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Channel Matters Blog > October 2011 > Coaching Or Selling? What's the right approach?

Coaching Or Selling? What's the right approach?

by Philip Moon
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Should you coach partners or sell to them? Can you do both at once? If not, when should you sell and when should you coach? When you are coaching you are also selling, but when you need to sell don’t get this confused with coaching.

In recent weeks I have had the pleasure of delivering our Coaching Partners To Results (CPR) course in a few different countries in Europe. It was a reminder to me just how valuable this training is and how quickly it can be applied to improve partnering results. CPR is about building the "virtual sales management” skills of vendor channel account managers to promote partner ownership of the business plan and its execution.

Until partners are independently capable of generating revenue they are a drain on vendor sales channel resources and won’t make money. If partners don’t make money they won’t invest, and if they don’t invest your channel program won’t be competitive and end-user customers won’t be properly covered or served.

When partners accept they have a performance issue or opportunity which is relevant to their goals they can be coached to identify solutions and specific action plans. However, coaching may not be the best approach when it is only the vendor who desires change or when partners don’t see a clear value proposition.

When performance gaps arise in the channel vendor channel account managers must first consider is this an issue of partner skill or partner will?


Source – “The Tao of coaching” by Max Landsberg

If partners are motivated to close performance gaps then performance coaching is the ideal way to approach the situation. Coaching combines “the best with the best” because a partner is best placed to understand their own problems, and if they generate the solution they are more likely to execute the action plan. This combination of “best understanding” and “best execution” is the reason why performance coaching delivers such an outstanding return on investment in time and training.

There are two obvious reasons why partner “will” might be lacking.

  • First a partner might not at first accept they have a problem or an opportunity until the issue is explored during discussion with a channel manager coach. Skilled channel managers need to explore the implications and consequences of performance related issues until the partner accepts the seriousness of the issue and its relevance to their important goals and priorities. The ability to raise partner awareness and gain acceptance of issues and opportunities is a vital channel manager skill.
  • Second – the partner may not accept the vendor’s goal. Often channel managers try to use a coaching approach to pursue goals that the partner doesn’t share or accept. Inexperienced channel managers attempt to coach around performance issues such as “my partner is not actively selling my product”. If the partner were motivated to sell more of the vendor’s product and had established specific targets to do so, performance coaching is both appropriate and necessary to close performance gaps or encourage even higher levels of success. However, if the partner is not yet convinced of the business opportunity channel managers must first establish this goal as one of the partners own – and that means channel selling and partner influence.

It is quite understandable that vendor channel executives want their people trained to coach partners to improved business results. However I often find that channel managers lack foundation skills of partner understanding and partner influence that would help them be more effective sales people and progress more quickily to become virtual sales manager coaches. Effective coaching is built upon questioning and listening skills which really should be established first. That’s why Influencing Partnership Outcomes (IPO) comes before Coaching Partners To Results (CPR) in the Channel Enablers channel manager development curriculum. IPO helps to develop a channel managers understanding of partner business priorities and the partner influence skills required to create unique and compelling value propositions.

That’s why I say “When you are coaching you are selling, but when you are selling you are not coaching” Both coaching and selling are important and necessary but selling should not be confused with coaching. However, when you are coaching partners to higher levels of business performance in pursuit of cooperative vendor and partner goals it also happens to be highly effective partner selling!


Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:10:49 PM
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