Why Your Next Channel Hire Shouldn’t Be a Channel Person

Posted on September 8, 2016

By Matt Hensler

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The definition of insanity is trying things the same way you always have, and expecting different results. Have you ever experienced something like that? Maybe your boss has given you strict instructions to follow, but also mandated that you increase a key metric by 5% over the next month. How are you supposed to increase from the status quo when you’re not able to make any changes to the operating procedure?

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
–Henry Ford

Innovation means the death of tradition. Or at least, a mortal illness to it. If you’re not willing to think outside the box, you’ve painted yourself into a corner. Bringing in fresh ideas will help you overcome those roadblocks and break barriers that have held you back from further success.

But when it comes to  to finding new ideas, and new heights for your channel sales revenue, you should consider a hire who is free from any preconceived notions about working in the channel. The best way to avoid getting dragged into the same pattern is to find someone who actually hasn’t worked in the channel before.

“Most founders fail to understand that 95% of sales leaders will implement exactly the total market strategy they employed at the last company.”

–Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot

Get a fresh perspective on reaching your goals.

When looking at a new channel hire, it’s important to have an idea of the overall role indirect channel partners will play in your go-to-market strategy. That means when interviewing candidates, you can provide them with the information they’ll need to give educated answers on how they’ll help you progress toward those results.

When you consider candidates without ‘traditional’ channel experience, be prepared to receive answers to your questions that surprise you. You’ll need to fight back your initial response of ‘that won’t work in the channel.’ That is the exact thinking that has prevented channel sales and marketing from making effective advancements in the last 30 years.

Breaking this cycle happens by hiring someone outside the channel. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have experience in your industry or in connecting to your target business profile and buyer personas. But they do need to have fresh ideas to keep the ball moving, and knowledge of successful approaches to modern sales and marketing which they can readily apply to your channel business.

Don’t be impressed by mediocrity

The 80-20 rule is a common one in most businesses. 80% of the results from 20% of the work, 80% of time spent on the most important 20% of tasks. It has many uses, and in this case, we’re seeing that most channel operators have been content with 80% of the revenue being generated by 20% of the partners.

That’s all well and good, and there are many reasons why the other 80% are not performing at the same level. Size of sales teams, overlap in branding, etc. But when you look at the actual numbers, and understand that 80-20 is probably too generous (we see many cases where it’s 90-10 at best), you have to stop and think for a moment. When you pause and consider that reality, you will be forced to consider what can be done differently from either end to promote a higher strike rate.

If you hire someone who’s well-versed in channel sales already, you’re hiring experience. You’re also hiring a traditionalist who will attack the problem in the same way he or she has always done. This might produce results, but are they acceptable results, or are they continue to tow the line at or below 80-20?

Insist on use of new technology

There are a lot of new tools that have made sales and marketing approaches more effective and efficient. Those applications are rarely used in a company’s channel efforts, but there is no reason they can’t be. And, there are SaaS solutions available in the market that help you extend the value of your corporate marketing and sales efforts to your channel partners. That type of connection and alignment amplifies your success.

By looking at candidates outside the traditional channel pool, you’ll find individuals who will be more open to learning the new tech.

Your customer is evolving, and so should you

We’re in the middle of a marketing and sales revolution. Buyers are searching for their own solutions. That means it’s imperative to have your content ready and available for them when they discover the need for your product.

Your next channel hire needs to understand this new norm. You need someone who can apply the inbound, content and account-based everything principles that have helped companies see extraordinary success in the last ten years. Extending those methods into your channel strategies will help you help your partners develop meaningful relationships with customers that gives both of your businesses a lift.

Before you consider your next channel hire, give these things a few moments’ thought. A channel hire can’t be innovative if they only pull from prior successes in the channel. But without any preconceptions of what should work, your next hire can take outside experience and new ideas and apply them to your channel sales to improve success across the board.

Matt Hensler

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