Ideas Blog

Through a Channel Partner’s Eyes

A couple of weeks I had the privilege of leading a workshop at Channel Focus, a premier technology conference organized by my good friends at Baptie and Company (www.baptie.com).   The title of my session was, “Through the Eyes of a Partner – What Do They Want from a Channel Account Manager?”

When I was offered the opportunity to speak, I had to think a bit about the subject matter. While Channel Focus is a technology conference, the topic really lends itself to any industry. Given my business experience in multiple, non-technology industries, I reflected on the topic from a business perspective. What would I want form anyone calling on me?

As a business owner, I’m not asking for too much by expecting my account manager to:

  1. Selectively drink the company Kool-aid
  2. Understand the market
  3. Understand my business
  4. Care about my customers
  5. Fight for me
  6. Have key personal attributes

Selectively Drink the Company Kool-aid

  • Your marketing department is paid to make your company look good–your company is not good at everything
  • Be honest with me and my staff about what your company is good at and what you suck at
  • Help me sell the positive and around the negative
  • I know this business and industry pretty good—don’t insult my intelligence

Understand the Market

  • Provide insights into where the market is headed and how my business can capitalize on those trends
  • Know complimentary vendors and partners and how they can help me make more money and service my customers better
  • The competition: what they do well and areas where I can beat them…the real truth
  • Know the behavior of the customers I target—i.e., what, how, why, when and where do they buy

Understand My Business

  • It’s margin, not revenue, that matters to me
  • Profitability, not selling, is paramount
  • I have limited resources: cash, people and time
  • Don’t tell me what you learned at Stanford Business School, if you never ran a business
  • Do you know what a P&L and balance sheet are?
  • Customize company plans/objectives to match my business model

Care About My Customers

  • Go on joint sales calls with me
  • It’s my customer…let me lead and be supportive
  • Coach me: the good, bad and ugly
  • Always keep me in the loop when communicating directly with my customer…better yet, communicate through me
  • Help educate my customers on the benefits of the technology and not the features
  • Let the customer know that you have my back…and theirs

Fight for Me

  • Have the authority to get things done and use it when needed
  • Help me gain access to your company’s resources and people that can help my business
  • Showcase me and my business
  • Get me special pricing/terms when I really need it
  • Don’t carry a direct quota

Have Key Personal Attributes

  • Be easy to do business with and remove your company-imposed friction
  • Available and responsive
  • Take ownership and responsibility and be truly objective
  • Solve problems just as enthusiastically as you sell
  • Integrity and transparency
  • Be an expert at something that helps me
  • Anticipate next steps, be proactive
  • Lead by example, don’t ask me to do what you can’t or don’t want to do

Bottom line, help me sell and make money by selecting or specifying your products over the other alternatives available to me in the market.

Being a channel manager is not an easy proposition. A good channel manager is a combination of sales, business development, account, alliance, marketing and product manager. But a good channel manager can make all the difference for your company and to your channel partners.