Channel Management: Job or Profession?

by | Nov 14, 2018 | Channel Management

“Jasmine has a ton of potential but is really struggling to close deals as a direct sales rep. I think she would be better suited in a Channel Management role.”

“Roberto, one of our best Customer Success Managers, really wants to move into a sales role but I’m not sure he’s ready yet. Maybe we should let him cut his teeth in a Channel Management role first.”

“Alysa has really gained the respect of our partners in her role as a Marketing Lead Development Rep. I think it’d be good for her to take on the whole partner relationship as a Channel Manager before moving into a Partner Marketing role.”

Do these comments and “career advancement” statements sound familiar to you? Do your managers and executives consider Channel Management or Alliance Management a “sideline career” – a role where sub-performers can “rest” or “reset”, a “temporary stop” before their next real career move, or a “sales remediation” camp for those who couldn’t make their number in direct sales?

As Channel Leaders we need to work hard to ensure our Channel Management roles are NOT thought of, talked about, or advertised in this way! We need to drive our wider organization to think about and treat the Channel roles as true professions, NOT as a bit-players or low-level positions that can be filled from virtually any background. The channel is becoming more and more important to the growth and success of technology companies, and it is quickly representing a larger and larger percentage of total revenue production in those companies. This increased exposure and pressure is finally making it clear that Channel and Alliance Management are important and difficult roles that require a unique combination of skills. Which means we can’t fill those roles with just anybody!

The best Channel / Alliance Managers are part sales manager, part executive business consultant, part project manager, and part franchise owner. They have deep business acumen, a wide range of professional experience, and off-the-charts influence skills. Ideal Channel / Alliance Managers need to have similar backgrounds and experience to your direct-sales Sales Managers and Sales Directors with the added skill set of being able to influence sales people and sales managers who don’t report to them and motivate business executives and owners with wildly different business objectives. It is not a role for beginners, sub-performers, or wanderers! However, we’ll never change the perception if we don’t create the foundation and infrastructure for Channel / Alliance Management to become a true profession.

That means clearly defining the roles, role levels, and available career paths within Channel Management; it means delivering Channel Management-specific enablement at every level to drive personal and professional development in the Channel Management ranks; and it means investing in real and tangible ways in the Channel Managers themselves. The truth is, there is an entire generation of Channel Management professionals already out there, but for the most part they are self-taught, self-raised, self-promoted professionals who have fought upstream their entire careers; they are pioneers that had to dig and claw their way into performance excellence – all without any real recognition or organizational support. It’s time that we as Channel Leaders honor those pioneers by stepping up and creating the infrastructure and thought-leadership required to nurture the next generation of Channel Management professionals.

What is your organization doing to promote the Channel / Alliance Management profession both within your organization and outside?