One question to step up your sales channel management game

Ed Marsh | Feb 25, 2014

Channel management crystal ball

If you own a company, or are responsible for growing sales and rely on channel, you intuitively understand the frustrations and challenges inherent in that relationship. 

Strong, productive, collaborative & communicative sales channel is pretty tough to find.

More frequently you think you have found strong potential channel partners, only to be dissapointed as you vet them with a formal process and measure them against identified benchmarks.  Or worse, as a year passes with no activity.

And of course every day you receive inquiries from folks who promise they can introduce your products to the world (through vast connections, a key relative, etc.)

The bottom line?  Sales channel management is part science and part mystical art.  It almost feels entirely random and impossible to predict which partners will really fit.

And by the way - if you find that the conversation is all about the!  That's sure to fail!

Finding the perfect fit

When you find a great channel partner it's a natural fit.  Sure there will be disagreements, particularly with global sales channel as cultural conflicts are inevitable.  But like pepperoni and pizza, there should be a synergy.

The challenge is how to preemptively measure that synergy potential.

The answer is to build your sales channel search and evaluation around a business planning process.  Most companies ask for some basic metrics (how many offices, sales reps, annual sales) and do a little pro-forma planning (projections for the product, etc.)  But few companies really engage in vigorous mutual business planning.

Not only does doing so ensure that the match is philosophically comfortable, but it sets a tone for a mature, grounded business relationship.

And there is one question which is illustrative of this approach.  It must be asked at an appropriate time, and in an appropriate tone (particularly important when working globally) - but it must be asked.

"What line (product/service/activity) do you plan to drop in order to focus on making this launch and partnership effective?"

This has a way of hyper focusing the conversation.  All of the discussion about adding a rep here or planning a campaign there are revealed to be either answers to appease you or legitimate manifestations of engagement.

Great companies are going to be too busy, but focused on what is strategically aligned with their corporate objectives.  And you don't want to select channel partners from among any category other than great.  Therefore by asking this question not only do you professionally insist that the mindshare allocated to your effort ins't merely some small incremental additional bit when convenient, but you also open up a serious dialog around how your product will allign strategically with the channel partner's corporate goals.  (Hint - this is why the details of the product itself should be irrelevent to the conversation, and why a partner who focuses on those is likely not a great candidate!)

And if it doesn't, that's OK.  But don't proceed with the partnership.  You're looking for real players.

You need partners that will "burn the boats" with you - commit against a downside, not merely a potential upside.  And partners who will recognize the value of a business relationship with someone who takes such a thoughtful approach to building channel.

Want to role play this conversation or chat about how it might be applied to your current channel management challenges?  Give me a call.

Want to learn more about global channel management?  Check out our free whitepaper.

channel management