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The Partner Channel Podcast Episode #11

How to Manage Channel

Sales Internationally

Show Synopsis

In this episode of the Partner Channel Podcast, Daniel sits down with Zach Selch to discuss how to successfully sell through the channel internationally. Zach offers insight into the common misconceptions about international selling.   

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The Script

Daniel Graff-Radford: Welcome to the Partner Channel podcast, the voice of the partner channel community. I’m Daniel Graff-Radford, the CEO of Allbound here with Zach Selch, who is the principal at Global Sales Mentor. Today, we’re going to discuss managing an international channel. Welcome, Zach. Thank you for being on the show.

Zach Selch: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Great. Can you start us off by helping us understand your background in the channel and how you ended up where you are?

Zach Selch: So I’ve been selling internationally for a little over 30 years, and to a large extent, when you sell internationally for mid-sized or smaller companies, you end up selling through channels.

So I’ve been selling through channels most of that time and really there was never any way to learn how to do it. So it sort of was like figuring out myself over the years, right? Yeah, there’s lots and lots of material on selling. There’s virtually nothing about selling internationally or selling through channels. So you had to sort of figure it out as we went along. And that’s what I’ve been doing. And over the years I’ve sold I brought in purchase orders from more than one hundred and thirty countries. I’ve lived more than half my life outside of the US and that’s pretty much how I got to where I am. And a couple of years ago, I decided, no it was actually my wife suggested it she said, you know, you seem to really enjoy building things. And then when everything gets running smoothly, you get bored. Is there any way you could do this in parallel as opposed to sequentially? And I thought, you know what, if I were sort of helping companies, I could help a few companies at once instead of really just focusing on one. And that would be a lot more fun. So that’s what I do.

Daniel Graff-Radford: So, Zack, I also know that you run a website that is a great resource for people leading sales and channel. Tell us a little bit about that.

Zach Selch: Oh, yeah, thanks. So I have a website. It’s a global sales mentor, dot com. And basically you link there to hundreds of resources. I have a blog. I have a podcast of my own. I have essays and so on. But it’s also a good way to find me if you are looking for a little bit of help. So I offer coaching and training and done-for-you services a variety of different stuff. But you can also just reach out and chat and we can talk about what you’re doing and see if there’s some way that I can help you out.

Daniel Graff-Radford: That’s great. And I highly recommend Zach’s podcast as well. So what are some of the things that companies come to you with that you help them with?

Zach Selch: Companies get this wrong all the time, and you know what happens? This is one of the most important, like building up an international sales channel for a company that intends to grow. This is one of the most important jobs in the company.

And first of all, they very often don’t choose thier for their very best person or the person, you know, the person they love the most. Right? Yeah. You think about it very often. The people who are the favorites in the company are the, you know, the direct sales VP. That seems to be like a hero’s position. It gets all the attention and very often they push into the channel people who aren’t their best. And very often then they don’t give them resources and they don’t give them training or support. So that’s sort of one thing is people will come and they’ll be like, well, this isn’t quite working so well. A lot of companies don’t put a lot of intent into it. Right. I know people who are making you know, they sell, they have channel partners, they sell, but they’re not managing with channel partners. People will say, well, you can’t ask a channel partner to give you an accurate forecast. You’re never going to get an accurate forecast from a channel partner. So what I do is I help people set up their systems, find their partners, get those partners running, and then really work with them to manage the partners correctly so that they are like, you know, channel partners are the primary sales asset of a company that sells through channels. Right. That’s a pretty simple definition, but people don’t see it that way very often. When you say this to a lot of people, if you say, well, your channel partners are your primary sales assets, right. They work for you. They get very defensive about it. Sometimes they’ll say, no, no, they’re you know, there are partners. They are independent. Sometimes they called customers. They’ll say, well, that’s our customer because we get a check from these guys. Well, if if it’s your customer, you can’t tell them you need a forecast. You can’t tell them how to use your marketing material. Right. So it’s a lot of it’s about attitude. Know, then I go down into the details of the techniques and the tactics, but the first step is attitude.

Daniel Graff-Radford: So I love this. So let’s let’s go back to the beginning and break this down. So first you said that identifying the right person to run channel and a lot of times companies get it wrong where it’s not their best person.

And because of the complexity of channel where they need to be amazing with their partners, amazing. It forecast amazing ad sales, amazing and marketing and and keeping track of a lot of balls at once. It should be someone amazing, right? Setting up the right profile, getting that person hired. Then you talked about on a country by country basis, making sure the partners are able to be the right partners. And that included, you said, partners providing forecasts. And I would say this is a constant topic with our customers, you know, thinking of a few very recent conversations I’ve had with our customers where they really want to get their partners to provide a really great forecast and to be able to stand behind it. And there’s there’s a key difference between direct forecast and channel forecast. And it’s not just the fact that it’s two different companies, but what are they doing that is not even deal registration to help make sure that their reps are ready to sell. What are they doing to move those deals along? If you are helping a young head of channel that is starting to get out to some of these other countries, starting to work with these partners, what’s a couple things of advice to that person that would help her along in getting a forecast out of a new channel partner?

Zach Selch: Well, really, it goes to the very beginning. Its attitude, you know, these channels work for you, right? So you have to make sure they and you have to take this back step. They have to want to work for you. You have to establish your value. Right. You can’t if you don’t have any value, you can’t come and say to them, you have to do this. But let’s say you’ve established value. You’ve shown them that they want to work with you.

When you have a process in place, your forecast follows because if you know what they’re doing and they are following a process, you’re going to know what the conversion rate is step by step. Right. And think about all the other things that are involved with that, because let’s say you talk to a partner who covers Brazil and that partner has three salespeople and they’re bringing in a million dollars a year.

And you look at it and you say, OK, I can see that you have all these leads and they’re dropping off conversion rate here and here. Isn’t that good? Can we train these salespeople a little bit better on this step of the sales process? Can we add people because you have all these leads, but you don’t have enough people to follow up. So could we add three salespeople? And by looking into what they’re doing, you are going to increase your sales by hundreds of percent, sometimes thousands of percent. And that’s the trick to it is going through and understanding what is going on. Right. These are your people all the way down to the end. And so the most important thing is to think of this as these are your, this is your sales team. Right. What will that guy in Dubai, what did he do last Thursday? Right. I want to know what he’s doing and that’s the way to do it.

Daniel Graff-Radford: So looking at that regular interaction, digging in on the deals, digging in on the interactions, that makes a lot of sense. And you brought up Brazil and then earlier in the call, you talked about selling it over one hundred and thirty countries, which I think is over two-thirds of the world, and way more than that as a percentage of who you can actually sell stuff to,

Zach Selch: That pretty much means all the little tiny islands that haven’t sold to.

Daniel Graff-Radford: And places you’re not allowed to sell probably too. let’s go back to our young sales leader in the channel, sales leader. What are a couple of differences or mistakes or things that go well in different countries that people typically sell into that you had to learn whether the hard way or through others? That would be good advice for for for someone looking at new regions.

Zach Selch: The very first thing is, again, I’m going to go back to that whole concept of doing everything with intent. So first of all, you want to say, well, what are the five or the ten countries that are best markets for me? And how do I find the channel partners in those places? The other part of this is get to know every get to know from a fundamental basis the cultures you’re working in.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Yeah, I think that that’s really important. So let’s know, just sort of say it back to what I took away is one of the most important lessons I ever learned as a salesperson and sales leader is that time is finite and that if you are spending time in the wrong markets with the wrong prospects and those wrong can be almost right.

Zach Selch: And so you can be getting something from them. You’re not maximizing your addressable market. And so, for example, Venezuela and Indonesia, maybe those are great, maybe they’re not great and understanding where the addressable market is and being proactive as opposed to reactive to those markets listening when a market is reaching out to you. But also you’re only going to have so many resources this year. So where do you attack and you need to attack where you’re going to have the best impact this year. And I think that that’s an important lesson. And then the second thing that you talked about is not to extrapolate one region, one country to the whole world and think about where you have cultural experiences or teammates with cultural experiences so that you can understand how to relate to those teams. And if you don’t have them, how do you get them? And, you know, not to say that if you’ve been having success in Colombia, that that’s going to go really well for you in Greece, et cetera. And I think that those are great lessons. And as people are here at the beginning of the year and thinking about the rest of the year, thinking about where to allocate their limited resources and where they have strengths that they can bring to bear, those are two good things

Daniel Graff-Radford: And now we’ll be rolling into our Final Four questions. I hope you’re ready. If you had a superpower, what would it be and why would you pick that superpower?

Zach Selch: Well, I’m going to interpret that as what I usually say my superpower is, is. You know how there are people who are really good at understanding, like looking at a piece of machinery and understanding how it works and fixing it. I’m really good at human interactions like that. And when you think about like a complex sales process, again, it’s sort of funny. Like a lot of people look at the sales process and they are completely confused by it. And it seems to me that I have very strong clarity on that. And some of these sales processes in different parts of the world can be very confusing. So I would say my superpower is I can look at some type of a human system and understand it and then figure out how to work with it, because I think a complex sales process is very difficult to build and manage. And that’s sort of what I do really well.

Daniel Graff-Radford: You know, I feel like that’s not my superpower, that’s something I’ve learned to get good at by getting it wrong a lot of times and getting it right a lot of times. So I’m glad someone has it as a superpower and like, taking it back to your wealth of experience. Can you give us an example of a mistake and an example of a success that you personally have had in the channel?

Zach Selch: Well, you know, everybody screws up with channels because as far as I know, virtually nobody gets taught this, everybody gets thrown into it and has to figure it out for the most part. So I have had mistakes. Where I’ve worked and years ago, years and years ago, I’ve had mistakes where I’ve really seen a load of the channel where I said, oh, it’s the end of the year, I have to sell, I have to get my number, just buy and hold on to it and we’ll work together to sell it next year. And that lowers your credibility. And it really doesn’t help. I mean, it might help you achieve your year. And that’s really a rookie mistake. I probably did that twenty-five years ago. Twenty-something like that. And that’s a huge mistake. And you learn from it, right? You have to be thinking. You know, the trick is not to sell and then help the guys sell. The trick is to be working with your partner, to sell to the end-user so that the partner doesn’t ever end up with a painful stock of your product, because that is never a good thing, and I’m guilty of that, I haven’t been guilty of it for a while, but I sure as hell was at one point or another.

Daniel Graff-Radford: So that was a mistake, talk about a success we can learn from.

Zach Selch: A company I was with a while back, a few years ago, I went in and they had just a horrible channel organization that had been put together haphazardly over the years and the CEO felt very strongly that he didn’t want to terminate any of the partners, and I want to say I inherited eight or nine, one of them I terminated just because there was no way of turning him around. But I was able to turn all the others around, even though to be really frank, in some cases they were not the right market for our product, and then in every case, they weren’t the best partner in that market. In some cases, honestly, they weren’t very good at all in terms of selling. And I worked really, really hard at training them and coaching them. And on average, they each sold about three hundred percent more within by the third year. And on top of that, we added a lot of partners. So the whole organization was about 20 percent up from where I started before about the seventh year. But what I was actually really proud of was turning around these underperforming partners without terminating them. I find that something I’m very proud of.

Daniel Graff-Radford: You know, when you can exact change through training, through help, you know, that’s a sustaining sort of goodness that that, once you leave, is talked about in that book, Good to Great where you leave and that thing continues to go well for the right time. So that is something to feel really great about in terms of a legacy.

Zach Selch: And so for our listeners, Zach has written a book, Global Sales. I’m excited to read it. I just got my copy of it. And it is as if you were to recommend a book that influenced you. And for people that are aspiring to be leaders in the channel, what’s a book that you think everyone should check out?

So I’m going to answer your question as asked. I just don’t. Well, here’s the thing, I just don’t think there are very many books about this. So the one book I would say that everybody should read if they’re working on the channel is Marcus’s book Marcus Cauchi. And it’s called, I think, Making Channel Sales work. And that really, I think is the only I’ve probably read 12 or 15 channel sales books. And I would say, in my opinion, that’s the only really good one aside from mine. But that’s really for you on his isn’t necessarily international or anything like that. It’s specifically about making channel sales work. So that’s a great book.

Daniel Graff-Radford: We’re big fansof Marcus and he has a great book. I think it was like one of my first weeks on the job. I got a hold of that book and it’s been really good. So now just to put you in front of a crystal ball, and as we think about five years from now, what are the changes that are happening today that will affect the world five years from now that people should be thinking about?

Zach Selch: Well, I think business travel will never be the same. It’s not going to disappear entirely. But what I’ve discovered this year, and I’m an old dog, right? I discovered that probably half of what I do, I can do from my living room, which I never if you had told me that a year ago, I never would have believed it. And I think a lot of other people are figuring that out, too. So that doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to cut down travel completely, but we’re going to cut down on a lot. And with that, I think of all the tools that have come up that compete with Zoom and compete with WhatsApp and all that. I think, you know, in five years we are going to be using a lot of technology to make meetings happen remotely much more comfortably, much more effectively. You know, we’re still working on it. Nobody is doing as well with these meetings. Everybody’s working harder and scrambling and establishing rapport and relationships remotely on video is still very difficult. But everybody’s working on trying to solve those problems. And I think we’re going to have to we’re going to get to the point where five years from now, people will be traveling 50 percent less than they were in 2019. That’s my prediction.

Daniel Graff-Radford: Well, I think that that makes a lot of sense, and so I want to thank our guest, Zach Selch, who’s a principal from Global Sales Mentor, and I obviously want to thank our listeners for joining us here on the Partner Channel podcast. If you like what you heard, subscribe to our podcast episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.