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Channel Matters Blog > November 2012 > Whose job is it to sell partner investment - mine or my channel sales team?

Whose job is it to sell partner investment - mine or my channel sales team?

by Braham Shnider
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Why is that much of the real selling to Partners, whether it's transitioning to the cloud or expanding the product portfolio, is done by the Vendor management team? Shouldn't this be the role of the PAM/CAM?

I can recall many conversations with Channel SVP's , VP's and even Senior Directors who expressed their frustration that the burden of selling needed change and investment to partners so often fell on their shoulders. I remember one such senior executive called 'Tim' who asked "Why can't my channel sales team do what I can do?" At the time Tim was convinced his people lacked creativity, but after spending some time talking with his team I found them to be a group of intelligent, creative goal focused people who really wanted to do the best thing for their company and their partners. But Tim was right about one thing, much of the partner influence burden did fall back on him; Partners wanted to speak with him whenever substantial change or investment was being discussed and he was an excellent and creative problem solver who was adept at quickly coming up with clever ideas to find ways around problems or in negotiation with partners. Tim's problem was that his usual approach was not scalable.

With the value of hindsight, and having seen this situation again and again among various vendors, I can make some observations about how senior executives and managers get themselves into this situation and what they can do to get out of it.

A clear picture of change

Tim rose to his senior position from a background in finance as the CFO of a major corporation and he also spent time in major account sales with a global leading I.T vendor. His background in business and his quick mind makes him a natural negotiator who trusts his ability to enter undefined situations, quickly identify the core issues and propose a well-reasoned way forward. However, unless Tim wants to hire people with the same level of experience as him he will have to equip his channel sales team with more structure than this if he wants them to carry more of the load.

I believe selling positive partner change and investment is the main job of the PAM/CAM; the more effective the PAM/CAM is at selling channel investment, the more his partners will sell – it's a simple equation. However, there is a significant difference between selling incremental change, such as increasing sales capacity or encouraging partners to do more of their own marketing, and selling a whole new business model like 'cloud'.

In his video blog titled "Selling partner transformation and investment" Philip Moon, Channel Enablers VP of IP, explores this issue. He points out that one of the key problems is that vendors don't have a clear picture of the change and investment they need from partners. With his experience and quick mind, Tim was used to developing this vision 'on the fly' – but if he wants his channel sales force to sell partner transformation and investment he needs to equip them with a clear picture of what is needed and some proof of the business benefits that will flow to all the relevant stakeholders.

It's hard for a channel sales force to sell needed change and partner investment if they don't know what they are shooting for – and don't know how to get there – and worse if they can't justify the required change and investment in economic terms.

The language of business

And that brings us to the next issue. Tim's background gives him the ability to easily converse in the financial language of business and investment; he thinks in these terms. One of the most frequent requests I have heard from Channel executives among our clients is to help develop the ability of their PAM/CAMs to speak the language of business, and it's the reason we invested to create our Channel Sales Financials blended learning series.

Skills of the best

Some senior PAM/CAMs have the ability to lead the process of change and investment at executive levels; what makes these leaders the best and how can others be developed too this level of effectiveness more quickly?

PAM/CAM sales leaders have what we call a high LQ and a high BQ, not just a high IQ. BQ stands for 'Business Quotient' and it includes skills like

  • Knowledge of the partner's business
  • Understanding of the partner's industry and market trends that will affect them
  • Understanding and comfort in discussing the economic situation and the partners own financial situation

LQ stands for "Leadership Quotient" – the leader manager PAM/CAM has a high degree of knowledge and capability in managing themselves and others.

  • Leading, Managing and Coaching skills
  • Knowledge of Self/Others and "emotional intelligence"
  • Skills to work with groups and teams; to facilitate problem solving and lead / manage goal oriented activity.

We've spent a lot of time researching the five competencies that underpin our Channel Sales Development curriculum. A summary of this research can be found in our partner manager resource centre.

The executive role

Senior vendor executives create the environment within which their channel sales team is empowered to influence partners and manage channel sales activity.

  • Creating a 'channel-centric' culture built around a set of win-win partnership values and clearly defined and consistently applied rules of engagement
  • Developing their people in all five channel sales competencies
  • Articulating a clear vision for the future and communicating how partners will benefit by working with their company
  • Implementing scalable channel processes.

I understand why Tim is now very comfortable in his current role as the CEO of a small vendor; he's a natural street fighter and loves the cut and thrust of the chaotic small business environment. But I contrast his behaviour with the many senior channel executives I have met in the world's leading vendors. They know they can't do it all themselves, the only practical way for them to achieve their mission is by working with and through their people and their partners, and they are always looking for ways to develop their team and equip them with the scalable tools and processes they need to execute in the field. This doesn't mean the PAM/CAM is the only one who speaks to partners, Vendor Channel Executives in major corporations spend time talking with partners too but the topic of conversation is generally more about how the vendor can be a better business partner by seeking feedback that can be applied across many partners, and about articulating a clear vision of the future.

Selling partner change and investment is the job of their channel sales team, and the most successful vendor executives remain focused on developing their teams and their processes to do this better, instead of trying to do the job for them.


Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:11:13 PM
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