A couple of years ago, I answered a phone call as I was packing to evacuate our home, due to an impending hurricane. Irma was a category 5 hurricane, and it was predicted to hit our area within a few days. The call was on behalf of a TV manufacturer, who was checking in on my customer satisfaction level with a big screen TV I had recently purchased. I had to laugh, and basically replied I would let them know if I was satisfied with the TV, but only if my home and TV were still there after the hurricane came through!!
Intellectually I knew the person on the other end of the phone call was just doing a job and had no easy way to know the situation I was in. Emotionally, it felt very intrusive and caused a negative reaction for me to the manufacturer of the TV. It wasn’t the phone caller, manufacturer, or TV’s fault that I was stressed by a potential impending natural disaster. But the reality I was living in, was so far removed from the goal of the person taking the survey, that I had to laugh instead of getting mad.
What does this mean to you? To put it in channel partnership terms, how are you currently doing your forecasting and business planning during this stressful time? Were those processes put in place during a more stable business condition? Have you adapted them to the current environment? Here are 4 tips for adapting your approach based on where your partners are right now.
Shorten your outlook
With this level of uncertainty, asking a partner to do long term forecasting and business planning seems to be relying on hope as a strategy. During the best of times, annual business plans need to be reviewed and adjusted on AT LEAST a quarterly basis, but the economic trajectory variation is at an all-time high. So, focus on the short-term objectives for business planning. You can still do long term forecasting and business planning but be aware that more course corrections will be needed than in the past.
Don’t blame the messenger
When economic conditions turn down, it’s natural to look for rays of optimism. The temptation is to reward those nuggets of information that indicate good news and punish any bad news. The problem is that your forecast and business planning should be fundamental tools that enable you to manage your business. If your behavior when receiving information only rewards optimistic news, then you are affecting the accuracy of the information you receive. If the news is bad, you need the bad news in order to manage your business. Be receptive to all news, good or bad.
Focus on enablement
Partner business planning should include enablement activities that support sales and marketing activities that all support the business goals of you and your partner. Even in times of economic instability, continued enablement is key. If you and your partners are forbidden from face to face visits with each other and with customers, now is the time to maximize the opportunity for online learning.
Stay Open for Business
Even though the world is changing, and the future is unknown, we all still need to get business done. Although it is necessary to be mindful of the partners’ current situation, you and your partner still need to be closing deals and driving new revenue together. Come with a plan to help them create a new pipeline, close more deals, and grow their business. They too may tell a story of a sales rep who called them in the middle of a “storm”, only this time the rep took the time to understand the current climate and offered relevant solutions to help them thrive during a stressful time.