Key Skills When Hiring a Channel Team
During our recent webinar “Pitfalls to Avoid When Launching and Scaling an International Channel”, Channel Mechanics VP Sales, John McArdle spoke with special guests Nehul Goradia, Co-Founder, Enabler ONE and Justine Cross, Managing Director, EMEA Channel. During the discussion, the panel share their thoughts on the skills needed when hiring, building and recruiting a channel sales team.
Channel Managers develop, service, and grow relationships with their channel partners, in order to grow revenue. Their role includes doing things like developing sales strategies, negotiating with partners and training and developing their channel sales team. At times, they will wear different hats: a sales hat, a marketing hat, an advocate hat. Other times they will be tasked with being the business manager and running profit and loss scenarios for success with a particular partner. Therefore, to be successful as a channel manager, a certain skills set is required.
Time is a precious commodity. No more so than for channel partners. Research shows that the average channel partner works with between five and seven vendors, so channel managers need to communicate in a timely fashion with partners. Otherwise, one of those other six vendors will be more than happy to step in. Channel managers need to be both reactive, by not waiting days to respond, and proactive, in anticipating the needs of their channel partners. Justine believes “You can have all the connections in the world. You can have the best marketing. The best channel skills. But if you don’t get back to your partners, you will leave them frustrated“. So having this skill is a key requirement when developing your channel team.
- Relationship Skills
All too often when vendors are putting together a channel team, they recruit for domain knowledge. But what they fail to realize is that domain knowledge can be taught. When Nehul Goradia thinks about the channel, he thinks about relationships…”the channel is all about relationships. We do business with people because we like them“. But relationships are something that take many years to build up. They don’t just happen over night. As such, when recruiting for your channel team, it’s important to focus on this skill; people who have a good network,and the ability to build long lasting relationships. The advantage of having people on board who have relationships is that you cut short your go-to-market time beyond what it would have otherwise taken.
However, Nehul also offers a cautionary note; not to bring every partner that your channel team knows, into your ecosystem. “At Enabler One, we follow something which is called the Best Fit Analysis Framework. You identify if the partners persona fits your portfolio, your strategy and your structure of program“. Not every partner is going to be a good fit. As such, you want to invest your time and resources in those that have the best potential for you.
- Being Your Partner’s Advocate
Every channel partner needs to have an advocate within the vendor organisation. An advocate being someone who publicly supports them, giving them the ability to grow within the vendor’s channel ecosystem. It’s important for a channel manager to take this view. They are not the vendor’s advocate on the channel partners side. They must ensure that they are front-ending the partner inside their organization. When working with channel partners, Nehul believes channel managers must be able to “position them, give them the limelight, and give them the visibility that they need to grow within the channel ecosystem.”
Channel sales are not just the responsibility of the channel team. Nor the sales team or the marketing team. To be successful, it needs to be the responsibility of the entire organization; pre-sales, post-sales, finance and even HR. It’s important for everyone to be involved in ensuring the success of the channel program. This is because everyone will have involvement in some part of the engagement throughout the journey and the life cycle with the partner.
The Channel team need to operate as “conductors of the orchestra” i.e. ensuring that everyone in the vendor organization plays their part to make the partners successful. “If they are not empowered accordingly or given the right training or the skills or even the right KPIs to focus on, then it’s always going to be said that the partner was bad, or the channel manager was bad. But you know, you’ve not really analyzed that the whole organization did not really adopt the program the way it should have been”.