Uncertainty, redefining the strategic plan and managing change on all fronts have led to an adaptation of the role of Sales Director, regardless of industry.
Amrop, one of the largest executive search companies globally, interviewed 5 B2B Sales Directors from Romania about the challenges they encountered and the trends they noticed throughout 2020. The 5 Sales Directors come from 5 industries completely different: financial services, technology, document management services, pharmaceutical and packaging industries. Essential common points have been discovered across industries with quite different specifics and challenges.
The customer relationship in sales is crucial. Only those with long experience and old relationships have managed to operate at almost the same pre-pandemic standards. The entry level sales people, unfortunately, have not been able to reach customers in order to promote their products or services. “Now, we spend 80% of our time in the office and in online meetings. Compared to 2008, we are now better prepared for change. We went from quantitative to qualitative growth and we were more attentive to investments. No matter how much technology evolved, people still appreciate direct relationships to sign a contract”, says Cătălin Olteanu, Sales Director, Edenred Romania.
Existing customers are the priority over potential ones. „It was clear to us that we could no longer run after new customers, so we secured our existing customers. We mobilized the top management team to go across the country to help our colleagues and clients. The challenge for the sales team was to secure recurring revenues from ongoing contracts and identify sales opportunities with existing clients. We stood by our clients who have had financial challenges in 2020, we have identified solutions with them, we have suspended contracts, we did not terminate them. In some circumstances, we decided to provide our recurring services even for free. The goal here was to avoid losing market share”, explains Elena Chirilă, Commercial Manager, Global Technical Services.
Extending payment terms, price renegotiating and acquiring new customers will be more difficult in 2021. “The crisis in the packaging industry wasn’t felt neither in 2008 nor 2020. In terms of sales volumes, 2020 ended over the budget we had the previous year. In terms of price selling and profit margin, more attention will be needed this year due to the slightly heavier recovery of receivables and based on customer’s requests to renegotiate the price. The year 2021 will be a very interesting year in terms of maintaining the portfolio of existing customers as well as the acquisiton of new customers while the competitive pressure increases”, mentions Sorin Dumitrescu, Sales Director Bucharest Plant, Dunapack Rambox.
Sales productivity must be measured differently. “With the new reality, the salesman lost his main asset, namely the face-to-face interaction with customers. Traditional models for measuring productivity in sales are based on a series of indicators that have as their source precisely the activities that derive from these interactions.
The new context in which meetings with customers have migrated into the digital space, urges us to identify other methods of assessing productivity. It is both a challenge on the agenda of a sales manager, but also an opportunity. This process is important because it involves changing the way we think and look at goals.
Of all the functions, the salesman is the most resilient character because he starts every month from scratch. Every semester they fight with the numbers, to meet the target, to find solutions, to keep calm and to generate sales ”, underlines Adrian Dogaru, Commercial Director, Iron Mountain.
The top and middle management teams in Romania have shown more maturity. „If in the previous crisis the strategy was to cut costs, now entrepreneurs and multinationals have focused more on opportunities, feeling that it’s their time to innovate. A phenomenon that marked a good starting point for the coming years”, observed Magda Clipaciuc, Senior Talent Partner, Amrop Romania.
Generic medicines were the highest-selling in 2020 due to their affordable prices. “In the pharmaceutical field, Romania had more to gain from the retail segment than from hospitals, but its return was much slower than that of the countries around us, due to the fear of calling the patient to the hospital. Not taking over new patients showed a decrease in hospital market sales” shows Dr. Giulia Chirciu, Consultant/Owner NutriLife Science and former Healthcare Manager with 20 years of pharma industry experience.
The shortcomings of Romanians helped some industries to grow and generate more value. As Romania is a bureaucratic country, there are many documents that need to be stored which created a favorable context for the information storage and management industry. Another example is the high demand for security services, which increased by 40% when banks reopened. For financial services companies, even if an ambitious budget was planned in 2019, they still managed to end 2020 with good results.
What do we choose to keep from 2020? Adaptability, empathy, the power to mobilize and the confidence that people will work just as well from anywhere in the world, are the discovered lessons of 2020 by the 5 Sales Directors from 5 different industries. Only the inner discipline of each one matters.