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Channel Matters Blog > November 2014 > A False Economy

A False Economy

by Jan de Leon
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Many organizations move to an indirect model to save money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. You see, it’s not the channel model per se that reduces costs. It’s the greater coverage and leverage that can be obtained by working with a partner channel that decreases costs. The critical role that makes it happen is the channel manager.
 
All too often, when an organization moves from a direct sales model to an indirect or blended model, they’ll cut their budget for channel manager training. They’ll still offer training to channel partners, but many times that’s run as a self-funded service with partners paying for training. Channel managers may attend these sessions, but there aren’t any training programs specifically designed to teach channel managers the core competencies specific to their role.
 
There’s also a perception that channel managers don’t need as much training because the channel partners will be doing the selling. These organizations don’t see channel manager trainings as urgent because they believe that all channel managers need to be good at is building relationships and forecasting deals. They can hire channel managers that already have those skills.
 
Eight hours is not enough
I’ve actually worked with organizations where marketing was initially given the responsibility for managing channel partners. When that proved ineffective, they decided to hire account executives, but all they allotted for was one day of training.
 
Becoming a channel management professional is a continuous learning process. It requires experience, education and training to be a channel partner’s trusted advisor.  Just like your frontline sales managers, channel managers need to understand your customer management processes, value propositions, product benefits and all of the other knowledge salespeople need to acquire. While they may not use it directly, they will be coaching their channel partners. If anything, they have an even greater need for fluency than the direct sales force.
 
Channel competency doesn’t come naturally
Beyond that, training is needed on the core channel competencies we identified in the 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Competency Study. Let’s take a look at just one of them – Business Acumen.
 
A channel manager has a high level of Business Acumen when they understand how a channel partner makes money and how their executives evaluate various investment opportunities. This rarely comes naturally for channel managers who were hired for their relationship building skills. These channel managers need to step away from the partner’s sales professionals, with whom they are comfortable interacting, and learn to work with the hard-nosed, bottom-line driven executives.
 
Maybe your organization has the skills to develop an in-house program to teach Business Acumen. Most organizations don’t. Others simply don’t have the bandwidth to put the program together. In courses like our Channel Sales Financial Series, we often work with channel managers who’ve never been taught how to speak the language of the channel partner’s CEO or CFO.
 
We have to keep in mind that channel partners make decisions and allocate resources for their reasons, not ours – and those reasons are nearly always tied to their financial and business objectives. How well prepared are your channel team members to have this kind of a business conversation with your partners?
 
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