Unless you’ve been living in a different dimension of reality (which sounds great - I’d like to hitch a ride to get there), you’ve quite possibly heard of the ravages of the novel coronavirus disease, also known as COVID-19, whose fouling menace has crept all over the world. With the steep drop of routine activities and people increasingly withdrawing into isolation, businesses, too, have had to buckle down to protect their operations, their employees, and re-examine their revenue growth management in the COVID crisis. Infact, a survey conducted by Techaisle revealed five challenges that have bubbled to the top of immediate business concerns during the pandemic, which included:
- Business survival in the short term and improving cost efficiencies in the medium term.
- An increase in employee empowerment and organizational productivity, like the implementation of a work from home policy.
- Enhancement of customer intimacy through innovative and empathetic communication, service and support.
- Prioritization of investments, expenditures and crisis re-negotiation of contracts with suppliers to improve operations.
- And long-term plans on driving business growth.
You’ve probably read this list in its various iterations across a thousand other articles that have been circulating throughout the year. The rapid response on the part of companies based in business-to-business markets is commendable. But not many vendors have prioritised extending their support towards strengthening channel sales during COVID.
Within the same study, Techaisle also presented a survey on the priorities that surfaced due to the COVID-19 impact on channel partners. These included a focus on customer retention, the adoption of automation to reduce administrative overhead, managing uncertainty, and just trying to reduce customer fallout. But the highest ranked priority from the lot, at 78%, was to increase engagement with vendor partners for help to weather the crisis.
If you compare the priorities of the two factions, you will notice the similarities: vendor business challenges have uncannily synchronized with channel partner business issues. And if there is one thing that the data is trying to say, it is that this conjunction is the prime moment for vendor businesses to build stronger relationships with their channel partners.
Creating opportunity from adversity
Global management consulting firm Bain & Company’s database of global technology channel partners tracks the activity of over 300,000 value-added resellers, solution providers, system integrators and distributors. According to their database records, a majority of 64% of technology-sector channel partners globally are small or emerging companies. With layoffs and formal cuts already on the rise, channel partner businesses in this bracket are already in a vulnerable position. For effective channel partner management during crisis, these entities are looking towards vendors to be their bedrock of strength and nerve centre of guidance & support.
The partner ecosystem is a key asset and a significant investment to vendors. It generally takes years to select, curate, develop and support such a network, and therefore it is important for vendors to think about how they can preserve and protect this ecosystem to ensure that a strong network exists once life normalizes (or resembles a near-normal). The principles that executives have used to guide their approach towards employees apply to partners as well: leadership and compassion, frequent communication, transparency, and support.
For better revenue growth management in the COVID crisis among partner channels and to secure the partner ecosystem, here’s some moves that vendors can adopt:
1. Health assessment
Check up with all channel partners and make sure their account plans are up to date. Identify vulnerable partners, focus on the more strategic ones, and evaluate your investment choices in order to secure your own revenue base. Vendors should also be on the lookout for potential new partner consolidations
2. Reassess partner engagement strategy
Conducting physical business meetups during the pandemic isn’t advisable or sustainable. But adversity is great creator of opportunity. Vendors can use this time to review all partner and sales interactions and reimagine them on virtual platforms. This is also a timely opportunity to accelerate the adoption of digital tools to expedite the sales process, optimise costs and reduce manual tasks while ensuring partner stickiness.
3. Establish an immediate action plan
Partners channels are looking towards vendors for technical and business support to weather the storm. Channel partners are seeking guidance on how to structure their operations to align with new market requirements and opportunities. Therefore, a sound strategy is an essential first step for vendor channels for better channel partner management during the crisis.
Revenue growth management in the COVID crisis
A well-designed channel partner program is an effective business strategy to motivate and engage partners to create more value for customers. The best channel partner programs take time and effort to curate and build. Investments made by vendor businesses might not be paid off until a year later, but these programs are an extremely rewarding way to expand vendor products into new markets and improve revenue growth management in the COVID crisis.
But how can channel partners empower themselves to carry the torch amidst this crisis? They key to this answer lies in digital transformation. One of the man objectives of a channel partner is being the custodian of customer needs. And with the upheaval of corporate life as we know it, channel partners are ultimately going to need to step out of their comfort zone and expertise levels to meet the shift in customer needs. According to the Techaisle study, about 19% of channel partners are being asked by their customers to deploy remote workplace and security solutions, while 25% are being asked to deploy, manage and support cloud stack solutions.
Digital transformation offers enormous opportunities for channel partners to continue ongoing relationships with consumers as well as giving them an avenue to secure revenue growth management in the COVID crisis. It is undeniable that the pandemic has played a major role in accelerating the digitization that has taken place in the past year.
According to Jay McBain, principal analyst of channels, partnerships and ecosystems at Forrester Research, the margin of emerging technologies that once had three- to five-year windows has now reduced to 18 months to two years. This makes it the prime opportunity for partners to see automation, cloud computing, security and customer experience as key business areas. The partners who are already out there, driving those major practices and who possess the skills to be trusted technological advisors, have a huge backlog and a huge demand for their service right now.
In order to thrive during the COVID crisis, channel partners are going to have to transform their strategy and become the literal channel that enhances the relationship between the customer’s technological needs and the opportune vendors. This means, a higher reliance on learning “just in time” skills, rather than “just in case” skills. Once armed with the technology, training and experience, channel partners can be in a great position to guide, deploy and manage technology-solutions for customers to manage through the crisis and into the future.
The pandemic, in all its complexity, has also proven to be a great accelerator of business and digital transformation. As stated in the survey by Techaisle, partner channels are seeing a significant rise in demands for cloud solutions and remote workplace management platforms. With the support of vendor businesses, successful partner programs, and strategic self-help, channel partners have the opportunity to better equip themselves to meet the demands of the market and tackle revenue growth management in the COVID crisis.
And with peopleHum situated at this providential intersection, partnering with us could build our relationship up for a successful, nay noteworthy collaboration.