While being a channel chief and effectively managing sales partner relationships may bring many different factors into play, the human element is a key part of the overall equation.
“First and foremost, you have to care,” said John Cammalleri, Vice President Commercial Channels, HP Canada, at a recent C4 webinar. “Caring means you need to be able to enjoy the success of others.”
“There’s no room in the channel for a ‘me-me-me’ mentality. When you see a partner grow and evolve, and adapt to changes in the industry, you take pride in that. You’ve got to believe in them. Your partners’ success must be your success.”
Over the course of the one-hour webinar, “Five things you need to know before you become a Channel Chief,” Cammalleri, Red Hat Partner Sales Leader Pete West, and new Canadian Channel Chiefs Council (C4) President Corinne Sharp provided the kind of thought leadership on channel success that can only come when someone has real, trench-level channel experience. However, that’s not to say experience is the only important ingredient in channel success.
“There are many reasons why a company invests in a channel,” says West. “Senior leaders of a company have to believe they cannot be successful without their channel partners. They must wholeheartedly believe that, see the connection, and have strong reasoning behind it; then and only then can the sales partners be a core part of the business going forward.”
Cammalleri points to the late Dr. Stephen Covey’s advice to “begin with the end in mind” as the best starting point when it comes to the channel. However, as Cammalleri points out: “We often don’t follow Covey’s advice. We evaluate and judge situations based on our past experiences.”
For Sharp, there is little to no chance of getting to that “end” — your overall vision — without the keen analysis of data. “Where you don’t know how strong or weak you are, you need data,” she said. “You need to dig down deep into your business. Failures overall begin with a failure to drill down, to extract meaning from data.”
Cammalleri warns against getting sidetracked along the way.
“Everything you do must align with what you see as the end state. One can get very distracted in the channel. People will claim they do this or do that for the customer. But you cannot be sucked into that kind of thinking. You must have your vision — stay to that vision, be true to that vision.”
Value propositions must be relevant and easy to understand.
“Predictability is, in my experience, the number one criteria that partners measure vendors on,” said West. “Margins are number two.”
Cammalleri emphasizes the importance of offering true value, and in programs that come from people who have actual work experience in the channel. “If you look at a vendor’s exec, who among them has worked in the channel? Having been there, there is no question of pushing programs that are too onerous, too complex, or take too long to implement. When you have an exec team that understands, it makes a lot of things much smoother, more proficient and efficient.”
“Channel partners want to partner with organizations that are relevant, drive significant material share, and have an eye on the future. They are by and large not interested in ‘here and now’ partners. They want future-vision, they want differentiation, and they want commitment.”
And is there such a thing as a perfect partner?
“Whether system integrators or vendors or OEMs or software developers, no, there is no such thing as a perfect partner,” said Cammalleri. “When you’re thinking about the vision you have, where you want to be, and the type of partner you need to get there, you do well to envision a checklist. As you’re developing the characteristics of your ideal partner, you have to stand back, be objective, and really try to analyze what you must have, and whether a partner truly qualifies as a viable partner candidate. Are they going to help take you where you want to go?”
“Expectation is key, on both sides,” said West. “Often when I’m pulled into a channel that’s been around for a while and is seeking to be reinvigorated, or brought in to build a new channel, there can be misalignment. It can be kind of loose. Thus, it’s critically foundational that, right from the start, you’re looking to align the expectations of both sides of a relationship.”
The Canadian Channel Chiefs Council (C4) is the voice of technology channel professionals in Canada. Membership consists of IT vendors, solution providers and distributors that are on the front lines of solving major IT business challenges. These professionals are responsible for developing long-term profitable strategies for channel partners along with innovative solutions that provide a return on investment for customers. C4 is dedicated to advancing the growth of channel professionals through education, research, events, and advocacy.