It's been a very exciting time during the last four months as our 2022 planning ramps with our customers. What I thought might be helpful is to share with you some of the primary themes we are experiencing in our role as business planning consultants as management gears up for 2022. The following bullets are not prioritized, plus they come from a wide cross-section of markets covering healthcare, tech, food, industrial commodities, financial services and not-for-profits.
All about people
I just noted that this list was not prioritized, and then I start with the #1 discussion point in every planning session we've run since August. In every meeting prep discussion and in every SWOT that we do, the primary weakness/opportunity comes back to people. Four months into a long list of very exciting meetings, we've now come up with a definitive number of tactical responses to move past the supply-demand problem of how to find and onboard people. Assessing the data, there's no question in our minds that this imbalance of demand for entry level and also middle management sales, marketing, manufacturing and engineering people will last at least through the first half of 2022. Having said that, there are now enough solutions available that we believe that the intensity of this problem will level out in the first quarter of 2022.
The bigger problem is how to tactically improve retention, and there the issue and the solutions are much more complex since they typically have to do with company culture and the company's stated...and unstated ... responses to WFH and vaccinations. Bottom line: vague, causal, or flexible solutions that are not tightly defined are leading to more resignations even for less compensation.
Focus on Organic Sales Growth Productivity
Whether it's an inability to find the right people, or there's an uncertainty about the economics of 2022 leading to a hesitancy to hire, Sales and Marketing strategies have shifted even more stringently to focus on...
- adopting formal Sales and Marketing processes
- strict adherence and certification requirements to the company's techstack
- a smaller set of dynamic tools integrated more tightly into those technologies.
Most importantly, we have found in 90% of our consulting assignments this fall senior management is focusing intently on detailing very specific definitions of their 2022 personas along with the specific value propositions that accompany each of these personas. Three or four years ago, persona/value proposition alignment would have been a casual concept followed only by 25%-40% of companies. Today, since the data that's been collected clearly show that this process of tightly marrying value propositions to personas is the primary performance differentiator between "A" and the "B" level salespeople, the majority of our planning sessions actually begin with this component. Defining personas is relatively direct; detailing the value propositions takes time and more specific definition which leads to specific homework (must be the professor in me) assignments coming out of these two day sessions.
Double Down on the winners
We personally believe that 2022 will be a year of significant growth, but we are finding that the majority of our customers are not as optimistic. The solution that we are pushing and finding acceptance of is to double down and narrow the focus on all 2022 initiatives. A few examples we are recommending:
- Narrow the product focus for '22 and place more marketing resources on those products.
- Narrow the market focus more tightly on sub-categories of a market. An example would be stop selling to "hospitals" and focus only on "the top 20 large hospital systems" at one end or "regional community healthcare emergency centers" on another end.
- Narrow the prospect size stratifications based on the data you have. Rather than selling to four size categories of companies ranging from "emerging" to "small" to "mid-market" to "enterprise" make just one choice for the first half of 2022. Yes, just one for six months! Tightly focus your marketing, sales and customer success talents there and only there.
- We always push to putting more definition and more resources into "mid-market", forget about smaller categories and be very definitive on applying product, marketing and sales resources to "enterprise"
so, Just a few ideas this cold Friday AM
I drove here to Vermont very late last night to be ready for an online planning session this morning at 9:00 with one of our customers, and right now I'm staring at the temp registering a nippy 28 degrees out by the barn which is still shrouded in total dark at 7:00. Just like the rhythm of the seasons here in New England, the rhythm of planning for the year ahead never stops. Take a look at a few solutions, or just give me a call to talk through a few ideas. Enjoy the weekend!
If at any time, you have a need for a confidential sounding board for your 2022 planning process, just connect with me! Text or email me, and I'll quickly set up a call. I'm a very good listener, and we can get deep into tactics if you want. Obviously, no cost for a call or two; just an opportunity to listen intently and make a few recommendations based on decades of experience.
Derby Entrepreneurship Center@Tufts.