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Channel Matters Blog > September 2012 > Invest in Coaching Partners to Boost Sales

Invest in Coaching Partners to Boost Sales

by Philip Moon
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Channel managers often feel they have a most challenging and frustrating job. They are judged on the performance of their partners, which makes their personal success highly dependent on their leadership and coaching skills and their ability to influence partners over whom they have little or no positional authority.  This is a similar challenge to that faced by sales managers all around the world whose success is dependent on the performance of their sales team. Lessons learned from Miller Heiman’s research into sales managers in world-class sales organizations apply to world-class channel managers too.

World-Class Sales Organizations are an exclusive segment of Miller Heiman’s annual research that provides an ambitious but attainable measuring stick for other organizations who are working toward achieving high-performance results. To be included in this segment means the organization is producing better results than others in a group of key sales performance measurements: the ability to find and win new business, keep existing customers, and improve productivity among the sales team, all of which ultimately lead to increased revenue.

“World-Class Sales Organizations recognize their first line sales managers must be more than forecast accountants,” said Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer for the Miller Heiman Research Institute. “They need to be the conduit to execute change throughout the organization.”

We agree Joe! This is true for Channel sales people too, the heart of their role is to influence partners to change and invest in such a way as to make the partnership more successful for both vendor and partner.

World-Class Sales Organizations realize the key to a successful organization is having sales managers who provide guidance to their teams on how to perform in complex selling situations; channel managers also need the skills and knowledge required to bring vendor resources and support to bear on major sales opportunities as they emerge in the channel.

The emphasis coaching by sales managers starts at the top in World Class Sales Organizations, with CEOs who support a coaching culture that provides the guidance, tools, processes and technologies to build and sustain high-performance selling organizations. Miller Heiman research reveals that these organizations are nearly four times as likely to state that their sales managers spend enough time coaching each month.

 Coaching time spent

Some questions for vendor indirect channel sales VP's are:

• Do you expect your channel sales people to coach partners to become more independently enabled and successful? Are you fostering a channel-coaching culture?

• Do your channel sales people have the skills to coach partners, and do they spend enough time doing this?

Many channel managers complain they are burdened by complex channel and administrative processes, and spend much of their time passing poorly worded or directed communications between vendor and partner.

The dilemma for sales managers, and for channel sales people, is that on one hand, their role is to provide guidance to their teams, or partners, on how to perform in complex selling situations. On the other, they must meet the numbers. There is a lot of pressure on channel sales people to step directly into sales opportunities and try to close sales themselves. The result: Without clear support and alignment from upper management, channel sales people may be doomed to flit from crisis to crisis rather than operate a scalable and independently capable channel.

Looking back at Miller Heiman's research into sales management best practices, Joe Galvin says "Managers must work tactically with their reps on a deal-by-deal basis applying the principals of the sales process, their experience and sharing successful strategies of the other sales reps. Coaching, like selling, is a discipline that requires training and guidance," Again, we agree Joe! The same lessons clearly apply in channel sales but while most quality vendors have invested in coaching training for their own sales managers, few are even trying to develop their channel sales people as a coach.

"In a way, an effective sales manager must have a philosophy of 'pay it forward,'" said Tim Call, Executive Vice President at Miller Heiman. "Some of the very best sales managers I see tend to take this mantra to a very high level. They give up a piece of themselves whether it be in the form of setting the proper example, sharing a best practice or providing candid feedback to help strengthen the skills of the salesperson," he said.

Well said Tim! Once again the same lessons apply in indirect channels. Selling through indirect channels involves a built-in time-lag factor that is often not well understood by senior vendor executives who have historically had little channel experience. We often say "what you do now in channels won't produce revenue for 6-9 months" Of course time frames vary with the business and the channel, but the point is still valid.

Channel sales people who coach partners to success ultimately prove their value by building scalable channels that are independently enabled to generate revenue for them and for the vendor; Partners who will continue to improve and adapt to meet new products, markets and opportunities.

Last modified on 6/30/2013 10:11:08 PM
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