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Channel should use the summer to improve strategy planning

There is plenty that could be done in the summer weeks when business is traditionally that bit slower

The summer can be a quiet period for the channel with customers and staff enjoying their time off, however companies should use these months to keep other aspects of their operations ticking over, whether that is training or catching up on a backlog of projects.

Stop summer slowdown mentality

Despite the traditional slowdown in sales, Carlo Longhi, director and general manager of indirect channels UK & Ireland at Xerox, says it is important to not let your company drop off during this period. He says “a couple of months of weak performance will put pressure on the rest of your business year”.

Longhi adds summer can give organisations the chance to plan through their next several months.

“Business doesn’t stop in the summer. It is crucial to continue to build your pipeline in order to generate opportunities and close deals throughout the summer months,” he adds “It could also be a great opportunity to take time to review your pipeline and planned activities for the rest of the year and refine these as appropriate.”

Greg Bailey, head of channel and cloud at Veeam, agrees but warns organisations against implementing initiatives for the sake of it.

“If you’ve not got it planned in ahead of time, it’s going to be a problem and you risk trying spin up activities that don’t drive the outcomes you need.”

Social media campaigns and training staff

Organisations can also use the time to focus on their marketing campaigns, according to Mark Eost, partner manager of UK and Ireland at M-Files.

“A lull in sales activity offers a great opportunity to review target sectors, use cases and applications. Sales and marketing teams can work together to develop the necessary materials and collateral to help you tell your story to those potential customers.”

Veeam’s Bailey says though “there’s no point in running a social media promotion when most of your audience is offline”, highlighting the need to do the necessary planning beforehand.

Loghi agrees the summer can be good for developing social media and marketing and adds “it is an ideal time to focus on upskilling and developing your offering- be that refreshing your sales techniques or coming up with new initiatives”.

“Incentives and promotion for both customers and staff are always a good way of driving an uptick in activity,” he says.

Companies could also see this period as a good opportunity to train their current employees, adds Eost.

“Once you know who you want to target, you need to ensure that both your pre-sales and sales consultants are able to easily communicate your propositions to those audience,” he says.

He adds by training during the summer, organisation can then focus on their relationships with customers in the autumn.

Cybersecurity risks heightened

Employees may choose to use the summer for their own holiday time, but stay can online through their mobile devices, says Simon Church, general manager and executive vice president of Europe at Optiv.

“Although purchasing cycles may slow down, we’re finding that this is causing less of an impact than it used to due to sign-off increasingly being completed remotely,” he says.

“With the rise of collaboration technologies and the ‘always-on’ culture, it’s not unheard of that business executives will sign in from their summer breaks to approve proposals and check on emails.”

This could present a security risk though if they use a public Wi-Fi network or they could be more likely to click on phishing link for example, if their mind is focussed on the holiday, he adds.

“These mobile approval cycles open a business’ network to vulnerabilities, increasing the risk of a data breach. While business may be slow, it’s not the time to be complacent with cybersecurity.”

The summer could also leave organisations vulnerable because of the lack of personnel available, says Webroot’s UK channel manager, Sham Miah.

“While activity in the channel might be slower during the summer months, a big issue is the threat of understaffing due to vacation time. IT professionals will be relaxing on the beach, leaving an already stretched team further under-resourced,” he says.

“Cybercriminals know this and will specifically target attacks to exploit any weakness in a company’s cybersecurity posture. Customers need to have the peace of mind that they’ll receive the support they need in the event of a breach regardless of the time of year.”

A GDPR-forced change?

The general data protection regulation (GDPR) was enforced on 25 May 2018, as a way to offer better transparency over customer data and to give them more control over the information an organisation holds.

With the impact of non-compliance being a maximum fine of €20 million or 4% annual company turnover, businesses have been trying hard to implement the right tools for compliance, says Peter Groucutt, managing director of Databarracks. He adds GDPR would have slowed down other projects, so this summer might see more business activity than in previous years.

“In Q1 and especially in the weeks prior to the GDPR deadline, businesses were frantically working to become compliant. They were issuing supplier with questionnaires, changing their internal processes, doing awareness training, updating email marketing platforms,” he says.

“Now that’s behind us for the most part, businesses are trying to catch up. We’ve certainly seen an uptick in activity over the last month with tenders being issued and projects moving again. As businesses try to squeeze a year’s worth of projects into three quarters, the summer is likely to be busy.”

Despite the summer period normally seeing a reduction in sales for the channel, experts say organisations should not take this time lightly. It can be an important couple of months for training staff, as well as developing marketing and forward-thinking plans.

“This is a great time to drive some incremental deals, take stock of your strategy and programmes for the rest of the year. Taking the opportunity to refine/tweak where necessary now will really deliver benefits for the rest of your business year,” Xerox’s Longhi says.

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