We officially incorporated Gradient Works in July. Over the past two months, we’ve spent dozens of hours on Zoom talking to former colleagues, friends of friends, and potential future customers to better understand what revenue leaders and operators are thinking about right now. Throughout those calls, we’ve encountered a few recurring themes about the challenges many of us are facing.
It’s a challenging time to do business. Approximately 174 days ago (but who’s counting), our world changed. The global pandemic has upended how we work. At the same time, social conditions in the United States are combustible. There’s a lot going on, and at the very least, these changes have presented some unique challenges for business leaders.
- Working remotely. Six months ago, some of us worked from home occasionally. Now, many of us work from home all the time, often in spare rooms with our families around. We’re still working to make these arrangements more productive and supportive of our employees’ well-being. It’s been especially difficult when onboarding new employees, maintaining company culture, and motivating sales teams.
- Economic uncertainty. The stock market has been performing well, but record numbers of people are unemployed or furloughed, businesses are closed, and no one knows when things will get back to normal. There’s been a thread of unease running through our conversations, and a lot of it is due to that uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds. In fact, most people we talk to now think this is going to be around for a long time, and have moved into a sort of acceptance. We're going to have to deal with COVID uncertainty well into 2021, so what do we need to do now to work around that?
- Racism. What can we write about racism that hasn’t been written more eloquently by someone else? Systemic racism is a huge problem, and we’re dealing with a reckoning around race in the United States right now. It impacts all of us, at work and at home.
- Gender inequality. At the same time, issues around gender equality have become more urgent and more public due to the pandemic. Women are bearing the brunt of childcare and schooling responsibilities right now, and this impacts the workplace in myriad ways, now and has the potential to shape the role of women in the workforce for a generation.
- Hiring and supporting a more diverse workforce. Partly in response to issues like racism and gender inequality, many companies are trying to recruit from a more diverse pipeline, and work harder to support employees with diverse needs. And while millions of people are unemployed, it’s still very difficult to hire for certain in-demand roles, especially now that most recruiting and interviewing is all done remotely.
- Tighter budgets. Many corporate budgets are considerably tighter than they were six months ago. Unless you’re selling something people need more of right now - video conferencing, for example - it’s been harder to close deals the past few months. There’s a huge bifurcation in how businesses are weathering this storm. Some are really struggling, while others are going gangbusters (see Zoom).
And even though it can feel like the world around us is collapsing, all the challenges revenue teams were fighting before still exist.
- Disparate data sources and technologies. One of the biggest challenges we’ve heard from everyone we talked to is the complexity of managing a bunch of different data sources that often don’t talk to each other. Every revenue team uses a different set of tech tools. Sometimes they talk to each other, and usually they all talk to Salesforce or another system of record, but beyond that, purchasing and usage decisions are often made in isolation.
- Unified customer experience. The customer journey is usually a bumpy one as someone moves from awareness to prospect to customer. Different teams manage different parts of the customer lifecycle, and the handoff from one stage to another isn’t always smooth. One of the themes that’s come up a lot is balancing specialization in sales organizations with the number of handoffs customers have to go through during their journey with one company.
- Lead routing and assignment. As sales teams grow, routing leads to the right rep at the right time gets more and more complicated. Figuring out territories and fair lead distribution rules, and then assigning those leads quickly are all challenges that require constant attention.
This is a long list of challenges. But this post isn’t meant to read as doom and gloom, but to provide context for the unusual world we all live and work in right now. If you’re dealing with a challenge at work, other people probably are too. We’ll be using this space in the months to come to provide tips and best practices for addressing as many of these challenges as we can. (Sign up for our free newsletter here.)
The most prevalent thread running through many of these conversations is how divergent experiences are becoming. Some companies are experiencing record-breaking sales month after month, while others have had to lay off hundreds of employees. On an individual basis, some people are thriving in a work-from-home environment, while others can’t find enough time to focus on work or are struggling with feelings of isolation. Others are still working in person under very different and often difficult circumstances. One thing most leaders seem to be concerned with is how to balance all these conflicting experiences - personally and organizationally.
Do these challenges ring true with your own experience? How are you dealing with them in your organizations? We’d love to hear from you. Find us on LinkedIn to discuss.