What makes a great channel account manager?
We work every day with companies and their channel account managers that sell through well-developed sales channels. Successful companies understand the value of great channel account managers. They are the glue between the company and its distribution network.
Great Channel Account Managers Know It’s About Trust
One of the first things you realize about great channel account managers is that they understand their ability to influence a channel partner is directly proportional to the trust they’ve developed with that partner.
Regardless of how long a channel partner has done business with a brand they rarely completely trust them. They also recognize the Channel Account Manager’s success is not always aligned with their company’s success. The CAM’s job is seen as an advocate for the brand.
Great Channel Account Managers spend time early learning what drives their assigned channel partners. Understanding the partner’s goals and objectives and positioning themselves as someone that will add value in helping partners achieve their goals is critical to success.
Great CAMs are Partner Advocates
The Channel Account Manager is clearly going to be an advocate for the company they represent. What the channel partner wants to know is will they advocate in the other direction? A great CAM recognizes they need to be taking the partner’s concerns back to their management.
In the capacity of partner advocate the CAM becomes similar to an arbitrator. A great Channel Account Manager is working both brand and partner agendas. They have to find a way to get their company to do what the channel partner needs in order to get the partner to do what the brand needs.
We’d like to think that our channel programs are the lever that enables the CAM to do their job. This is only true if the CAM has done a good job of bringing back the concerns of the channel partners to the brand and the brand has listened and begun to address those concerns.
Great CAMs are Resourceful
Another key trait of a great CAM is resourcefulness. Often addressing the partner’s needs or getting the partner to do what the brand needs isn’t a standard offering of their company. This might involve doing something out of the box or it might even involve a 3rd party. A great CAM figures out what the missing element is to drive success and finds a way to put it in place.
Are Great CAMs Great Sales People?
You’ll notice we’re pretty deep into this article and I haven’t mentioned sales skills. A big mistake many brands make is to hire direct sales people and think they’ll teach their partners to sell. Worse yet, they think they’ll do the selling for their partners.
Partners often welcome a CAM who is willing to sell on their behalf, especially when the CAM has really good sales skills. This really makes no sense for the brand. Why pay a channel partner a percentage of a deal when you’re going to do all the work?
Sales people often make very poor coaches and trainers. Coaching and training are key skills a CAM must have to do their job. Great channel account managers are closer to business development people than traditional direct sales people. Business development is about building a relationship between two companies, and this is really the goal of the CAM.
Stability is Very Important
Direct sales also tends to be a transitory career. People in these roles risk job security against their ability to make quota and earn commission. They recognize it can only take one bad period to lose their job.
You don’t want channel account managers who have happy feet. The partner often has a stronger relationship with the CAM than they do with the brand. The worse thing would be for a CAM to take that relationship to a competitor.
There is also the cost of developing the relationship over again. It can take months and sometimes years to build the trust need to succeed as a channel account manager or brand with a partner. This comes at a great effort and cost. Why would you want to incur this more than once if you don’t need to?
The above isn’t everything that makes a great channel account manager but they are traits we see in all of them. I hope this helps when you consider hiring your next CAM.
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