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Channel Matters Blog > November 2014 > Is Sustained Channel Performance Possible?

Is Sustained Channel Performance Possible?

by Rich Blakeman
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We’ve been talking a lot lately about the channel competencies identified in the 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Best Practices Study. For those of you new to this study, these competencies are Channel Core Fundamentals, Channel Business Acumen, Influencing Skills, Partnership Planning, and Leading and Managing Relationships.
 
To receive a copy of the 2014 Channel Enablers Channel Competency Study Executive Summary, please contact info@channelenablers.com.
 
This study looked for correlations between these competencies and measurable results. We called the most promising of these findings our Best Bets. Here’s an example:
 
When channel managers build and present a business case for partner investment, financial target attainment was 45 percent higher. (Channel Business Acumen)
 
This study can tell you a lot about how to achieve channel results. But, as any channel leader knows, sustaining channel results over the long term is difficult. Your channel managers may do a stellar job presenting a business case for partner investment one year, but the next they seem to have forgotten what a business case even looks like.
 
The 3-Legged Stool of Sustained Channel Performance
Too often, when a channel organization tries to put a Best Bet into practice, they’ll roll it out to the team with a lot of fanfare. Take partner planning, the focus of another Best Bet, as an example. Channel managers get trained on how to do partner planning. They have metrics for the number of plans they need to complete. There may even be a contest to see who can complete the most plans. These promotions and support activities aren’t bad in themselves, but if they are only a one-time event, channel managers are going to see the new practice as “management’s latest initiative” instead of “business as usual” going forward.
 
To answer the question we started out with, sustained channel performance is possible, but the channel organization needs to build up the infrastructure around the program. Since this infrastructure is designed to support the Best Bets, I like to describe this as a 3-legged stool.
 
Methodology & Training. To illustrate this leg, let’s take the above Best Bet of presenting a business case. Methodology describes the best way to do this. It might be different for different products, industries or partners, but generally there’s a proven best practice for creating a business case for partner investment that your organization has developed through practical experience.
 
As a channel leader, this best practice may seem intuitive to you, but your channel managers don’t have your wisdom and experience. They need to be trained to do what you’ve done so many times it just comes naturally. This is especially true with this Best Bet, as many channel managers are hired for their relationship building skills, not their Business Acumen.
 
Reinforcement. Learning can be reinforced in a number of ways such as refresher courses, either in the classroom or through distance learning. Of course, tying the activity to key metrics and comp plans is always a good way to reinforce anything you want channel managers to do. Perhaps the most powerful way to reinforce the best practice is through coaching. Ask your channel manager to present their business case to you before they try it out on the channel partner. Point out the areas that work well and help them fill in the holes. Again, use your practical experience to reinforce as well as teach.
 
Experience & Collaboration. Individual experience is a great way to get good at something. Eventually, after they’ve built enough businesses cases, most channel managers will get better. The problem is that it can take awhile, and you may not have much time to wait for performance to improve. Luckily, there is a faster way – leveraging the collective experience of the team. You might choose top performers to mentor others, or you might create teams of channel managers who mentor each other. When channel managers share what works and what doesn’t, everyone learns faster.
 
One thing all three legs of the stool have in common is that they require leadership. The performance improvements promised by the Best Bets will not happen unless channel leaders buy into the core competencies and invest the time and budget necessary to support them. 
Last modified on 11/3/2014 1:45:17 PM
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