For many enterprise firms, 2022 was a tough year by anyone's standards. Granted, the pandemic has receded, but we're still dealing with its aftermath in the form of changed buying patterns, continued supply chain disruptions and new anxieties — plus inflation, layoffs and an impending recession are bringing their own challenges.

But there are always obstacles in the path to success, even when the forecast is for sunshine and lollipops. There's also always a way around, over or through our challenges, as long as those at the helm are determined and prepared for the road ahead.

That being the case, what do enterprise leaders need to know to have a profitable year in 2023? Here are the trends that I see as being the most impactful.

Tech Sales May Stagnate – but Not Stall

Although tech channel revenue is predicted to be higher this year than in 2019, with sales volumes remaining stable, the market is expected to stagnate because average deal sizes are predicted to fall. The long-term outlook is positive, though, with U.S. B2B technology reseller channel revenue forecast to resume year-over-year growth by 2024.

Yes, tech companies will face challenges this year, but they can still drive revenue at levels that exceed "recovery" expectations, which I see as a win unto itself. Demand for digital tools is expected to continue strongly, thanks to the need to compensate for the tight labor market and an aging workforce and the current trend of production reshoring.

"To partly solve the [labor] problem and compensate for rapid wage growth, companies are forecast to accelerate their investment in production automation tools in 2023," Justinas Liuima, industrial insights manager at Euromonitor International, noted. "Because of the issue of aging populations, investment in production automation is also likely to become a long-term trend."

Buyer-Centric Processes Demand a Shift in Sales Ops

Given that the market is tighter at the moment but has high revenue potential over the long term, now is the time for sales leaders to rethink their sales operations for greater efficiency. Crucially, this must include building in more buyer-centric processes, in light of the trend toward buyer-led, non-linear purchase journeys.

Over two-thirds of B2B buyers chose remote human or digital self-service interactions in 2021, and McKinsey analysts predicted that this will only increase. Purchase journeys are becoming even more complex and challenging to accommodate, requiring a more carefully thought-out sales process.

"For many sales organizations, the undertaking of moving processes along and building lean workflows has been a big challenge," Nicole Epstein of DealHub said. "But sales processes require flexibility and personalization. There's no one-size-fits-all approach. Organizations are urged to prioritize empowering their sales teams with the tools they need to do the job of selling better."

Marketing Strategy Requires an Upgrade

In 2023, most business marketing leaders expect their budgets to remain stable. This sounds like good news, but only 50% expect the budget to increase at a time when competition for customers and sales is rising fiercely and marketing teams will be called upon to push their efforts even higher.

With even less wiggle room and tighter purchase controls, CMOs need to take a more strategic approach to content marketing and massively improve alignment across departments.

According to Robert Rose, chief strategy advisor at Content Marketing Institute, this demands a strategic rethink. "Most businesses think about how they can change content to fit marketing's purpose instead of how they might change marketing to fit content's purpose," he said, advising that leaders "look at content operations as the catalyst that can change everything for the content marketing challenges you face."

Cybersecurity Fears Dominate Business Spending

Following a significant uptick in cyber attacks, especially those sponsored by governments, it's clear that we've entered the age of cyberwarfare. In every business, cyberthreats are the biggest fear and strongest spending lever, which is good news for enterprise cybersecurity vendors and CISOs trying to capture more of the budget.

Security is taking an outsized role in technology spending in 2023, with many businesses choosing to balance the books by cutting back on discretionary spending and other areas of the business while increasing tech budgets. A recent Spiceworks Ziff survey of IT professionals predicted that cybersecurity will be one of the bigger line items in 2023 IT budgets and a primary use case for AI tools, reflecting a broad prioritization of cyber.

When it comes to cyber defenses, "You always need help," Jeff Grettler, global director of IT at SWZD, asserted. "Even if you're fully staffed, you just always feel like there should be like one more set of hands, one more set of eyes, one more layer that protects you."

However, CISOs and CIOs should be wary of spending their way to security. In the age of the "human firewall," more tech only gets you so far.

2023 Can Be a Year of Success for Enterprises

It's true that there are many challenges ahead in 2023, including tighter budgets, labor concerns and cyberthreats. But every challenge can also be an opportunity to thrive for organizations that refine sales processes and marketing strategies while taking a long view of the markets.

(Victor G. Snyder is a consulting business coach.)

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