The challenges of Covid-19 continue to linger for many businesses but a new report outlines many have used the disruption to their advantage, reporting a successful year over 2021.
The latest Mood of the Sales Leader report found almost 50 per cent more companies achieved revenue growth over the last 12 months when compared to 2020, and sales leaders are bullish about business prospects for 2022.
The research, the result of surveying more than 400 sales leaders and salespeople from a range of industries, found that only 3 per cent of sales leaders are feeling pessimistic about the year ahead - a 50 per cent decline from 2021 - the lowest finding since 2018.
Mike Stokes, chief executive of sales and leadership consultancy Indicator - the firm that conducts the research, said many businesses had "used the opportunity of Covid" to innovate which had subsequently resulted in impressive growth.
"Sales leaders are incredibly optimistic about the year ahead, with a bit of a caveat of can they get people and product to deliver on this optimism," Stokes told the Herald.
He put the all-time high optimism down to businesses now knowing how to manage the disruption brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Two years ago when we went through all these changes, and having to move to work from home, there was a fair amount of doom and gloom. [Last year], even though we had some challenges with Covid, we knew how to manage it better. Companies are well set up for working from home and the demand is still there. Many of the companies involved in this survey had a really strong finish to the year last year and they see demand as continuing."
The current sales landscape and wider business environment remained healthy, despite many challenges and disruptions remaining in place, the report outlined.
Stokes said the biggest challenge businesses and leaders faced in 2022 was supply chain constraints and finding and retaining staff.
More than 80 per cent of salespeople said they were directly approached about a new role in a new business in the last 12 months, and over 50 per cent of firms said they expected to grow their teams in 2022.
Stokes said issues with finding and retaining staff would likely only get worse as more companies looked to expand. Many firms were leaning on technology to assist with issues surrounding staffing issues, Stokes said.
"People are now cottoning on to; if we can't find the people, how can technology enable us to take away a lot of the admin," he said.
"It's all about the package now, what've you got that you can entice people, and enable them to want to stay with your business. It's not solely salary [dependent anymore]. When we asked salespeople what were the most important reasons to stay in their role, culture was one of the top reasons", alongside love of the company they work for and development opportunities, he said.
The survey found 95 per cent of sales leaders felt their companies looked after them well.
Stokes said commitment from the Government over no further lockdowns had also renewed business leaders' sense of optimism, despite a growing level of frustration towards the Government among the business community.
In a June 2020 survey, 40 per cent of leaders said they felt the Government had got the Covid-19 response right. This had now reduced to 16 per cent, Stokes said.
"The vast majority believe [the Government] has prioritised public health at the expense of business understandably, and are frustrated that this has gone on for so long."
Overall, Stokes said the outlook for business was positive, with 82 per cent of businesses planning for revenue growth in the year ahead. The positivity was widespread across a wide range of industries, technology and professional services sectors saw the most growth in 2021.
"This is the most optimistic report we've had in five years - 3 per cent pessimism is the lowest its been since the start of 2018, and companies, as long as they can get through supply chain issues and being able to retain their top talent and attract more, then sales leaders are expecting a good year."
Any stunted growth throughout the year would be a result of challenges relating to supply of both people and product, Stokes said.