Three Skills to Help Improve Financial Results in 2021

By Mark Carter

Finance leaders will remain key players for insights and ideas in navigating a sense of recovery post COVID. Whilst continued caution in many aspects is required, there is opportunity requiring counter intuitive investment, rather than excessive restriction.

As countries globally initiate vaccination rollouts there are predictions of economies recovering synchronously: even for industries like travel – arguably the hardest hit and likely last to recover, with Travel Daily finding that 93% of Brits would take a vaccine if it meant they could travel sooner.

So, whilst challenges and uncertainty remain, looming solutions present a panacea that will lead to a mindset shift that will encourage increased spending and sales even in the most financially ravaged industries.

Through this crisis many businesses have been forced to reduce operational costs, overheads and minimise resources to mitigate risk to the bottom line.

With the vaccine now in flow throughout the UK, USA, with Australia and Europe soon to follow, this means that now is the time, if you are not already doing so, to strategically invest into the arm of the business intrinsically linked to results.

To avoid their own ‘death of a salesperson’ or ‘death of a sales team’ moment, finance leaders will need to learn to adopt, invest in and spread some old school wisdom with contemporary thinking to successfully navigate ‘what is’: irrespective of the challenges.

Doing so may help avoid falling foul to struggles, as the central character in the classic Arthur Miller play, ‘Death of a Salesman’ did through holding on too tightly to the current situation or the past glory of what ‘once was’.

1) Sales in all markets have changed: have you?

Prior to the challenges of COVID, the nature of sales and a walk across the history of sales methodologies since the 1940s tells us that how we sell is always changing:

  • Markets open post war, with people having easier access to goods and services
  • Door to door selling begins to accelerate, with feature linked to benefits becoming a point of difference
  • The power of qualitative research is recognised, driving change to many best practice sales techniques
  • Research helps pinpoint specifics, such as needs, fundamental to methods like SPIN technique: Situation – Problem – Implication – Need
  • Simultaneously the importance of ideas like solutions and relationships explodes
  • In recent years ‘Insight’ or ‘Challenger’ philosophies are common in label and language, providing clues for business on how to counter current challenges

Many businesses undertake research or fact finding to assist them in abbreviating conversations, helping their sales teams to ‘cut to the chase’ in their search to close a sale.

Investing in tech, insight and soft skills of your people is key to keeping your sales teams abreast of comparative industry insights and product knowledge.

Simply put, if you have access to data and knowledge that is not accessible to your competitors or not commonly known, these insights will likely prove golden.

Whilst research can be ‘King’, it is not everything and simultaneously encouraging investment into your sales team’s personal skills around confidence building and adaptability will allow your teams to comfortably, respectfully, challenge consumer presuppositions, think on their feet and steer conversations more appropriately towards the close.

2) Invest in soft skills, regardless of ratios of face to face versus online

The move to online has shown tech can be leveraged to continue customer conversations. It’s not always easy, it’s certainly not perfect and given we are hardwired for connection clients will appreciate any safe move back to face to face.

Regardless of how we talk to customers, what is often missed is the sense of connection required for both online and in-person contact.

The power of strategic, thoughtful questions is not to be underestimated. It demonstrates genuine interest and competence. Especially when facing people who are rushing ahead or being cautious themselves due to market challenges.

Patience and thoughtful questioning uncover all the jewels of value, pain and vision. These are important triggers that make client decision-making compelling and easier.

When you add a strong product or industry knowledge with the skill to differentiate (which you would after conducting a deep need analysis) any proposed solutions will make more sense. They will be appealing and compelling, perhaps enough to create a greater sense of urgency and action.

All pointing to the importance of businesses to invest in their own digital marketing, e-commerce, tech and above all else, their people.

3) Your people as much as the product or tech is the greatest point of difference

In the same way we have seen evolution in buying psychologies, sales methodologies or go to market strategies, we have simultaneously seen an evolution of economies.

Articles like those in the Harvard Business Review, articulate well the required expanded thinking and approaches needed in the experience economy.

It’s true the same whiz bang tech that improves efficiencies or compliance are also fantastic to add touches of bravado or magic to levels of both service and experience.

What is critical is to not get so lost in digital wizardry that you forget a fundamental old school truth that these are tools of enablement, not the sales presentation or process itself.

Like a skilled conductor, business leaders must learn to orchestrate how tech may be better used appropriately, with consistency, from process start to end throughout their entire business.

The real magic is demonstrated through care, human effort and human touch. In fact, the more you can encourage investment and up skilling to display and deliver on these qualities the greater your business will stand out in an age still marked by a scrambling over reliance on digital by default.


Mark Carter is an international keynote speaker, trainer and coach. He has over 20 years’ experience as a global learning and development professional. His TEDxCasey talk ‘Paws and Effect: how teddy bears increase value perception was the movie trailer for his latest book Add Value. You can contact Mark at www.markcarter.com.au or his book site addvalue.markcarter.com.au