The big question in selling for me has been: How will 2022 be different from 2021? I have spent a lot of time asking that question of company CEOs and speaking with economists and strategy specialists. Speaking with the people who are ‘’paid to know’’ about the unknowable is actually kind of fun. Everyone gets to play “pretend”, as we did as kids.
Though I may not be ‘’paid to know’’ I don’t have to pretend I don’t have more data and analysis than the average person, and I am about to share it with you now:
The Market Pressures
- Supply Chain Management (SCM)-constrained businesses will see a loosening of the pinch over the course of the second quarter. This may cause an easing of material pricing for those in construction and manufacturing. Port throughput will increase. (Not a well-known fact – the issues of SCM are driven more by the lack of 60,000 truck drivers because of labor and training than it is because of port throughput.)
- As truck traffic continues to be the constraint, companies are exploring intermodal more aggressively to get materials closer to customers. An increase of shipping available by plane is happening because of seasonal reductions in volume, (Christmas is over). In the end, shipping costs will be slowly reducing over the course of 2022, allowing companies who need materials to be more competitive on pricing when necessary.
- Labor – Here’s the settling out of the labor issues. The market is shifting to a 10% at home full time labor force, 40% hybrid and 50% at office workers. I’ll discuss impacts below.
- Property owners are not in free-fall…yet. There are many options being explored for the use of commercial and retail buildings. These issues have not been solved, but the creative approaches are being considered. This means more opportunities in the short- term for all professional services supporting design, architecture, sub-contractors and CMS (Contract Management Services). Construction is not expected to see a significant reduction until 2023 and the projections are murky.
- China – Who really knows, right? Their manufacturing constraints have occurred because of the “zero-tolerance” policy toward COVID. Simply put, if a city or larger community experiences one case of COVID, that area goes lockdown dark for a period, weeks. Depending on where the case is found, that impacts manufacturing delays. It also impacts shipping. In addition, there has been a diversion of exports to interior use as the country deals with its own supply issues. Finally, there is now a high rate of concern on China’s economic stability. The Chinese have been running at practically double-digit GDP growth for years. This growth has been in part fueled by the Chinese government infusing cash. The recent real-estate crash is a crack in the armor of a more fragile economy than has been shown in the past. Reliance on China for materials, components and manufacturing will require vigilance.
Here’s what we are advising companies to do –
1) Focus on the Buyers’ Labor Problems
Buying processes dictate sales processes, not the other way around. If your buyers are not in the office, then your salespeople must change the way they sell to them. Though companies and salespeople are looking forward to being in front of current customers and prospects, this becomes more challenging if the people you want to meet with are working from home. This will change the buying process which changes the selling process. Salespeople’s frequent flyer miles will drop because of these changes too!
2) Your Labor Problems
Buyers lost people. Buyers have let people work from home and move to new places to work from home because workers do not need to be in the corporate offices. So have you. It was predicted back in 2018—before the pandemic—that there would be a constriction in the need for outside salespeople by 22% by 2025. That has accelerated. That reduction is already upon us. That means you not only have fewer outside salespeople, you need fewer too. Your sales processes need to change to leverage inside account managers and salespeople, rather than outside salespeople. This is twice as important for your needed subject matter experts.
3) Who Is Buying
Purchasing control is moving slowly back to original patterns, albeit with fewer people, so there are additional delays in the purchase cycle. The exception is that if something is an emergency or has organizational urgency, then the purchases have never been faster. This translates into the importance of reaching the highest level as fast as possible rather than working your way up the organization through “prove and grow” strategies. This has always been true. The difference now is that the speed is different: it is very fast on big buys, and slower on average-sized deals.
4) Protect Your Base
The wolves are coming out to hunt. Your competitors are looking for ways to take your business and they are prepared to make big claims and discount even bigger. Put a full-on press to connect with customers. Double touch, pre-emptive contract extensions on current agreements. Expand your contacts. The market pressures presented earlier will make your competitors desperate and they could be willing to take break-even agreements just to keep the lights on.
5) Be the Wolf
There are vulnerable accounts in your market as your competitors’ service and delivery suffer. This opens a door for active selling. Your company cannot wait until everything gets better to begin selling aggressively. Prospects will need you to sell using a confidence-building process. They are fearful that switching to you will be just more of the disappointments of their current provider. You can win if you have a stage-gate process for leveraging your subject matter experts in the process to take away that fear.
I will close with this – 2022 is going to be much better than 2021. More open communication channels, different problems and access, giving companies prepared to sell a real advantage.
Carajane and I are so grateful for you. Thank you for being our friends, colleagues and conspirators in game of growing quickly through big sales.
Best wishes on all your biggest sales!
Carajane and Tom
PS we just rebranded and launched some great new programs! Check it out here: https://www.huntbigsales.com
PPS if you are facing a challenging sales situation and need our help, don’t hesitate to reach out.