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Channel Matters Blog > August 2014 > Channel Leaders Need to Ask the Right Questions

Channel Leaders Need to Ask the Right Questions

by Rich Blakeman
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One of the most profound findings from our 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Competency Study is the huge gap between what first line managers and non-managers view as important to performance and how they judge their performance.
Both of the elements highlighted tell us something significant about the state of channel leadership today.
The gap in perceptions of importance tells us that first line managers and their subordinates don’t agree on which activities and behaviors lead to results. While management is telling channel managers to do one thing, channel managers are making their own assessment of which activities get their focus.
The gap in how channel managers and first line managers judge their performance is just as troubling. Managers are looking for solutions to performance issues that channel managers don’t even think exist.
Example: How many partners do we need?
Here’s just one example from the study.
We know how to accurately calculate the number of partners required to adequately cover a target market segment.
If you’re a channel leader, you are painfully aware of how much time is spent deliberating over the number of partners needed to cover a market segment. It’s one of the most important decisions you make. Once you determine the number, you probably spend just as much time trying to figure out how to incent your channel managers to recruit the right number of qualified partners.
Not surprisingly, managers saw this activity as very important, but they rated their organization’s execution as rather poor. Their gap was 5.37.
Their subordinates did not agree. Their gap was a negative 1.45, which means these channel managers judged themselves to be over-performing in this area. While channel leaders are wringing their hands over how many partners are needed, channel managers, the people responsible for execution, don’t see it as worthy of their focus.
Is it no wonder channel leaders struggle with this performance metric year after year?
Take the first step
No matter how far you are from where you want to be, every journey starts with a first step. Channel leaders need to begin by getting into the field with their first line managers and channel managers. They need to identify those activities and behaviors where performance lags, in reality, as well as the areas where there is a difference in perceptions of performance between first line managers and channel managers.
Channel leaders need to ask the right questions. Here are a few examples:
Where do channel managers spend most of their time?
Which activities have the greatest impact on results?
How do channel managers assess which partners they spend time with?
When the answers differ between first line managers and channel managers, you’ll know you’ve hit upon a trouble spot.
We have started releasing our 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Competency Study. Email if you’d like to receive a copy of the Executive Summary. This summary delves into the core channel competencies in more detail and can help you craft the right questions.
Of course, channel managers and first line managers sometimes tell you what they think you want to hear instead of what you need to hear. Working with a consultant can help break through the political barriers that exist in every organization so you can work with facts, not carefully crafted versions of reality. Reach out to me at if you’d like to discuss how we can help.
Last modified on 8/12/2014 9:59:47 AM
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