Embrace the Grind That’s 2022

Just because the new year isn’t off to a ‘transformative’ start doesn’t mean it can’t be one of your most productive periods.

By T.C. Doyle

If 2022 is off to a slow start for you sales-wise, don’t dismay; you can still achieve great things if you come to grips with current realities.

Before we get to how, here’s some perspective.

Not every year or period is destined to be a transformative one. For every 1945, 1989, or 2001, there are plenty of 1913s, 1953s, and 2005s. (Fun fact: An English computer scientist once declared April 11, 1954, the most “boring day” of the past 100 years.)

To be sure, some years stand out. American culture critic Fred Kaplan devoted an entire book to 1959, which he said was “the year that changed everything.” While some note that 1959 was the year that gave us the microchip and the birth control pill, I recall it as the year that provided us with “Kind of Blue,” courtesy of Miles Davis.

But let’s get back to 2022 and the year ahead of you.

No doubt, it’s starting off with some challenges. There are, after all, endemic problems that remain with us, including these:

  • Labor and supply shortages
  • Workplace upheaval and disruption
  • A dearth of revolutionary ideas and innovations

That’s in addition to the global pandemic, which has taken a huge toll both mentally and physically.

Putting those aside for a moment, let’s talk about the industry’s legendary inventiveness, which seems to have ebbed since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. If you attended or read about the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, you already know that 2022 is shaping up to be something of a yawner tech-wise. Sure, new monitors on display in Las Vegas (no pun intended) looked cool, but they were hardly game changers.

The same is true when it comes to new microprocessors, batteries, cloud software, and networking technologies. To be sure, there will be breakthroughs this year in things like blockchain, virtual reality, and quantum computing. But no one big idea or innovation seems to be driving new business or the industry’s imagination.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s an opportunity to focus on the things in your universe, as opposed to the metaverse, that you can control.

We at Channelnomics believe this is an ideal year to achieve three big aims:

  • Take cost out of your go-to-market strategy
  • Reduce friction when it comes to partner engagement
  • Investigate new routes to market and alternative partners that can drive future revenue

Here are some thoughts on each.

Take cost out of your go-to-market strategy: If pressed, could you identify where you might cut 5% from your go-to-market efforts? Would you take an ax to one initiative or cut a few basis points off everything that you do? It’s an important question because CFOs everywhere have identified channels and other sales-oriented functions as a place for potential savings.

Blame the rise of direct marketplaces, a consolidation of top-performing partners, or even ongoing efficiencies achieved by new investments in automation. No matter the reason, you’re likely to get squeezed in 2022 by someone who spends their day staring at spreadsheets. If you have no idea where to cut, take time in 2022 to assess the efficacy of your current spending. Determine where you’re possibly over-invested and develop a business case for areas where you’d like to invest more.

Given the uncertainty surrounding industry events, we recommend looking closely at your market development funds (MDF), deal registration programs, and channel incentives. (We have some specific insights on metrics we can share to get you started.)

Reduce friction: Chances are you know that it takes your organization far too long to onboard a partner or approve a deal registration. But do you know why? If you’re not focused on combating a disruptive innovation that’s radically altering the world as you know it, commit this year to fixing as many sub-optimized programs and processes as possible. This is especially true when it comes to partner engagement.

Take something as simple as partner enrollment. How many questions do you ask partners to answer, for example? If it’s more than two dozen or, put in terms that matter most to partners, more than 30 minutes’ worth, you have too much friction.

By the way, what do you do with all of the data you collect from partners? If you don’t know, why ask them so many questions in the first place?

What goes for enrollment also applies to deal registration, program compliance, and more.

Finally, consider your partner automation technology. Is it integrated with your salesforce automation platform and/or your marketing automation platform? If not, brace yourself for a harsh reality: You’re falling behind the curve.

Investigate new routes to market and alternative partners: One measure of robustness used by investors to gauge a tech developer’s potential is the amount of revenue a company generates from ideas and innovations that are less than 24 months old. If a third or more of a company’s sales come from new revenue sources, that’s an indication of robustness. (Note: It’s just one indication; there are others.)

Now consider your go-to-market efforts. What percentage of your sales comes from new partners that have been working with your company for less than 24 months? If you have a mature partner program, that’s likely to be a small number — probably less than 15%. But is that percentage growing?

This year is the ideal time to consider new partner types and alternative routes to market. No, these organizations won’t likely transform your organization – not this year anyway. But they could in the years ahead. That’s especially true if your company is considering a bolder move into marketplaces. This could be one you establish yourself or ones created by your alliance and/or distribution partners.

We know vendors that are pulling in $1 million deals every week on marketplaces from customers that weren’t signaling their intention to buy ahead of time. What’s to become of commerce like this? Do you have plans to enable or facilitate such deals? And, if so, can you connect those buyers with channel partners that can help drive utilization, satisfaction, and, ultimately, renewals? If not, note that your competitors likely can, do, or will by the end of 2022.

Which brings us back to our original idea. Despite its lackluster beginnings, 2022 can be one of your most productive years ever if you recognize it for what it is. When all is said and done, it may not go down in history as one of the industry’s most transformative years (although it’s far too early to tell right now), but there’s no reason it can’t go down as one of your best. You have an opportunity at hand to optimize your programs, technology, and partnerships at every turn.

My advice: Commit to grinding this year out. You’ll be glad that you did.

T.C. DoyleT.C. Doyle is the vice president of strategic content at Channelnomics. A renowned content creator, Doyle has spent the better part of the past four decades covering and commenting on the channel in different capacities. Follow him on Twitter at @tcdutah.

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