How Sales Teams Can Successfully Navigate Today’s Environment

In a time when unpredictability is the new status quo, sales teams need a powerful planning tool that can help them course-correct with precision and speed.

Few businesses were prepared for the disruption that COVID-19 brought. And now, as we attempt to find a safe and sustainable cruising altitude amid the easing turbulence caused by the pandemic, many companies have acknowledged that their old ways of planning lack the speed and agility to anticipate and respond to swings in sales and demand. They’re finding the answer in modern planning—and the digital transformation it requires.

Even prior to the pandemic, businesses were moving from static, manual processes based on spreadsheets and legacy planning systems to nimble, cloud-based planning environments that help organizations operate with agility. The shift occurred as forward-focused leaders began seeking out ways to automate finance and operational planning. In fact, out of 225 CFOs surveyed for the Workday 2020 CFO Indicator Survey, 54% said they implemented some kind of digital transformation. Of those, 70% say they’re now better able to respond quickly to change.

Fewer functions have been as heavily and immediately impacted by pandemic disruptions as sales. With old market assumptions proving no longer reliable, sales operations managers now require more frequent budget and plan assessments and faster course-corrections, amplifying the need for working with real-time data. By automating previously manual tasks and feeding planning systems with real-time data from customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, agile sales organizations are better equipped to forecast demand for goods and services, and to more quickly and confidently adjust territories, anticipate regional spikes or slumps in demand, inform marketing campaigns and spend, assess rep performance, and set appropriate goals. 

Sales Plans That Roll Up Into a Larger Strategy

In uncertain times, the difference between traditional and modern planning becomes more evident. Traditional planning relied on finance manually stitching together siloed spreadsheets, chasing down the latest numbers, managing endless versions of plans and budgets, and publishing data that had already grown outdated. Plans and budgets were often built annually or at best quarterly—a poor fit for constantly changing business conditions. Modern planning, by contrast, is continuous and collaborative. With modern planning, no one piece exists in a vacuum; instead, each budget, forecast, what-if scenario, and report may be worked on individually but is interconnected in a system that shares a single source of the truth. When one piece is updated by any user across any department, that change automatically flows through and populates all related plans, budgets, and forecasts. Meanwhile, functional budgets all roll up to the larger corporate plan, so finance has a holistic view of the business at any given moment. In this always-on, data-driven planning environment, business stakeholders take an active role in planning because their plans are automatically informed by the same data they run their business on.

These capabilities provide the kind of flexibility businesses need in a disruptive environment. Consider the challenge of a retailer trying to forecast demand for its 50 brick-and-mortar locations as well as its e-commerce wholesale channels—along with the service levels for each product. Now imagine sorting all this out on a spreadsheet.

Fewer functions have been as heavily and immediately impacted by pandemic disruptions as sales.

Modern planning simplifies this by enabling finance and operations planners to build separate models for each location and channel. The ability to link those separate models into a single plan gives sales managers the ability to forecast demand at virtually any level, macro or micro. Managers can also look at demand both by store and by product—or any other dimension they believe is relevant to the forecast. So with modern, cloud-based planning, you can localize your ability to forecast and then connect individual forecasts into a comprehensive consensus demand plan (that, in turn, feeds into your overall business plan). They’re both separate and linked.

Now shift gears to the supply side. A manufacturer with an inventory of materials that’s needed to produce a finished good can forecast the quantities needed, which in turn generates a procurement plan that can be handed off directly to the procurement team. That information then feeds into production plans, which will ultimately impact demand and sales forecasts. If supply chain problems arise or demand spikes for that product, the team has what it needs to make adjustments immediately and pivot successfully. That’s what a comprehensive, interconnected environment looks like.

Plan Thoughtfully, Pivot Quickly

In a time when unpredictability is the new status quo, sales teams need a powerful planning tool that can help them future-proof their plans and course-correct with precision and speed. The capabilities of modern planning—to harness companywide data, isolate performance metrics in easy-to-digest dashboards, or drill down to a specific product—equip decision-makers to simultaneously respond and recover, even as demand and sales shocks continue.

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