.

The 2020 results, precisely because they were atypical, should serve as a starting point for making projections for the next year — which will probably not be the same as any other.

Know how to identify opportunities

Changes in the B2B market may have negatively impacted business at this first moment. But now they must be seen as opportunities — which must, of course, be seized.

However, it will take commercial intelligence to identify trends and possible movements in the economy and the sector and devise strategies to deal with them in the best way possible. Therefore, it is quite possible that the 2021 sales planning will require more study and dedication from managers.

Think about new products and delivery policies

Perhaps one of the most important moves right now is the acceptance of change. What good is the fear of changing if nothing is as it used to be—and it will hardly ever be again?

Therefore, it is valid to sit down with a responsible area and seriously evaluate the possibility of investing in new products and new delivery policies. Remember: if you are not in line with the new reality, you will not sell as you would like.

Revisit pricing policies and financial targets

Findings from a study of your customers will also be important for planning the New Year. Just as many sectors were affected, others grew during the pandemic. What is the reality of your customers?

Based on this answer, seek the company’s finances to assess the pricing policies in place and the need for changes. Another point that should be discussed with the area is the financial goals for the year, which will certainly have to be redefined in view of the new context.

Define macro and micro goals

In addition to analyzing the scenario in detail and the need for adaptations, a sales plan presupposes goals. Given the uncertainties that still surround 2021, it is interesting, more than ever, to focus on determining goals divided by periods.

Based on everything you have raised so far, define macro goals, that is, those that will guide all your actions throughout the year. On the other hand, also establish micro goals to guide the operation and day-to-day of your sales team. They will be the way to reach the main objective.

Trends to keep an eye on in the coming months

During the structuring of your sales planning, in the coming months, it is essential to be aware of trends in the B2B market. We’ve already mentioned some of them throughout this article.

The main one is, without a doubt, the digital transformation, which is undergoing an acceleration never seen before. If your company was still paddling on this theme, it’s time for “now or never”. Technology will become even more essential, in every process and every step of the buying journey.

On the other hand, it must also be considered that humanized sales have not lost ground and continue to be a trend. A recent Google survey of B2B sales over the period showed that while remote selling has taken a strong hold, 81% of buyers still want some form of seller support when they are ready to make a purchase.

Finally, it should be said that we know that the outlook is still quite uncertain, as are your sales at this time. The idea, however, is that the 2021 sales planning is a tool to deal with uncertainties as well.

Therefore, use the plan to design different scenarios, both optimistic and pessimistic, and think of measures to best act on both. Thus, you will be much more prepared to face any kind of challenge that arises in the next year.