I’m a bit suspicious when I hear this kind of complaint from a Channel Manager because it’s often just a veiled attempt to portray the Channel Manager as indispensable and indicate no revenue would happen without them. More importantly it reveals a critical warning sign of how the Channel Manager approaches their role: more as a “super rep” than the sales enabler they need to be. And we can’t grow channel revenue with “super reps”; in fact, a channel organization full of “super reps” almost always results in declining revenues.
Unfortunately, while talented in many other ways, channel partner organizations are often small, founded and managed by technical people or consultants who have little or no sales experience, and populated with personalities resistant to outside coaching. The easy temptation for Channel Managers is to simply “take over” the deals that need to be closed. However, those efforts simply maintain the status quo and mean that next quarter will be just as hard as this quarter. And worse, that approach creates and encourages a level of dependency between the partner and vendor that is unhealthy and unhelpful.
Growing channel revenue requires Channel Managers that are true sales enablers. We need Channel Managers who act as virtual sales managers or sales directors over the sales organizations of their partners. Granted these virtual roles are purely influence-based, but like any good sales manager their approach needs to be one of building and refining sales skills to continually move the partner sales organization up the scale of self-sufficiency. The best Channel Managers are continually working to create a portfolio of partners that produce increasing revenue with decreasing effort from the Channel Manager.
But that requires a careful balancing act between sales enabling activities and closing revenue for the current quarter (revenue that we often desperately need!). Channel Managers need to use active opportunities as the platform upon which they both assist in closing business and enable improved partner selling skills. They must carefully orchestrate a combination of Opportunity Reviews (where they can provide strategic advice and high-level support on many opportunities), Opportunity Coaching (where they can provide tactical recommendations and detail-level support on fewer opportunities), and Co-Selling activities (where they can model and coach appropriate selling skills on select opportunities) to impact as many revenue opportunities as possible.
A critical foundation for this balancing act is to help the partner sales organization define (or refine) their own sales process with clear descriptions of what an opportunity looks like in each stage of the sales cycle, and the types of information or activity that represents risk at each stage. When Channel Managers can help a partner sales organization see their selling process as a disciplined approach to identifying and managing the risk of each opportunity (much like they already do with an implementation or development project), they are much better positioned to create the appropriate balance between Opportunity Reviews, Opportunity Coaching and Co-Selling.
Transitioning from a “super rep” to a sales enabler is a challenging move for most Channel Managers – but one that’s necessary for channel revenue growth. What are you doing in your organization to help transition your “super rep” Channel Managers into sales enablers?