Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

The New Sales World part 1: Preparing for the Next Normal

October 14, 2020

It’s now clear that COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time – at the very least until there’s a working vaccine. It’s the new normal, and there’s no getting away from that. But what does the “next normal” look like for business leaders and their sales teams? How can they move beyond survival mode and learn to thrive in this new environment?

These are big questions that I’ll be exploring over the course of this three-part series. But first let me make one thing clear: business leaders were absolutely right to focus on continuity during the early stages of the pandemic. They needed to keep the lights on and ensure their people could continue to work, so they reached for whatever tools were to hand. But more than six months on, it’s now time for them to focus on the “important” rather than the “urgent”.

That’s not an easy shift to make. Business leaders will need to look at the current situation, assess where they want to end up two or three years from now, and prepare their company for the journey to get there. Yet for the last six months they’ve been stuck in triage mode. The questions they’ve been asking themselves are “How do I keep my business going?” or “How do I pay my vendors and partners?” In other words, they’ve been reeling from the punches of the pandemic.

However, it’s now essential that they dust themselves off and start asking new questions like: “What is my strategy for equipping my workforce for a future mixture of remote and office working?” and “How can I make my company the most successful company possible?” They may not feel they have all the information they need to answer them all today. But the important thing is that they have enough.

Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Operation Desert Storm, talks about the 40-70 rule of decision-making – i.e. that leaders should take a decision when they have 40-70% of the information required for taking it. In short, you need enough insight into a situation to know the general direction of travel. And there’s nothing to stop you course adjusting once you start heading in that direction. But if you fail to take action – especially when others are already doing so – you could end up in a heap of trouble.

In many ways, this kind of strategic leadership is harder than simply taking care of your team and dealing with the day-to-day noise. But it’s a challenge that no business leader can afford to ignore.

It’s vital that they take the time to reflect, reassess and reinvent how they do things. They need to take stock, to look back over this incredibly eventful year and ask whether the relationships forged at the beginning of the pandemic will help their business to succeed in future. Because when all of us look back on this period five years from now, I believe we’ll see that the most successful businesses were those whose leadership teams were able to take a step back, understand the dynamics of their market, and focus on the big picture rather than triage.

Part of this bigger picture approach involves assessing the solutions you use to collaborate not just internally, but externally with vendors, partners and clients. These relationships are the lifeblood of any sales operation, and the best way to nurture and support them is with a collaboration platform, not just a meetings tool. The latter are designed around the concept of communicating inside a company. They allow you to collaborate and share data with your colleagues, but not necessarily with partners outside of it. And that’s only going to hold you back as we move into the next normal.

COVID-19 has changed how people communicate throughout the supply chain – including all the way down to your sales leads and customers. Your collaboration tools need to work seamlessly across that chain, as well as internally across your own employees. In effect, you need to be able to collaborate with your partners and customers in the same way as with your remote workers.

Thanks to Cisco’s long-term focus on multi-company collaboration, that’s one of the key strategic advantages that Webex provides. Our platform combines calling, video, collaboration, networking expertise, devices and security in one package, allowing you to work seamlessly with people both inside and outside of your organisation. So regardless of whether your employees, partners and customers are at home, in the office or somewhere else entirely, they can collaborate effectively without any risk to the security of your business.

Thousands of small and medium businesses, as well as some of the largest companies in the world, are already benefiting from this unified approach to collaboration. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve also welcomed countless new customers onto our platform through our free trial programme. As they’ve developed their unified communications strategies, many of these new customers have converted to our paid offering to ensure they have ongoing access to the tools they need to remain resilient in the years ahead.

Of course, nobody knows exactly what the future holds. But one thing we can say for certain is that pre-pandemic ways of working are unlikely to return. If you’re not equipped for this next normal, it’s time to reassess your current relationships and solutions and make the changes that will support rich collaboration with your customers and partners – even though you might only have 40-70% of the information on the direction of travel for your business or industry. Because ultimately, that’s all the information you need to make the decisions that will set you up for future success.

To find out more about Webex and sign-up for a free 90-day trial, visit:

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