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Channel Matters Blog > May 2011 > Speaking the Language of the Partner

Speaking the Language of the Partner

by Jim Wagstaff
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It has been said that if you speak to someone in a language they understand, the information goes to their head, but if you speak to someone in their own language, that idea goes to their heart. When Channel Account Managers begin to speak the partner’s language they appeal not only to the partner’s intellectual understanding, but also speak straight to the heart of their business.

Too often, Channel Account Managers only speak “vendor language,” to their partners, but don't take the time to understand or speak the partner’s language.  This missed opportunity means that many Channel Account Managers will never speak directly to the heart of the partner’s business concerns.


This vendor-partner language barrier is not something that only new Channel Account Managers run into.  Individuals and teams with many years of experience can forget the importance of this concept and become frustrated in their attempts to influence partners when using vendor language instead of taking the time to become fluent in the language of the channel.

The learning curve around partner language is one that can be navigated relatively quickly.  When we translate vendor concepts like revenue growth and market share into the partner language of profit and cash flow, we open up lines of communication that were previously closed between vendor and partner.  Successful Channel Account Managers know that simply putting themselves in the partners shoes, and changing the way they influence partner business outcomes, can make a world of difference to their effectiveness and results.

One way to think of this partner language learning curve is to remember a time when you were learning to speak a new language in school or for work...possibly a spoken language like Chinese, or a programming language like C.  Like any new skill, the use of the language at first seemed awkward and unnatural.  By contrast, when we speak a language in which we are completely fluent, the words flow freely and very little thought is given to the mechanics of the spoken word.  When using a language that is new or unfamiliar, however, we must first mentally form the words or phrases in our native language, translate those words into the language that we desire to speak, and then speak the words in the new language.  Like the steps required to learn a new language, mastering the partner’s language also requires us to become familiar with important words and phrases and then to move on to complete thoughts or ideas, before achieving fluency.

I've used this analogy with Channel Account Managers countless times, and in various parts of the world, to demonstrate how using the partner’s language allows us to engage a partner on their level, and with greater alignment and better results.

Take the time to translate your concerns into the partner’s language.  When we begin to speak the partner’s language in terms such as profit, cash flow, costs, DSO, inventory management, and attrition, we appeal not only to the partner’s intellectual understanding, but we speak straight to the heart of their business.

Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:10:37 PM
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