Export Sales - international channel management reality

Ed Marsh | May 25, 2012

Efficient but not effective

Do you run your life be email and monthly spreadsheets?  If you answered yes, sorry to say, but you are deluded!  It really doesn't work long-term.  And you're probably over-caffeinated and sickly pale from too much time inside staring at a monitor too.

Now that I've offended you - I've got your attention.  So let's get serious.

Even in our hyperkinetic American business environment we find the blessing of technology often becomes a curse.  Relationships falter, misunderstandings abound and trust suffers.

So call me silly, but why would be think that what creates friction within our familiar framework would possibly work for managing international sales channel?  Anyone?  Anyone?

"High tech demands high touch"

In 1999 Dr. Edward Hallowell wrote in his HBR article The Human Moment at Work that "email and voice mail are efficient, but face-to-face contact is still essential to true communication."

That was in 1999 - as in dial up modem '99.  So if the "Human Moment" was already disappearing from interpersonal relationships in the ante-blackberry era, in what critical state must we be today?

How often do we accord our co-workers physical presence and emotional/intellectual attention?  And if we don't, should we be surprised that cohesiveness suffers; distrust, disrespect and dissatisfaction blossom; and culture turns unfriendly and unforgiving - caustic and corrosive impacts.

And what fills the vacuum?  "toxic worry" is Dr. Hallowell's description of the worry - or paranoia - or misguided speculation.  Experience should tell us that when we are worried and start to conjure up possible scenarios, we are nearly always wrong.  But does that stop us?

And this is relevant to global business how?

It's often said that managing employees is the hardest part of business.  I say that's absurd.  Channel management is far harder.  (Read why here - in short?  Channel has been trained that you will screw them!  Talk about a fertile environment for toxic worry....)

Now let's add in the myriad of known, and larger number of unknown, cultural factors.  Toss in some serious time zone asynchronicity, difficulties in spoken language, etc.  Suddenly you have the perfect conditions to leverage all the advantages of email.  DON'T FALL FOR IT!

It's not easy and it's not cheap.  But travel and belly-to-belly meetings are critical.  Perversely the very conditions which cause you to think of defaulting to email make it even more important that you make the "human moment" integral to your international channel management activities.

Jet lag sucks...and so does coming home to a desk full of work that you couldn't get done on a laptop screen while traveling for a week.  But you are asking channel to make a larger investment than you realize.  Not only will you substantially improve the effectiveness of your joint efforts, but you will create an enormous competitive advantage for your business. Partner after partner will tell you that you are the first to really be involved.  The others will have all come only once....and then emailed - exchanging brief messages and monthly forecast spreadsheets.

If you've done the hard work to find, vet and engage the right channel partners in the right channel model, then take the important steps required to maximize the potential.  Need help in building or managing your channel or your global team?  Contact Consilium Global Business Advisors to learn how we can help - with real-world actionable advice, not academic organizational learning mumbo jumbo. 

And download our free white paper on the 6 phases of international channel management.

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