- Effective channel account managers (CAMs) select, support and motivate partners
- High-performing CAMs use their strong business acumen to develop a deep understanding of their partners’ business
- CAMs identify and focus on their highest-revenue potential partners
Evidence shows that building an effective and engaged channel partner community starts with having the right caliber of channel account managers (CAMs) who will select, support and motivate partners. Yet, it is not unusual for organizations to “promote” salespeople who washed out in direct sales into indirect sales roles. The CAM role absolutely requires excellent selling and sales management skills. However, a different set of skills, experience and actions also are required to engage and motivate a group of people who are not under your direct control.
To answer what behaviors set a high-performing CAM apart from his or her under-performing peers, we talked to a number of channel sales leaders in various industries. The following are the most common responses:
- Habit #1: They invest time getting to know their partners. CAMs who are top performers have strong business and financial acumen, which they leverage to develop a deep understanding of their partners’ business, in terms of their priorities, how they make money and the challenges they are facing. This, in turn, allows CAMs to establish credibility, provides partners with a compelling reason to do business with their company – beyond products and programs – and helps them deliver the advice and support they need to be successful.
- Habit #2: They develop a discipline of measurement and monitoring. Top-performing CAMs monitor more than partner revenue performance vs. established targets. They also monitor a list of factors that influence future partner sales potential, such as training and certifications completed, co-op/MDF utilization, deal frequency and adoption of new products. More importantly, the CAM uses this information to take corrective action – before sales begin to decline.
- Habit #3: They identify and focus on their highest-revenue potential partners. It is not unusual for a CAM to support more than 100 partners, making time management skills essential. CAMs who consistently achieve their goals recognize the importance of prioritization. They use the information collected through Habit #1 and Habit #2 to identify and focus their time, effort and resources on their top-performing partners, as well as the partners that have the strongest potential to grow.
- Habit #4: They set shared goals and plans with their partners. CAM “superstars” treat partner business and marketing plans as a critical need and not just as a “nice-to-have.” As a result, they work jointly with each of their high-performing/high-potential partners to develop plans that document the goals and objectives of the partnership, how those goals are going to be achieved (an action plan with specific activity dates and resources identified), and they regularly review these plans with their partners to monitor progress and make any needed plan adjustments.
- Habit #5: They make knowledge transfer a top priority. Many CAMs, especially those fresh in the job from direct sales, attempt to make their quota by selling for their partners vs. through their partners. This may work for the short term, but it simply doesn’t scale over the long term. Instead, top-performing CAMs consider helping their partners become self-sufficient to be their most important priority. These are the CAMs who ensure partners are aware of all the programs, tools and resources that are available to them. They track their partners’ training and certification progress and conduct regular onsite training to keep their partners abreast of new products and product enhancements.
- Habit #6: They proactively engage their partners in marketing. When channel partners don’t market effectively, revenues suffer. Instead of allowing their partners to remain dependent on supplier-provided leads, top-performing CAMs succeed by enabling and motivating their partners to proactively and effectively generate demand for their solutions by serving as their de facto marketing consultants and/or bringing in the right company marketing resources when required.
- Habit #7: They motivate, manage and earn partners’ trust. There is much talk about the importance of making CAMs “trusted advisors.” In the end, this simply comes down to building enough trust with a partner for them to be willing to share their problems and listen and act upon your advice and counsel. The key traits of CAMs who reach this status include: competency (perceived as being knowledgeable, accurate and current), integrity (reliable and dependent), honesty (a partner can rely on them to tell them the truth), transparency (the CAM will promptly share news that impacts the partner’s business – good or bad), authentic (believed to be generally interested in the long-term success of the partnership, not just short-term commissions) and responsive.