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Channel Matters Blog > December 2014 > Are you setting your channel managers up for failure?

Are you setting your channel managers up for failure?

by Jan de Leon
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gift-of-success.jpgWhile they sip on a little eggnog, their thoughts might turn to channel sales and how they can make it more predictable. After all, they've done their market mapping and have most of the gaps covered. They've hired only the best channel managers. They've recruited good partners, and they've trained them well. Nevertheless, year after year, the channel sales forecasts are off - sometimes, way off. By the time they open holiday gifts, they'll be trying to figure out what they're doing wrong.
 
Give your channel managers the gift of success
The problem for many sales leaders is that they came up through the ranks of the direct sales force. They acknowledge the leverage that can be gained by working with the channel, but they don't quite understand which levers to pull. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way they manage their channel managers. In fact, the management techniques they use so effectively with the direct sales force may be the reason their channel salespeople miss the mark year after year.
 
As you're hanging out under the mistletoe, here are four questions to ask yourself to see if you're setting your channel managers up for failure.
 
1. When you hire channel managers, do you look for the same traits and competencies as when your hire direct salespeople? Successful channel managers and direct salespeople often have very different personality types.  While channel managers need to know how to sell, they also need excellent relationship building and management skills. The hiring profile for the channel manager is often more similar to the hiring profile you would use for a frontline sales manager.
 
2. Do you send your channel managers through the same onboarding process as your direct sales force? Channel managers need to know how to sell your solutions, and they need to be fluent on your methodology. However, as managers of your channel partners, they may also need to be brought up to speed on management techniques such as how to hold an effective account review or onboard new partners. In addition to end-user value messaging, they need to know how to create an effective business case for the investments they'll need to convince partners to make. Most of all, they'll need to know how to have a business conversation at the channel leadership level, not just with individual sales reps in their channel partner's organization.
 
3. Do you measure your channel partners using the same metrics as your direct salespeople? If you have a world-class direct sales organization, you know the activities and behaviors that lead to sales success. But those behaviors and activities may not be the same as the ones that lead to channel sales success. Channel managers need KPIs based on the activities and behaviors that lead to channel sales success. Many times, these KPIs are based on channel maturity in the territory.
 
4. Are your channel partners compensated the same way? Similar to the logic behind using a different set of metrics to measure channel managers, it often makes sense to compensate your channel managers differently than you do your direct sales force. In direct sales, the bulk of compensation is usually tied to revenues or opportunity wins. If a channel manager has an immature channel, it may make sense to tie a greater portion of his or her compensation to territory building activities such as segmenting the channel and recruiting partners to fill the gaps in the territory plan, onboarding new partners and completing business plans.
 
A few tweaks in how you manage your channel sales managers will go a long way toward setting them up for success—and letting you enjoy your holidays.
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