• Unforeseen events — no matter how large or small — can create significant disruption and render sales and marketing plans obsolete
  • The ability to manage unplanned events and calibrate and adjust sales and marketing plans quickly is no longer a nice-to-have but a critical muscle B2B sales and marketing leaders must develop
  • To build resilience in their annual plans, B2B sales and marketing leaders must adopt a structured approach to assessing potential events and driving change while preserving team alignment

Earlier this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to unfold, organizations were throwing marketing and sales plans into the trash. Overnight, marketing and sales leaders and their teams were challenged to revisit and redraw their plans with little certainty about or visibility into how the pandemic would affect their organization. Two things soon became clear: The management and eradication of the pandemic would not be easy and — as a result — recovery would take time, and the pandemic would not only affect organizations, but also those organizations’ suppliers, customers, and communities, as well as societies at large.

As we move to a “new normal,” sales and marketing leaders realize that resilience and agility are more important than ever before. They can’t afford to spend valuable time and resources developing plans that aren’t meaningful when the next disruption — regardless of size — comes around. But how do we break away from our own habits of creating static plans once a year?

First, revenue engine leaders must be clear that resilience is not a state; it’s a capability within their reach. But it’s not going to happen on its own — they must take specific actions to build resilience in their respective functions.

To start, sales and marketing leaders must have a common view of understanding and assessing different types of change. Take the example of the current COVID-19 pandemic and compare it with the eruptions of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. The pandemic brought the whole world to a standstill, while the 2010 volcanic eruptions affected only certain parts of the world, causing international travel disruptions but largely no effect on national economies. Embedded in both of these events is an important characteristic of resilience. Resilience is the ability to deal with unplanned, unforeseen events, not with change an organization has planned to drive forward through its strategy and annual plans.

Next, when we talk about resilience in the context of annual planning, it requires a strong foundation. Time and time again, we have seen organizations suffering from what I call the “100-page plan syndrome” — long, convoluted plans that few people read and many forget. Marketing and sales leaders can build this strong foundation by ensuring their teams adopt a best-practice approach to guide the development of their plans.

Finally, the more an organization practices resilience, the more resilient it becomes. Remember that resilience is a capability, not a state. Marketing and sales leaders must ensure that risks and dependencies of annual plans are articulated clearly and monitored often. They also must develop an early warning system, combining appropriate internal and external data, that’s reviewed regularly as part of quarterly business reviews or other business review meetings so that sales and marketing teams can anticipate potential events and be ready to take action.

2020 has taught us that change is the only constant. Marketing leaders must prioritize integrating resilience into their sales and marketing plans. If you’re interested in learning more, join me, Steve Silver, and Pascal Matzke at Forrester SiriusDecisions Summit EMEA next month for our session “Building Resilient Plans Across the Revenue Engine.” We’ll provide examples of early warning systems and share how to use the SiriusDecisions Spectrum of Change to assess different event types in combination with SiriusDecisions’ plan-on-a-page methodology to ensure you and your teams create annual plans that can adapt quickly and withstand change.