Category Archives: Uncategorized

COVID-19: The new world of B2B sales

With unprecedented speed and scale, the COVID-19 outbreak has upended B2B salesforces across the world. Rather than viewing these new challenging times through the lens of adversity, companies are pivoting fast and creating opportunities out of uncertainty.

In the short term, they should turn to the latest innovations to rebound from the crisis smarter, better and stronger. Empowered by the new dynamics virtual selling is creating in their workforces, sales leaders are increasingly leaning on emerging technologies. This will help them remain relevant in a rapidly shifting market while maintaining critical business continuity.

Without a doubt, buyer priorities are evolving. When the pandemic eventually subsides, B2B selling will be changed. To survive and thrive over the long term, organizations should have to fundamentally reinvent the way their B2B salesforces interact with customers.

The traditional ways of selling are giving way to innovative approaches that will alter the way we communicate and do business—often for the better.

Preparing for the next

The time to act in bold new ways is now. To best prepare for the immediate and long-lasting effects of COVID-19, business leaders must adapt and rise to mounting challenges quickly. It’s time to embrace the unpredictable. Enterprises must take strategic steps to combat the economic consequences of the crisis, successfully capture market share and keep pace with constantly shifting customer demand.

To help capture new opportunities, consider these recommended five powerful B2B sales dynamics:

  1. Re-Discover Your Customer The leaders of tomorrow must pioneer new ways of hearing and understanding customer needs while staying close now and in the future as their market and needs change. To continuously nurture real-time customer visibility, proactively reach out with empathetic messaging, enhance selling approaches with AI-powered tools and deepen sales integration to nurture opportunities at scale.
  2. Re-Focus the Salesforce To reinvigorate the new sales journey and double-down on high-value opportunities, look beyond historical leads. Source new ones instead from your most promising social media exchanges, referrals from existing customers and service exchanges. Rewrite your sales playbook, carving out a competitive advantage by elevating the core sales interaction moments that matter. Train your sales teams on the latest and most innovative digital and virtual deal execution methods and tools.
  3. Re-Imagine the Offer Be open to embracing new narratives, approaches and terms. Reposition existing product and service offers to exceed your customers’ unmet needs in real-time. This requires continuous use of emerging customer data sources and predictive AI tools that uncover propensity-to-buy shifts. Never stop innovating, testing and refining your approach as you go.
  4. Re-Set Your Sales Approach Focus sellers on the highest-value and highest-probability opportunities and activities. These include cross-selling, upselling and customer retention strategies. To encourage sales teams to focus on the top customers and new product bundles, double-down on incentives and discounting policies. Go a step further and revisit your existing channel mix in ways that make it easy to shift targeted customers to a direct model.
  5. Re-Enable Your Sales Teams Make it fast, focused and easy for your team to unlock the potential of marketing, sales and service platforms. Putting the right data-driven tools in their hands can help them capture a 360-degree view of your customers—and act fast and effectively on crucial opportunities. At the same time, these innovations can allow sales account teams and leadership to collaborate seamlessly together—and ultimately win.

Agility will be even more important in the new economic landscape

Your business will need to adapt to the new normal as the Canadian economy gradually reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After managing your business through the lockdown and planning for the recovery, you are most likely going to be doing business in a changed landscape.

Plans and forecasts that you have already made likely won’t apply for the long run anymore. Planning cycles will require speed because the future is still blurry and remains uncertain in these new conditions.

Implementing change as the recovery progresses

Volatility will be part of the new normal for a while, as industry conditions and ways of doing things still need to settle down.

There will be circumstances that you can’t control, such as any government regulations dealing with COVID-19 that may become the new norm, and you will need to quickly adapt your business to them.

Consumer sentiment and expectations may also be different as businesses reopen and, again, you will need to adapt to them.

Your planning will have multiple iterations and will be evolving based on situations that aren’t static.

Meet any challenges and find opportunities

How will you get to this “new normal?”

There are three key steps for your business to take to adapt to the situation.

1. Finish your recovery plan

You will need to create a detailed plan to return your business to scale quickly. Based on what you now know about your market, ramp your business back up.

Everything might still be bit blurry as you do this. You may not have a clear sight right away, but the important thing is to ramp it up.

You will also need to return your employees safely to work, either from working at home or rehiring them, based on public health guidelines.

You will also need to take any necessary steps to ensure that your business is financially as sustainable as possible.

2. Adapt and pivot your business:

There are important questions to answer: What do your customers want now and can you give it to them?

Do you understand how the consumer market has changed and can you satisfy your clients’ needs?

You will need to be agile enough to adapt your business to keep your market share and increase it if you can.

If you aren’t able to adapt, your future may be uncertain.

3. Put your plan into action

While you will be introducing change into your business due to COVID-19, it’s important to understand any regulatory changes that will apply to your business and that they are expected to be maintained in the future.

As you put your plan into action, you will also need to understand any permanent shifts in your industry and how the competitive landscape may have changed.

Businesses trying to keep their current customers will need to adapt to capture new ones in a changed consumer and economic landscape.

Agility and fluidity will be watch words for businesses

Your business will likely be operating in a fluid situation for some time. You need to make sure you have taken the right steps to flourish in this new normal. Make sure your planning cycles are constantly being iterated to capture the latest changes in your environment.

These are 6 employee needs that companies need to serve

Research on conflict analysis tends to frame issues from a human needs perspective. That’s because the purpose is to examine how systems serve or impede the basic needs of the people who live within them.

The same framework applies to business organizations. As leaders, you need to look at the fundamental psychological needs of your employees. When your company satisfies your workers’ needs at work, they’re more likely to be engaged, productive, healthy, and loyal. However, when you fail to meet the needs of your workers, you’ll see them exhibit low morale and high turnover.

1. VALUE

An easy way to understand the universal need for value is to remember that everyone needs to feel like they matter. Think about all the “systems of life” that you belong to—family,
local community, or the workplace. To belong and thrive in these communities, you need to feel heard.

We all want to know that others respect us as human beings, no matter our environment. Workers need to feel like the company cares about them as humans and as employees. They can do this by giving workers some voice or impact over their work-life and by rewarding or recognizing them for jobs well done. So if you’re a business owner or organizational leader, ask yourself, do your workers feel they matter to the company? Are systems and processes set up to ensure employees have a voice and understand how much the company values and respects them?

2. COMPETENCE

All employees who value their jobs need to know that they can do their jobs well, and that the company will recognize them for doing so.

If an employee feels incompetent at her job and doesn’t believe she can learn or achieve what the job demands, she will inevitably feel dissatisfied. The more senior one is at their job, the more competent they will feel. Workers must have a sense that they can excel at their jobs, and that progress will lead to greater autonomy.

To serve your workers’ need for competence, you need to put the right person in the proper role and make sure that they’re clear on what their role entails and requires. It’s also crucial that you give them the tools to meet and exceed expectations, so that they can execute with autonomy.

3. GOAL ACHIEVEMENT

Although the practice of mindfulness and living in the “now” has proven quite a vital practice, human beings are forward-thinking. We often have goals we hope to achieve in our personal and professional lives. If you want your employees to stay with your company, they need to understand how their role enables them to make progress in these goals. Some individuals are quite happy in their current position and would be satisfied staying there for the next 20 years, assuming it will help them pay off their mortgages and take that ultimate family vacation. Others will want to move up professionally and will need a clear, reasonable path to making Vice President someday.

Whatever the ultimate goals are for each person, you can serve the need for goal achievement by giving each worker a clear opportunity to accomplish both short- and long-term goals. Without this clarity, an employee will inevitably be looking around for other opportunities that align with their needs.

4. STIMULATION

In some cultures, people don’t view work as something that is supposed to be stimulating. As long as the job provides steady pay and sufficient attention to basic human needs, some workers are quite satisfied. On the contrary, others expect to be challenged and engaged by the work they perform.

As an organizational leader, you can serve this need by placing the right individuals in the right positions, consistently adding to their competencies, and providing new learning and growth opportunities. If you are in a relatively young industry with a relatively young workforce, assess whether you have systems in place to track how stimulated workers feel, what they’d like to learn, and when they’re ready for the next challenge.

5. FREEDOM & FLEXIBILITY

More and more companies now are catering to new expectations by toting remote work flexibility. Gone is the clock-in, clock-out mentality—companies now measure workers’ performance by output and productivity. Allowing employees to work where, when, and how they would like serves a growing need for freedom and flexibility, and ultimately for work-life balance.

6. VISION ALIGNMENT

In other words, does the higher purpose of the company serve or support the employee’s deeper purpose? Employees who find meaning in their work lives will ultimately require that they are spending their time helping a company whose mission they believe in.

Start by making your company’s vision or mission explicit, and when it comes to hiring, make sure that you hire individuals who align with that mission. Assess your hiring systems—are they currently set up to ensure that individuals understand how the company’s vision aligns with their own?

Workforce culture can truly make or break a company. That’s why it’s essential to have systems in place that facilitates the needs of your employees. It’s not enough to give your workers a paycheck—if you neglect to develop these systems, your company’s fundamental need for a consistent workforce will inevitably suffer.

The Future of Government Funding:The Public Promise Will Change

I have recently read the Mercer white paper regarding the future of the Canadian healthcare system and here is my summary of what to expect over the next few decades and it’s effect on employee benefits. Healthcare spending approaches 50% of some provinces’ total budgets, something must change. The system has changed little in the past 50 years. Add in the cost pressures from an ageing population and government will be forced to reduce coverage, extend wait times and remove the “free” aspect of universal care. What can employers do to get ahead of the coming challenges? No one knows what the healthcare landscape will look like by 2025, but you can be assured that it will cost more. Understand the interplay between your private plan and the public system ad begin internal discussions to get out front of the pending of the pending ‘train wreck”.Employers will need to make decisions in terms of picking up some elements that the government no longer covers. If not mandated, do you step in and fund the gap? Do you cost-share with your employees? When the public plan shrinks, make certain that your plan doesn’t include provisions to automatically pick up the difference. You might elect to do so, but protect your plan by ensuring the correct wording that clearly stipulates responsibilities from all parties. There are many specialty vendors and advisors that have created niche products and services that help businesses save money, improve the quality of care and enhance patient/user experience. Their numbers and expertise will increase exponentially over the coming years, providing new technology, thinking and improved client service.

Cyber Threats and What Small Business Can Do About It

I recently attended a event put on by our non-profit organization where one of the presenters was a startup company that provides a software service that helps provide protection for small business from cyber attacks against their IP, data and systems. I can speak from personal experience a little more than a year ago, unbeknownst to me some ransomware downloaded on itself through one of my programs and it took over my computer and effectively made it impossible for me to operate until I agreed to pay the author of the program a significant amount of money to remove the ransomware. I am somewhat fortunate as my son works in network security and after making a panicked call to him, he accessed my computer and then suggested I contact a computer in the US that installs and firewalls and deals with cyber breaches and threats. In the end I lost a day of productivity while the US company identified the ransomware, and cleaned out my registry and installed the necessary additional layer of protection I needed to avoid further attacks. They also shared information about practices I should adopt going forward to deter further attacks. The lesson I learned at the time is not to take for granted the security of my data. There are a great deal of resources available to help you learn the risks that are out there. In addition there are now some great companies that have developed some great software for SME’s that can help protect your precious company IP, and data. Believe me speaking from personal experience, it is worth your time and expense. Hit me offline and I will share some valuable links with you.

Things I Have Learned During The Pandemic

Since the pandemic started nearly a year ago I have come to the realization that in spite of all the doom and gloom we hear every day in the media that life goes on for most of us in a somewhat altered state. So what have I observed? For some sectors this has been been disastrous and others this has been a boom. Technology has allowed many of us to continue our business activity although now we work remotely from home offices. I know in talking with other business people some are feeling a sense of isolation from the world. My daughter who works in marketing and sales was expressing frustration in not being able to meet face-to-face with her clients and just plain burnt-out from spending 7-8 hours a day standing in front of a screen talking into a camera. I understand her frustration, but on the flip side I asked her how she would feel about having only a phone and fax machine to accomplish her daily objectives, that was our reality only 20 years ago, so technology has eased some of the communication glitches during this pandemic. The other thing I have noted is in my frequent virtual meetings with C-Level managers in their home offices is that they appeared to be more open and relaxed than in a typical office setting. I find the conversation and information flows more easily than before, perhaps because we are all going through these trying and difficult times together. One other thing that the pandemic has made me realize that there has to be a seismic shift in certain kinds of businesses going forward if they are to survive in the future. For example restaurants, bars, live entertainment, and retail have to re-imagine how they will deliver their product to consumers in post pandemic society as we are likely to change the way we live, work and interact after this virus subsides and we wait for the next one make its appearance.

Drug plan lessons from the U.S.

This article was from coverage of the Benefits Canada Face-to-Face: Drug Plan Management Forum, held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Magna International Inc., a global vehicle part manufacturer and assembler with a workforce of 104,000, has a decentralized management structure that allows every division to run as a separate entity, said Arthur Fabbro, the organization’s director of total compensation.

Typically, drug plans in the organization’s U.S. divisions have a three-tier design comprising generic drugs, preferred brands and non-preferred brands.

In Canada, a two-tiered system—formulary and non-formulary drugs—prevails. Mail-order pharmacy, in its infancy in Canada, “plays a huge role in containing costs in U.S. plans.”

According to Fabbro, Canadian drug plan providers might also learn from these common U.S. practices:

adjudicating pharmacy claims;

conducting safety checks and drug utilization reviews;

negotiating preferred price and rebate arrangements with drug manufacturers;

negotiating preferred pricing with retail pharmacies; and

conducting regular reviews to discuss trends, explore and implement plan design strategies, and develop clinical programs.

Future plan design modifications may include out-of-pocket caps, electronic claims submission and automatic generic substitution. “If we could raise generic substitution by just 5%, we could cut major costs,” said Fabbro, who also gave the thumbs-up to clinical and utilization management programs. “These programs hone in on where the costs are hitting our plans,” he said, “and there’s no question they lead to more cost-effective outcomes.”

Custom Group Benefits Plans: Why They’re Not Just for Big Business

I am often surprised by how many companies and advisers believe that a customized group plan is beyond the reach of small business. While this may have been true many years ago, it’s certainly no longer the case.

To understand why, we need to go back in time.

Clearly, administering group benefits plans is a computation intensive activity. Imagine tracking every plan parameter, every claim and every payment for thousands of employees and companies. Add to that the associated regulatory requirements to maintain records and comply with audits and we start to understand the complexities. As a result, group benefits plans could only feasibly be administered by large insurers with entire rooms filled with computing machines or large employers with the resources to manage their own plan.

Consequently, only very large companies could afford to build and administer customized plans for their business. Smaller companies had little flexibility and little choice in terms of plan design. The only options were to choose from commoditized plans offered by the large traditional insurance companies. It was an acceptable solution, but not the best solution for a small business.

But advancements in technology allowed a new breed of group insurance administrators to emerge. They are the Third Party Administrators (TPAs) who began offering third party Administration Services Only (ASO) Plans.

I have built my business to be lean, nimble and flexible to serve small business well. Successful companies with under 100 employees can finally have access to affordable customized employee benefits plans strategically designed for their business. I offer a level of service and flexibility once exclusively enjoyed by larger businesses.

Virtual Meetings our New Reality

So for the year I have been forced by the pandemic to change the way I interact with the people in my life both professionally and personally. My new reality and I am certain, yours is using one of the many platforms available to meet virtually. Though not always ideal they still allow us to communicate, interact and even conduct business. In talking with some of my business colleagues some of them feel that virtual meetings allow them to be more productive and spend less time in their vehicles tied up in traffic jams trying to get from meeting to meeting. Others complain that virtual meetings don’t allow them to read body language and facial expressions that a face-to-face meeting does. Personally I find that although there are certain drawbacks like screens freezing from time to time, that for the most part I have had productive meetings using platforms like Zoom or Webex. I also noted that many people I have encountered on these virtual meetings appear to be more relaxed and open in conversation. In addition they have conveyed to me that for the most part they have been able to continue their business activities using virtual meetings. Looking back when this technology didn’t exist, business would have been in an even more difficult place than we are currently experiencing which is pretty dire. There are no perfect solutions, but virtual meetings have been for the most part been one of the better innovations of the past decade.

Overcoming Obstacles In Times of Upheaval

 

I am not surprised by our current circumstance of living and working in the midst of a global pandemic the warnings had been coming from scientists for years. What has been surprising to me has been the resilience, tenacity and creativity of many of the business people I have been speaking with over the past several months since COVID 19 has started. Yes the toll on business and lives has been substantial and it will take a great deal of time to recover from this, but we are learning new ways to conduct business and interact with one another. I am struck with the positive attitude and willingness of people I interact with to find ways to negotiate their way through a complex and difficult and for most of us a new reality. For me I have been working from a home office for more than two decades so there was no big adjustment for me on that front. The thing that bothers me the most in the current state of affairs is the lack of direct human contact. Platforms like Zoom meeting and Google Hangouts are a great alternative and allow one to conduct meetings and get much done without the hassle of traffic jams, but I miss the face to face contact. That being said I am adapting to doing business in the virtual and I am a grateful for the digital platforms and programs that allow us to continue to operate our businesses in spite of a serious and sometime deadly virus. I am struck by the ingenuity and creativity I am witnessing daily as I engage in stimulating conversations with business leaders and founders.