Businesses are losing confidence fast. Unprecedented levels of volatility and unpredictability are threatening economic growth and the rising cost of energy is shrinking budgets. But now is not the time for businesses to batten down the hatches in preparation for what comes next. It may seem counterintuitive, says John Cheney, CEO, Workbooks, but investing in tools and processes to boost productivity and reduce inefficiencies is now vital. Equipped with the right technology, businesses can be more resilient against the unknown – connecting processes to achieve specific goals, with the flexibility to adapt and grow.
The economic landscape has changed rapidly in recent months. Back in January, the challenge of managing growth in the face of the great resignation was top of the agenda for many businesses. Fast forward 10 months and they are contending with raging inflation and the knock-on effect on customer demand. In these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising many businesses are scaling back plans in the hope that 2023 will bring a brighter outlook.
But this is no time to procrastinate. With 15% of SMEs fearing closure or downsizing as a direct result of spiralling energy bills, cutting back is not the right approach. Global economic volatility is set to continue and succeeding in business – even surviving – will demand a proactive approach and rapid decision-making for the long term.
Companies must adapt to the new economic reality. And that starts with gaining a greater level of insight into customers and prospects; eliminating inefficient manual processes; and identifying effective engagement strategies for the post-COVID hybrid workforce.
Data Informed Decision Making
Opportunities for growth still exist. Indeed, the downturn in demand varies across industries: while manufacturing is generally being hit hard by spiking costs and supply chain disruption, businesses involved in electric car development, for example, are less affected. In response, businesses need to make best use of insights into both customers and prospects if they are to capitalise on opportunities and reduce wasted activity.
Which customers could be encouraged to invest further? Are any customers on the brink of failure and therefore at risk of missing invoices? Is enough attention paid to prospect buying behaviour to understand when best to engage in the new digital buying cycle? These insights are essential in adapting to the economic reality we now find ourselves in.
For those without a CRM system, key transactional information is often locked up in finance systems – meaning useful data on buying and payment history is not accessible to sales and marketing teams. While individual salespeople know the ins and outs of specific customer relationships, if a company lacks the tools and processes to capture that information, identifying both opportunities and problems is extremely difficult.
Empowering a Hybrid Sales Team
In addition, recruiting and retaining skilled staff remains a struggle for many companies. The huge rise in hybrid working may offer employees flexibility but it also brings a level of complexity when it comes to onboarding new recruits.
Businesses should establish effective processes to use vital customer and prospect data to drive revenue and inform decision-making. This includes setting up a customer risk process to improve how customer interactions are managed. Combining the insight within the CRM to colour code customers in terms of risk of leaving, together with a workflow on how to respond, will ensure sales teams know which customers to prioritise.
Introducing a CRM platform to record information is a good place to start. However, only when a company uses that information to better manage customers and opportunities, is transformation really achieved. For example, in today’s volatile market, businesses should include customer credit checks earlier in the sales process to avoid wasting time on potentially high-risk prospects.
Adapting To Change
The ability to adapt to these evolving challenges will provide companies with a competitive edge, and CRM brings the potential to both capture data and support effective, consistent processes. Those who recognise this will be able to respond quickly to the new economic volatility.
Agile businesses are using CRM to automate processes and improve efficiency – take the life insurance company that replaced manual processes with digital customer onboarding, online application forms and email reminders. Or the shutter company that upgraded its face-to-face sales model in favour of a faster, fully integrated online solution that is more efficient for customers and the business alike. By using digital transformation to develop a new sales and marketing playbook, companies are automating processes and equipping teams to take the right steps at the right time to capitalise on opportunities.
These businesses are also using their CRM data to assess performance: for example, to identify certain individuals within remote sales teams who are underperforming. In this case, early intervention can play a key role in safeguarding the sales pipeline and reducing the risk of losing a member of staff who may be struggling with working from home.
Selling is much easier in a strong market. With purse strings tightening, however, successful businesses need to outperform the competition and stand out. Right now, it is those companies that identify and respond to opportunities across the board that will both survive and thrive.
But to do this relies on immediate insight. In an unstable market, companies need to understand what’s working, where risk lies and where to find opportunities – all in real-time.
In the current climate, businesses, especially SMEs, need to be brave to survive. Now is not the time to wait and see what happens as this only increases the risk of failure. Businesses need the ability to stand out from the competition and this will only be achieved by investing in change.