5 Tips to Prepare for the Recovery

Every day, the whispers about a nascent economic recovery get a little louder. With home sales increasing, corporate profits stabilizing, unemployment leveling off, the stock market picking up steam--is it possible that we have weathered the worst of the storm? While there is no doubt that times will remain tough for a while, smart business leaders are beginning to think about what will come next, and how to be ready to make the most of it.

Below are five tips to help you prepare for 2010:

Reassess the competitive landscape: Identify which of your competitors are still operating and if they are, find out if they have shifted their focus. This will aid in the discovery of potential sales prospects who may now be in need of your products or services.

Taking a new look at your competitive environment can help you refine your sales strategy in a way that takes advantage of subtle shifts. Redefine your prospect lists and marketing message accordingly to target new customers and catch the upswing as sales begin to pick up. Monitor industry news and sales data carefully during the first half of 2010 to identify the most promising opportunities that lagging competitors may have left behind.

Target growth industries: Branch outside your own playing field to find out which industries are likely to recover first. Moreover, take note of those that have access to government stimulus resources. You may have offers that appeal to potential customers in these new industries.

Prioritize sales efforts in those industries that are showing the clearest signs of recovery or added government resources--transportation infrastructure, renewable energy, and healthcare are a few possibilities. Analyze your sales data to determine what types of customers have maintained--or even increased--their spending in spite of the recession. Shift resources to target these promising areas of growth before the competition does.

Re-prioritize product offerings: What product lines are heating up in the new economy? Should you be shifting your sales focus to more environmentally green products, senior services, or healthcare initiatives? More important, determine which of these products and services are likely to build on your successes, and appeal to your existing customer base, all while having relatively short sales cycles.

Assess your existing sales data for clues to answer these questions and identify whether a particular product line is picking up steam as the economy improves. Make the most of that observation by focusing your resources there first.

Staff up: You've probably shed some employees in this recession, but as the economy begins to heat up again, you'll need to fill in the gaps to allow your business to grow. Look closely at your internal needs to determine where you should begin to acquire additional employees and how many are necessary. Moreover, you must establish a strategy for acquiring the best talent.

Identifying your company's new priorities in the first three categories above will greatly shape your employee acquisition approach. Clearly, you will need to hire in potential growth areas to serve new products, new industries, and new customers. This may be an excellent opportunity to pick up talent from competitors that have either gone out of business or shifted focus to another area. Having a clearly defined vision of where your own business is going will help attract the talent you need to grow your business.

Add new technology: Due to budget cuts and slow growth, many companies may have held off on technologies they've been meaning to implement for some time. Now, however, would be a good time to check out whether the market is offering good deals or even better products at lower costs that could help your business function more effectively.

Catching up on reading industry publications, blogs, and online newsletters can help keep you informed on the latest technical trends and possibilities. Follow up with a few simple queries and you may find yourself with a list of appealing options you didn't have before.

As you assess these strategic questions, it may be helpful to consider technologies that can help facilitate the entire recovery process. Analytics, which allows you to analyze your sales and marketing data online without costly implementation, offers the ability to uncover hidden trends in the data and create forecasts that can greatly improve your organization's ability to answer these important questions.

On-demand analytics solutions in particular are quick to implement and low in cost, allowing any-sized business to take advantage of the latest analytical tools to find new growth opportunities and better manage organizational processes. At such a critical turning point in the economy, do you really want to be flying blind, or would you prefer to have in-depth analyses of all your key business functions?

As you approach business planning for 2010, how will you best position your organization to take advantage of emerging growth opportunities? On-demand analytics can help you answer key questions that will maximize your results and create a strong foundation for moving forward. 

About the Author

Paul Staelin (pstaelin@birst.com) is the vice president of operations for Birst. Previously, Paul built and managed Siebel's Sales Analytics product line, overseeing its growth from start to over $40 million in annual license revenue. Before Siebel, Paul co-founded emPower Corporation and served as its president for several years. Paul holds an MS in electrical engineering from MIT and an MBA from Stanford University, where he was an Arjay Miller scholar.

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