If we learned one thing from the pandemic, it was the word pivot. Companies had to switch strategies, delivery models, and how they worked almost overnight. Can this more iterative approach to growth planning serve us in times of economic volatility?

Having an agile but planful approach to growth is vital, and there are three areas that leaders should prioritize getting right in their strategy this year.

If we learned one thing from the pandemic, it was the word pivot. Companies had to switch strategies, delivery models, and how they worked almost overnight. Can this more iterative approach to growth planning serve us in times of economic volatility?

Having an agile but planful approach to growth is vital, and there are three areas that leaders should prioritize getting right in their strategy this year.

Priority 1 – Obsessive Sales Focus

Your customers’ motivations and buying processes have changed, and with the overabundance of negative news, there is more than just your competitor’s message to contend with in the sales process. B2B decision-makers use more channels than ever to interact with potential vendors making it difficult to deliver a more convenient and personalized experience at every touch point online and offline. A more focused and tech-enabled sales strategy is imperative to remain competitive today.

  • Know Why People Buy – Do the work (aka talk to customers) to develop buyer personas profiles properly so you know your target prospects’ buying triggers, preferences, and barriers.
  • Define Your Value Proposition – Develop an easy-to-understand and differentiated reason why a customer should buy from you over your competition.
  • Create an Ideal Customer Profile – What characteristics are the same across all your best and most profitable customer relationships? Consider revenue, industry, buyer role, and employee headcount to determine the profile data.
  • Build a Target List – Less is more. If you don’t have an infinite budget, you must focus on a list of prospects that fit your ideal customer traits in your outbound sales efforts.
  • Prepare – Lean on data and research to determine what is going on in your prospect’s market and where they might be emotionally. Then prepare to instill confidence and trust that your product or solution can help ease their pain or help them succeed.
  • Post Close – Nurture and grow the relationship by creating an intentional and exceptional client experience that keeps them loyal and happy.

Priority 2 – Think Long-term Talent Strategy

Attracting and retaining top talent has been extremely challenging over the past few years, forcing businesses to invest heavily in rethinking their workplace cultures, benefits, and pay and how they communicate that value to the marketplace. According to a Harris survey commissioned by Glassdoor, companies from 1-3,500 workers spend, on average, $129,000 annually on employment brand-building activities. With low unemployment and scarcity of hourly workforce, the current hiring climate is confusing for employers. How should businesses approach talent communication strategies this year, with massive layoffs grabbing headlines and a looming recession? While the short answer is, it depends, there are several ways to ensure you remain ready to compete for talent even if you are planning hiring freezes or reducing staff.

  • Retention Communication Plans – Companies often see more employees leave when concerned about job security. Create an internal communication plan to raise morale and keep high-performing talent engaged and happy.
  • Make Wish List Hires – When the economy is in flux, more talent is on the market. Companies may find the best talent is suddenly available. Think about making investment hires focused on long-term strategic goals.
  • Cut Underperforming Staff – Getting the right people in the right seats is critical to a company’s performance period. While it sounds harsh, companies that thrived during past recessions employed a “progressive focus.” They were highly selective about making staff reductions which also supported their ability to make investment hires.
  • Reskilling or Upskilling – Training your existing employees to learn new skills or take on new challenges is often more affordable than hiring new talent. And learning and development opportunities are a top reasons why people stay engaged—a true win-win for any organization.
  • Keep Building Your Employment Brand – All brand building takes time. If you take your foot off the gas, all that money and time you invested takes time to build back.
  • Consider Outsourcing – Cut or reduce business expenses by looking at fractional staffing options. Outsourcing accounting, recruiting, marketing, and other essential business functions can be
    more cost-effective than keeping these roles internally. It can provide you access to more specialized skill sets, increase flexibility to meet changing business conditions, and accelerate business performance.
  • Nothing lasts forever – Typical hiring freezes last between three to six months. You should be ready with a pipeline of candidates to fill open jobs.

Priority 3 – Invest in Tech Enablement and Digital Transformation

Digital transformation and technology enablement are industry buzzwords that can sometimes feel daunting but simply mean the strategic application of technology to improve or optimize business results. For example, think about how we now use Zoom instead of in-person meetings. That is one recent example of how we have enabled the sales process with a technology solution. Companies that invest in an annual plan to optimize their financial, human resource, operations, sales, and marketing processes through technology will be able to deliver faster and meet the growing demands of customers and employees. If your business is a digital dinosaur, it is critical to develop a plan before you become extinct. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Perform a Gap Analysis: Examine each of the critical functions of your business and consider where technology could create more efficiencies, reduce risk or human errors and improve performance. For example, consider ideas like a new candidate management system to improve the hiring process, e-Commerce to enhance the customer buying experience, or adding ACH payment processing to reduce risk and help you get paid faster.
  • Use Collaboration Applications: Communication tools like Slack and Zoom and online document-sharing solutions like Google Docs allow people to work together efficiently on essential documents and projects despite being miles apart. Digital asset management solutions can also provide a way to access brand-approved files or items like proposals or corporate presentations without running the risk of your employees taking the time or liberty with your brand to create
    their own.
  • Consider Inventory, eCommerce, and Project Management Solutions: If you sell a product automating inventory management and selling online are two ways to optimize your operations and sales process. These investments can drastically reduce the cost of sales and customer service by managing your internal overhead and allowing customers the ability to buy anytime. Project management solutions serve a similar function for service businesses, optimizing internal and external communications and improving workflow.
  • Website as a Product – Websites are a vital part of the sales and hiring process. However, like a product, they need to be adjusted based on user feedback and usage data to stay relevant and provide ongoing value to visitors. Start thinking of your website as a growth driver and reflection of your company’s innovation and market differentiation instead of a one-time investment.
  • Integrations and Platform Upgrades: Upgrading and integrating legacy systems can improve your business’s performance and reduce risk. When systems are integrated, you minimize data loss, improve data hygiene, and can keep a better pulse on your sales, recruiting, and operational performance. Your risk can be significant if you are running legacy software and it is no longer supported or upgraded by the platform or developer community. While some pose only performance risk, others lead to system failure or cyber security risk that can be significantly greater than the investment to upgrade. Software has a shelf-life; you need to stay abreast of the versions you are running and plan for minor and major updates.

The future of your business is in your hands. As leaders, while we can’t control broader factors that impact our economy, it’s our responsibility to evaluate our data and current state and create a plan to improve the health of our companies.

Knowledge is a powerful tool in your business strategy, but you don’t have to go it alone.

Growth is a choice, so if you still need to figure out where to start and what to invest in this year, let’s connect!

Kathy Steele


Meet The Author

I am passionate about people, obsessed with helping businesses grow, and love to support the underdog cause in my community. As a business leader, I'm an educated risk-taker who persevered through challenging economic conditions and a business divorce to be a two-time honoree on Inc. Magazines Annual List of America's Fastest-Growing Private Companies.

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