It's a new year, but 2021 – from an economic perspective – is likely to be almost as hectic and uncertain as 2020. With that in mind, it's critical that sales managers take the time to make concrete plans for the year ahead. This means taking time to think about the way things are now, while also looking forward to how things might change over the next few years.

Take the following actions to increase your chances of sales success in 2021 and beyond:

1.Craft a detailed plan for wins throughout the year.

Take a good hard look at where your best opportunities lie, for starters. Are they in whitespaces where you can upsell to current customers or bring former clients back on board? Do certain high-profile logo accounts or other high-value prospects seem like they're in reach? Which trends – in your industry or on a wider economic or social level – are affecting your sales forecast?

Consider these examples:

  • If any of your offered products or services are accessible from (or primarily used in) the home, 2021 could be a good year for sales. With COVID-19 still raging in many parts of the world, you'll want to highlight the ability to use these tools remotely in your marketing and sales content.
  • Logo accounts that have lost ground as a result of the past year's financial upheaval might be more in reach than ever before.
  • Don't stay focused on the short-term implications of the pandemic. Look to the future, when geographical markets or industries that aren't open now will be again. Keep this in mind when mapping territories throughout the year.

2.Focus on digital.

The switch to all-digital/all-remote sales operations may have been forced on you by the pandemic. But a shift toward digitization of sales processes and the customer journey began well before the COVID-19 outbreak. There's no reason to think that trend will stop on a dime or reverse when the novel coronavirus stops being an imminent threat.

Boosting your digital investment will be useful in numerous ways. Social media platforms and other tools that drive engagement with customers are essential. Automating as many routine tasks as possible, so that reps can focus mostly on actual sales, is also critical.

Tools like eSpatial, which improve territory planning while also allowing for better communication between reps and managers, offer clear benefits in an increasingly digital world.

3.But don't discount the importance of face-to-face selling.

Many of the digital investments you make now will continue to pay off in the future, particularly tools that help improve sales productivity. However, many people are starting to feel the limitations of making connections digitally. While digital will continue to play a leading role, don't discount the impact of building face-to-face connections with important clients.

If adding back some in-person sales meetings is part of your future strategy, keep that in mind when planning things like sales territories. Considering geography while your team is still remote can help smooth out their future return to the field.

4.Sales time is your most valuable time - maximize it at all costs.

Maybe you've more or less stuck to the same sales process for a long time and have become set in your ways. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the dawn of a new year is an ideal occasion to revisit it.

Map out your process from start to finish and look at which aspects of it take the most time. If there's anything time-consuming that doesn't directly benefit sales – examples include data entry, internal meetings and so on – make a commitment to reduce or eliminate that time spend. This could be anything from cutting the length of team meetings in half to adopting a newer, more efficient sales CRM and other tools that speed up the process.

5.Hold weekly sales reviews.

As a sales manager, you know better than anyone how extensive your responsibilities are. You're responsible for everything from meetings and returning emails or phone calls to strategic planning and rep supervision.

While it's important to get rid of unnecessary meetings, there's one you should maintain: once-a-week reviews of the team's status and progress. Ideally, this should be a one- or two-hour process. Two hours might sound long given what we said about avoiding time-wasters, but if you've eliminated other inessential meetings, finding time shouldn't be an issue.

These reviews should always have an agenda. Don't freestyle! Start by summarizing recent wins, then move on to looking at your team-wide goals and the individual priorities of each rep. Close the meeting out with a look at challenges team members are facing and brainstorm solutions (or at least workarounds).

6.Be data-driven.

Almost all aspects of sales can be measured with data. If there are any parts of the process you aren't quantifying, change that ASAP.

It's especially important to put together heatmaps – identifying not just hot spots of sales activity, but also areas of untapped potential. Dig into how sales territories are aligned and distributed among reps, so that your sellers can make the most of the opportunities assigned to them. With the territory optimization features in the eSpatial platform, putting your data to good use is a cinch.