The best channel management professionals are different. It is fairly easy in conversation to find out if they have what it takes.

From a talent perspective, the best have the following attributes: They are business people and have business skills. They understand marketing, sales and

finance. They can read a business/operating statement and a balance sheet and they know how to do cash flow analysis the have a clear understanding of how various species of channel partners make money and they are curious about how businesses in general make money they have excellent communication skills. They can write well, speak well, present well and communicate non-verbally. They are good at reading the situation.

Most of the attributes noted above can be tested for, and if they are missing, they can be trained in.

The best channel management professionals have a different temperament from the rest. They understand that the days of the vendor as master/channel partners as slave are long gone. They understand that the vendor/channel partner relationship is managed by influence and not by control. They have highly developed influence skills. The best have a tremendous ability to create internal (vendor), external (channel partner) and boundary spanning (channel partner/vendor) teams. As a result of their history, the best have empathy, or the ability to empathize with the channel partners that they work with or for.

It is the job/personal history of the best that shapes much of what they are: Many of the best channel managers have owned or worked for a channel partner. Many of the best have met a payroll themselves, or their mom and/or dad had a business and had to meet a payroll. Many of the best had parents who lost a business, and they remember what happened just like it was yesterday. As a result, they don’t like the look of failure.

Many of the best have worked for companies that were “”shipwrecked”” or went out of business. As a result, they know what death smells like.

All of these aspects of an individual’s history come together to create a unique and extremely skilled channel management professional.

Relationships

The best channel management professionals seem to have a unique way of dealing with their relationships with channel partners: They have a great ability to negotiate and manage roles with their channel partners. They have an ability to earn/elicit trust from channel partners. They educate their channel partners, they earn the respect of their channel partners. When there is a problem, channel partners know that the best do not go into denial.

The best play it straight, get through the crap and fix the problem.

Action/results

The best channel management professionals are action- and results- oriented.

They have a fundamental belief that action drives results. This action comes from focus on: Time management objectives analysis action.

The best know where to spend their time, what they need to do, what action needs to be taken and what results are required.

The best often hit their channel partners with performance metrics that they need to meet and they are not afraid to clearly communicate with channel partners regarding the results required. The best, almost universally, have the ability to sell channel partners on the financial viability of getting done what the channel manager wants, and the vendor needs done. If not presented with a sound business proposition from the vendor’s channel marketing people, the best will create one on their own. In essence, they make it up.

Failure

The channel management job is much easier to fail at than it is to be good at.

ChannelCorp research indicates that in a group of 100 quality direct sales people in the IT industry, the following would be the result if they all attempted to change to a channel management role: Twenty-five per cent would be capable and would accept the channel management role comfortably

Fifty per cent would be marginal. If they did not receive channel management training in the fist six months, they would not make the grade and would have to be culled out.

Twenty-five per cent would be incapable of executing the content and process component of the job. Most would quit or would be culled out in the first twelve months.

Reasons for failure includeTrust: Those who don’t trust, or can’t be trusted, fail.

Talent :Those who are not skilled at finance or won’t learn fail.

Expectations/objectives: Boundary-spanning roles are tough on those who are.

Unclear regarding expectations and objectives of the job: Those who are unclear fail.

Dogmatic control freaks: Those control-oriented individuals who see the world in the context of “”my way or the highway”” fail.

Communication: Poor communicators fail.

Bruce Stuart, is the president of ChannelCorp Management Consultants Inc.

ChannelCorp is a global management consulting firm that specializes in increasing the productivity of vendors’ channels, and the value of the businesses of IT vendors’ channel partners. Visit ChannelCorp’s Web site at www.channelcorp.com.

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