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Channel Matters Blog > July 2013 > Why Can't My Channel Managers Get Their Partners to Sell? 6 Common CAM Mistakes.

Why Can't My Channel Managers Get Their Partners to Sell? 6 Common CAM Mistakes.

by Rich Blakeman
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Why Can't My Channel Managers Get Their Partners to Sell?

It's not easy being a Channel Account Manager or CAM. Direct-sales peers don't see them as "real" salespeople. Channel partners are far more likely to judge them on their willingness to buy lunch than on their abilities. And when channel sales lag, they bear the brunt of the blame.

But are your channel account managers really at fault?

If I spent enough time thinking about it, I could probably come up with a list of 100 mistakes otherwise excellent organizations make when hiring, onboarding and managing their CAMs. Here are my top six.

Mistake #1 - Hiring "hunters"

There may be 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, but most sales leaders separate their people into two: hunters and farmers. The hunter makes the ideal direct salesperson. They don't wait for opportunities, they make them. When they make a "kill" they don't sit around until they are hungry again. While they treat those in a position to help them with great esteem, they don't have a high tolerance for people who aren't yet adding value.

Farmers, on the other hand, are more nurturing. They care about people and want to see them happy. They value the quality of the moment and want to build long-term relationships. They don't generally make good direct salespeople, but you'll often find them in customer service roles.

The CAM's role may be sales, but it is all about long-term relationships. The successful CAM cares about their partners and wants them to succeed. They look for ways to build win/win relationships, even if the relationship is a little lopsided at first. They are more tolerant of the hand-holding that is necessary in the early days of the partnership. The miserable and ineffective CAM is one who would rather be doing the selling himself.

Mistake #2 - Assuming your CAMs don't need to know how to sell

Now for the caveat to mistake #1. The successful channel account manager still needs to know how to sell. He or she is, in effect, a sales manager for your channel partners. There will be times when they are called in to help close an opportunity. Plus, they need to know how to sell in order to coach their partners. No salesperson respects a channel manager who can't sell. No channel partner respects a channel manager who can't sell either.

Mistake #3 - Not providing process and product training

Hand in hand with mistake #2 is not providing adequate product and process training for your CAMs. If you hired a new sales manager, you'd ensure they were well versed on your products and sales processes. Without this training, they can't coach their salespeople on how to use the proven techniques you've worked so hard to develop. Same goes for your CAMs. They need an intimate understanding of your products and processes so they can guide their channel partners.

Mistake #4 - Not providing additional business training

In many cases, the CAM actually needs more training than the direct sales person – but of a different type. A customer may accept or reject a salesperson's assertions for a variety of reasons, but in most selling situations, the salesperson has the advantage of experience. They know more about the problems the customer is trying to solve than most of the buyers they sell to.

CAMs must not only sell the partner on the benefits of the product, they need to provide business guidance to the partner help them succeed. However, the partner executive often has vastly more business experience than the CAM, especially since many CAMs tend to be younger sales professionals. The CAM who meets with the president of a partner organization is automatically eyed with skepticism when he or she tries to tell the executive how to run their business.

One way to address this issue is to hire CAMs with some experience under their belt – ideally experience in the channel. But if your organization favors younger sales professionals (who don't quite cost as much) you must provide them with business training such as hiring and on-boarding best practices, how to build a business plan and marketing strategies.

Mistake #5 - Inconsistent application of the Rules of Engagement

If your organization sells through a partner channel, you need to establish Rules of Engagement. It is doubly important for those organizations that also sell through a direct sales force. This document (yes, the rules must be written down to avoid misunderstandings) establishes the principles for partnership and covers potential conflicts that might arise such as:

  • Which markets are open to the channel and which are open to the direct sales force?
  • Is there a size limit to the opportunities the channel can pursue?
  • Can a partner pursue an opportunity that is already being pursued by the direct sales force? What if the partner uncovered the opportunity through their own marketing efforts?
  • If two partners are working the same opportunity in competition with each other, should the CAM assist neither, both or choose between partners?

A team of experienced channel managers could come up with a couple dozen sticky situations in an afternoon. In my experience, it is far less damaging to channel relationships and your CAMs' credibility to find solutions to these problems before they happen than attempt to handle them as they arise.

Once the rules are created, they need to be followed. When the rules are bent for top performers or in favor of one partner over another, it puts the CAMs in a particularly difficult position. They instantly lose credibility because the partner sees that their CAM doesn't carry much weight within the organization.

Mistake #6 - Not providing the same opportunities

Finally, there's a saying that all salespeople are "coin operated." Perhaps that's not true of all salespeople, but the good ones are usually motivated to some degree by financial rewards. The same is true of your CAMs. That doesn't mean the commission structure needs to be identical. Like the sales manager, the CAM is leveraging feet on the street. But if their earning potential is limited simply because of the type of sales role they are in, you won't have the same caliber of talent clamoring for the opportunity to work with the channel.

I'm hoping we have a few channel managers or channel partners reading this who can offer their perspectives. You have a front row seat to these common mistakes, and I'm sure you can add to the list. What mistakes do you see channel organizations make when hiring, onboarding and managing their Channel Account Managers?

Last modified on 4/30/2014 12:15:29 PM
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