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Expanding Channel Strategy Trends & Early Predictions for 2023

Automation. Channel partner enablement. Diversity, equity and inclusion. When we look back at the past year, certain channel sales strategies and topics surfaced over and over again in the world of partnerships. 

We don’t want to just talk about what has been, though. We like thinking about how to stay ahead of the curve. That’s why every year, we take a look at the partner ecosystem landscape to see what’s been trending for the past year and make some educated predictions about what’s coming down the line. 

As we wrap up 2022, here are five channel strategy trends you can expect to see continuing to expand in 2023. 

Start the Lead Distribution Process Off Right

The channel trend:

The introduction of channel automation and emerging channel technology requires a pivot in what to look for when hiring a channel sales manager and what it takes to succeed in the role. 

What’s new in 2023:

PRM systems and channel sales technology are becoming increasingly utilized year over year. In fact, over 65 percent of organizations are currently using at least one partner tech system and this channel trend will only increase over time. Thousands of partner portals exist, but not all are being fully utilized.

In 2023, not only will channel sales managers have to be fully versed in partnership automation, they will have to address the challenges of getting partners to log in and use their portal. Integrating the organization’s tech stacks will also be a priority in the coming year. 

Strategy in action:

  • Channel managers should be proficient in channel automation to optimize output while effectively managing partners.
  • Channel managers should strategically utilize technology to help partners leverage content marketing initiatives, as well as interpret KPIs to measure success and improve tactics.
  • Channel managers should be able to actively assess emerging technology trends and how to leverage them for their own program success.
  • Interview questions for incoming channel managers should inquire about candidates’ software proficiency.

The Importance of a Channel Partner Enablement Strategy

The channel trend: 

An effective channel partner enablement strategy is key to keeping partners better informed, equipped and motivated to sell your products in an increasingly competitive marketplace. 

What’s new in 2023:

Supporting your partners with co-marketing resources will be an increasingly important part of partnership enablement in the coming year. 

Equipping your channel partners with the tools they need to market and sell is one part of the equation. Investing in the relationship by planning joint promotion initiatives is a whole other side of enablement that can help reach broader audiences or break into new markets.

Strategy in action:

  • Offer a mixture of marketing enablement resources that helps your partner sell independently and collaboratively. 
  • Address the gaps between what your vendors need and what you think they need by having candid conversations with channel partners and soliciting feedback.

Define your goals for joint promotional activities in 2023 and look for co-marketing collaborators who are the right fit for these projects.

Advocate For Equity & Inclusivity

The channel trend: 

Striving for a diverse and inclusive organization is non-negotiable. The conversation isn’t over – in fact, it’s barely getting started. DEI needs to be weaved into the fabric of a partner program. 

What’s new in 2023:

DEI is shifting from one-and-done style training to instead focus on ongoing discussions and more continuous dialogue. Front-line managers will be at the forefront of leading these initiatives, as opposed to a more top-down approach often seen previously. 

Strategy in action:

  • Commit to workplace diversity across all areas of the organization from leadership positions to partnerships. 
  • Build out resources that support inclusivity and foster a culture of equity. 
  • Create goals that reflect your company culture or the culture you are trying to create – and make sure those goals are reflected in your partnership models. 

Business Reviews As an Opportunity to Upsell

The channel trend:

Business reviews are one of the easiest ways to upsell and cross-sell.

What’s new in 2023:

Business reviews aren’t going anywhere. They continue to be an important way to keep track of an engagement and ensure the customer is satisfied, while providing an opportunity to discover additional selling opportunities.

In 2023, leveraging automation to help with quarterly business reviews will be increasingly attractive, saving time and resources. 

Strategy in action:

  • Make sure your systems – including CRM, ERP, PRM, etc – are connected so the data isn’t spread across multiple locations
  • Provide quarterly reports and reviews that can be leveraged for the larger annual review
  • Customize and automate reports

Strategic Onboarding

The channel trend:

It’s crucial to get your partner onboarding process just right because it lays the foundation for the rest of your partner program. 

What’s new for 2023:

The onboarding framework is instead shifting to “everboarding” – that is, the idea that partner support shouldn’t stop at 30 days, 60 days or 90 days. Instead, it’s a process that lasts the duration of your relationship. 

Strategy in action:

  • Streamline the process with a system that can be partly automated and consistently replicated to ensure there are no gaps in the support system. 
  • Offer resources that span the different steps of the partner journey from onboarding to co-marketing to selling. 
  • Set specific KPIs, particularly around engagement, and measure success.

Refining Your Strategies in 2023

The following resources will help you perfect your marketing, channel sales and partner engagement throughout the coming year. 

7 Elements of a Successful Partner Engagement Plan – With the help of this article, you can put together a complete action plan for nurturing partner engagement that you further refine as you accumulate more data. 

Partner Portal Best Practices and Design Checklist – Discover essential features and design elements to incorporate into your portal, all which improve your partner recruitment and retention while building effiencies into your operations

Channel Partner Marketing Best Practices & Planning – the Ultimate Guide – Learn best practices for creating and improving your channel partner marketing materials and promotional campaigns.

Channel Sales Business Plan and Proposal – Guidelines and Tips – Communicate intentions for your partner program and get buy-in from leadership by putting together a channel sales business plan.