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Being a channel manager isn’t an easy job. On top of having many of the same responsibilities (and quotas!) of the sales team, they’re responsible for significant and sometimes delicate relationships. How do they maintain strong relationships while also meeting business goals? How do they drive results from external sales teams and manage conflicts?
While a Google search will provide plenty of “best practices” for channel management, we wanted to take a deeper dive. In this post, we sought advice from leaders that are on the front lines of channel management. We spoke with three channel leaders from different industries. We aimed to find out what they do to succeed.
The channel leaders we spoke to about this article are:
Ryan Klekas, Partner Manager, Bombora
Bombora is the leading provider of Intent data for B2B marketers. Bombora’s data aligns marketing and sales teams, enabling them to base their actions on the knowledge of what companies are in market for which products.
Tristan Moore, Channel Account Manager, OtterBox
OtterBox is a privately owned consumer electronics accessory company based in Fort Collins, Colorado that produces water-resistant, shock-resistant, and drop-resistant cases for mobile devices.
Kyle Jacobson, Channel Success Manager, LockNCharge
LocknCharge offers products such as multi-device charging stations or charging carts to integrate mobile technology seamlessly into your workflow.
Here are the top five things channel leaders do to excel in their roles:
1. They measure KPIs, not just revenue.
Kyle (LocknCharge) “I work with a variety of different resellers. It runs the gamut from small local resellers to thousand-employee corporations. How we measure partners depends partly on the size and reach. Other than revenue, I measure my partners on activity. If I can get a rep to be more engaged and produce more quotes, even without the revenue number being there yet, I feel like I’m helping to drive what ultimately will turn into revenue growth for the reseller account I’m managing.”
Ryan (Bombora) “We understand that certain partners will need more help. Maybe there isn’t a perfect customer overlap or a specific deal opportunity but we still see value in the partner. This happens with our partners in different countries and regions as well. We put in the time, especially in the beginning, to help partners get up and running.”
2. They engage and motivate their partners.
Kyle (LocknCharge) “When it comes to reaching out, a lot of the weight is on me. I know that if I’m not calling my partners, my competition is. It’s up to me to establish the relationship but executive-level buy-in helps A LOT. I’ve had partners in the last year that went from $60,000 to half a million year over year partly due to VP and executive-level buy-in where they were intentional about encouraging their reps to focus on us and our product. Understanding how my partners are compensated is key too since it varies from reseller to reseller. We’re constantly trying to figure out how to incentive partners to get results, whether it’s SPIFF’s or other marketing initiatives.”
Tristan (OtterBox) “SPIFF’s are one method of incentivizing. We use SPIFF’s to clear inventory, to promote new products, and just to increase brand awareness. When it comes to SPIFF’s we have to be conscious of whether or not we’re seeing an actual lift in sales. We want to avoid rewarding people for selling products that they might have sold anyway, so the results matter.”
3. They emphasize partner acquisition and onboarding
Tristan (OtterBox) “At Otterbox we have our Authorized Reseller Program (ARP). We provide an easy-to-access online application that asks qualifying questions. We want to gauge the legitimacy of their business and also make sure that our business strategies align. We have a team that’s responsible for reviewing those applications. Our relationships with our distributors are important as well. Since we have solid relationships with them, they feel confident in answering partner questions and training them on the product. Training our distribution centers has a direct impact on how they train our resellers.”
Ryan (Bombora) “Again, communication is huge here. When we onboard partners, the relationship begins with multiple face-to-face meetings. We also want to make sure that our teams work well together so we put a big emphasis on relationship building there.”
4. They put an emphasis on trust and relationships
Ryan (Bombora) “Trust is super important. Especially because partners are another “face” of the business. To build trust, especially in the beginning of the relationship, we visit partners multiple times per month. In-person interaction is key. It’s also important to establish a solid “support network” other than just their main POC. We want them to feel comfortable knowing they have a group of folks who can help with content requests, troubleshooting, and other types of support.”
Kyle (LocknCharge) “Integrity is a staple value for myself and for LocknCharge. It’s something that means a lot in our business. Unfortunately, I’m sometimes lumped in with other channel reps that might not share those values. Being straightforward and honest with partners, even when the partner might not like my decision, is important. Sometimes there’s other things at play internally that I can’t control. Sometimes there’s internal competition. I’m trying to support reseller X the best I can and my colleague is trying to support reseller Y the best they can. We’re both doing our job the best we can for the people we’re responsible to and that can create an issue sometimes. The only thing that can really be done is to be honest and explain what’s happening on my end.”
Tristan (OtterBox) “I moved from a more transaction-based sales role to a relationship-based channel role. Handling conflict is part of relationship building. At Otterbox we handle everything with a lot of discretion. We have solid rules in place that prevent tricky situations. We reward deal registrations on a first-come-first-serve basis. If a partner doesn’t register the deal first, I still try to work with them and make the process as fair as possible. It’s really about being upfront.”
5. They provide helpful resources to their partners
Tristan (OtterBox) “Otterbox has a designated website geared toward our commercial sales partners. Having this site separate from the other verticals like education and retail helps with accuracy. By visiting https://business.otterproducts.com/ partners can find the relevant SKU’s and solutions. We also have partnerships with other brands that help make our solution whole. For example, we provide a recommended charging solution on that site to streamline the customer experience.”