Leadership amid a pandemic and geopolitical firestorms

By Vincent Nair, President and CEO, Smartech Business Systems
APAC leaders need to shift their focus from temporary fixes to a fresh approach to their organisational strategy, argues Vincent Nair, CEO, Smartech

It has become clear that we will not be back to ‘business as usual’ anytime soon with many international borders, including Australia, remaining shut for the foreseeable future.

A year ago, the changes to the workplace brought on by Covid-19 were viewed as a temporary adjustment and something we needed to endure for a few months before the inevitable return to commuting, full offices and face-to-face meetings with customers, partners and suppliers.

As companies across Asia Pacific settle into the reality that things are not going to change very much, they need to shift their focus from temporary fixes to a fresh approach to their organisational strategy.

Sell more effectively

One thing that companies should be focusing on as the pandemic evolves is to sell more effectively and to put sales at the centre of their entire business strategy. They should be adapting the way their sales organisation goes to market to meet different customer priorities. Focusing on markets, products, capabilities and initiatives may have worked well enough in a good economy, but in a tight market, they should be looking at their sales function to win business.

Leverage sales

Companies should leverage sales to discover and meet new customer needs. Even though APAC  economies have tightened during the pandemic, it does not mean there are not new opportunities.

Covid has caused lifestyle shifts that have created new markets and sales prospects, including the technology, office supplies and food and beverage requirements of the droves of people now working primarily from home.

The fact that the CBD cafes are now quiet, but the suburban ones are packed tells you how things have changed. What new customer needs can local companies across APAC meet? This is an opportunity to learn about the issues that are driving or reducing the use of certain products over others. It will help them to determine what additional challenges they could help customers solve and then build a strategy that will capitalise on and adapt their offerings to those new needs.

Improve the sales experience

At the onset of the pandemic, many companies adapted by moving sales interactions to videoconferencing platforms like Zoom, MS Teams or Google Meet. But the longer-term opportunity is to rethink how to use these platforms to improve, not just sustain, the sales experience, creating value and providing differentiation with prospects and clients to make the whole experience more compelling.

APAC companies should consider new opportunities to help customers recognise issues and identify opportunities they had not considered. With video calls, it is easier than ever to involve remotely based subject matter experts, implementation or customer support staff and other functions earlier in the sales process to provide deeper expertise and greater insight. Videoconferencing also makes it easier to involve company leaders with customers that would not usually attend face to face customer or prospect meetings to address any challenges and to provide higher-level connections.

Seek out acquisition opportunities

Despite the pandemic creating a real sense of panic, we are well used to crises in the technology sector, think the 1987 stock market crash, the post Millennium Bug IT spending slump and even the 2008 financial crisis. Crises create either volatility, a market disconnect or interruption or a lack of supply and demand of transactional capacity.

The pandemic caused volatility and a market disconnect but did not drastically diminish a supply of capital or demand of transaction activity. There was a bit of a pause in the initial months, but then the mergers and acquisition environment recovered a lot quicker than expected and deals were being done right left and centre.

Managing the geopolitical firestorms affecting Australian businesses

The relationship between China and Australia has seen its fair share of differences, but it has become increasingly tetchy in the past year after we requested an investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Added to this, our opinions about the political unrest in Hong Kong since 2019 has been unwelcome by the Chinese Government. This ongoing tension and anti-government sentiment always generates side effects for any business and has influenced many foreign companies like us with headquarters and offices in Hong Kong to consider temporary relocation of major assets and key operations.

And now a potential conflict with China over the independence or otherwise of Taiwan could test the already volatile relationship with Australia to the limit. Since China is one of our biggest trading partners, it is fundamentally important not to hastily misjudge their good trading history with Australia by throwing the toys out with the pram. We need to provide both Hong Kong and China the much needed time to adjust and settle in and work together.

Prospering in our new reality

The consumer reality has changed dramatically over the past few year; Australian and other APAC companies now need to take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate both the pandemic driven and geopolitical risks.

Businesses need to continue to articulate their commitment to customer safety and respond to the consumer demand for value for money and ease of buying online, by more deeply understanding the needs of their new customers they will prosper in our new reality.



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