Why an All-World athlete has a Note from me in his Trophy case

TomRunMany of you know, that in addition to being Channel Engagement Innovator at HMI, I’m a past President of Mid-Day Toastmasters. Toastmasters is the best networking and professional development organization I’ve ever experienced. A couple of weeks ago, I attended Columbus OH’s Mid-Day Toastmasters Club 50th Anniversary and Holiday Celebration.  I credit the Mid-Day Club and the people involved with it for much of my advancement in life and for helping me to see the world in a different way. Just as important as the communication and leadership tracks are the people and ideas to which I’ve been exposed. Surely Move the Channel or TribeVest wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Toastmasters platform and Mid-Day mentors and peers like Tracy Austin, Anthony Iannarino, Tommy Costantiello, Mike Rudd, Mike Brickey, Robin Starr, Wayne Harer—and the list goes on and on. Basically, there is nothing quite like the right Toastmasters club.

One of the mentors I mentioned above is Tommy C. Tommy is a highly-respected financial advisor at Consus Wealth Management Group … so it probably comes as no surprise that he also loves to compete at just about everything—including Toastmaster speeches! He’s one of those guys who makes a decision and then sets his mind firmly to it. For example, Tommy had never run more than five miles at a time and didn’t even know how to swim when he made it his goal to compete in Hawaii’s Ironman World Championship. Well, fast-forward 6 years later and Tommy has successfully completed 14 Ironman Finishes, 2015 Ironman All World Athlete, and Ironman World Championship Finisher.  In one year he ran a 50K, 50 miler, 100K, and 100-mile ultra-marathon.

When I first joined the Toastmaster’s club, Tommy agreed to be my mentor and was a big influence on my professional and personal career.  Seeing Tommy at the Mid-Day toastmaster’s 50-year anniversary was a chance to show my gratitude and to share my exciting initiatives that are ongoing at the moment with him (many of which he’s influenced).  But when I finally ran into him at the party he flipped the script! He thanked me for a note that I’d written, and at first, I have to admit, I didn’t remember which note he was talking about. (Believe it or not, I do make a daily habit of writing notes of gratitude to people who have influenced me over the years).

But I responded by telling Tommy that I felt it was important for him to know the impact he’s had on me, and how he’s continued to inspire me over the years. He kindly replied by saying I do the same for him, and then he told me something that shocked me.

Apparently, the note that he was referring to, the one that I sent him a couple of years ago, now sits in his trophy case with other prized items representing his hard work and accomplishments. At first, I thought he was joking, because it hardly seems appropriate that a note that took me 10 minutes to write and less than a dollar to send would be sharing a spot with a trophy that required thousands of hours of training and sacrifice, years of extreme dieting, and ultimately a grueling 15-hour endurance test through rugged mountains. But Tommy assured me that it was there, and that note was a reminder that the time he invested in me as a mentee was as valuable as the time he’d invested in his many other accomplishments. 

It’s always a great feeling when people let me know how much they appreciate my notes.  But this Trophy case story, I thought might motivate others to take the time to write a note to those who have impacted you.

When was the last time you wrote a note to someone who’s impacted your life in a positive way? Does your channel partner deserve a note (a hand-written) of gratitude? Give it a try—you might be surprised at the response.

Oh, and if you’re thinking about checking out a Toastmasters Club in your town, I’d be happy to share my experiences and insight with you. Feel free to give me a call.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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About the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a channel engagement, and incentive company focused on Technology Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their domestic and global channel incentive programs.

Correct Ways to respond to “Thanks!”

happy-thanksgiving-pictures1I know as channel professionals we feel like we don’t hear the phrase “thank you” enough from our partners. So when we do receive gratitude for our efforts, it’s important to respond in a way that really strengthens our partnership.

A couple of year’s ago I read a wonderful and very appropriate post from my friend at influencePEOPLE. Brian Ahearn is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer and, through his blog, trainings, and workshops, he helps people influence others. If you want to hear your clients, friends, and family say “yes” more often, you should definitely subscribe to his blog.

In his Thanksgiving-week blog, “Correct Ways to respond to ‘Thanks!’” he points out how most people typically respond to the phrase “thank you”:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

In the words of Ahearn, people need to “strike each of these responses from their vocabulary!”

I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to engaging with your channel partners, it’s important to take advantage of any and every opportunity that’s available. Here are some suggestions for how to respond next time your channel partner offers their appreciation to you:

  • “You’re one of our most important channel partners, so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you, your business, and our continued partnership.”
  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (Some people will appreciate the humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (and your business).”

During this holiday season, it is so important to count our blessings and give thanks. But equally as significant is how you respond to those that take the time to say “thank you” to you.  Whether you are around the dinner table or the boardroom table, don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to deepen your relationships with those around you.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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profileAbout the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a channel engagement, and incentive company focused on Technology Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their domestic and global channel incentive programs.

Channel Marketing: Don’t Give Your Partners the (Full) Playbook

simple-game-planA couple of year’s ago I wrote a super bowl-edition blog entitled “Give Your Partners Your Playbook.” Since that time, I’ve changed my stance on this topic. Sure, you can call me a flip-flopper, but the fact is that advances in technology have changed the landscape of channel engagement.

Consider this: depending on their formations, personnel, and different variations of each play, the average NFL offense can have upwards of 500 plays in their playbook. Now, this isn’t an insurmountable number, and players can certainly master each of these plays, but it takes lots of mental preparedness and studying in order to become an effective offensive player.

If it’s difficult for an employee that gets paid millions of dollars to learn a playbook, think about your partner’s salespeople who have multiple playbooks to consider.   Your playbook today is most likely your partner portal.  Yep, just about every case study, sales tool, and resources one would ever need is in your partner portal.    It’s good that your partner salespeople and sales engineers have access to the playbook, but don’t expect them to know it or even be able to navigate it.

Don’t give them the playbook, give them the “game plan.” By only giving them the overarching game plan, the likelihood of them actually absorbing the “plays” and strategy increase ten-fold.

Over the last 5 years, the industry channel organizations has been spending time, money, and resources on answering the question, “How can we be more efficient with our communication and become easier to work with?” As an industry, we’ve been successful with implementing Partner Portals, Learning Management Systems, Partner Relationship Management Systems, etc. These have been positive, even necessary steps for industry growth. But now, with the foundation of all these past investments in place, we need to transition from simply giving our partner sales and sales engineers “access” to these resources, to actually leveraging these systems and enabling these people so that they become more comfortable, compliant, and successful in growing their businesses while selling our products.

spotlightThis can be achieved by shining a spotlight on the five important channel behaviors that can transform into eventual sales. This spotlight is your channel engagement platform. A channel engagement portal blankets over all your channel resources and makes it easy for your partner’s people to identify the top 5 key plays (behaviors) that lead to sales.  Those plays might include: certification trainings, viewing a new product launch video, downloading a new case study, reading a recent favorable Gartner report, setting a meeting with the regional business development manager, a new account introduction, or whatever else we know continues to move the sticks for fresh set of down.

“But Travis, can these things/behaviors be tracked and measured?”  Absolutely!  And we if they are “good” and should be measured, then they also need to be rewarded with incentives.

So don’t overload your Partners with 500 different plays to choose from—give them your five best that can be run utilized successfully again and again and again.

As always, send me a note if you’d like to discuss or talk through some of these ideas together. And feel free to join in on this conversation at Move the Channel Group, your exclusive destination for Channel insights and innovation.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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profileAbout the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a channel engagement, and incentive company focused on Technology Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their domestic and global channel incentive programs.

Should we Embrace what’s ‘Strange’ about our Best Channel Partners?

strange (adj)

1. unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.

·       Children have some strange ideas.

2. not previously visited, seen, or encountered; unfamiliar or alien.

When we hear or say something is “strange,” it usually comes with a negative connotation. After all, some of the synonyms for the word “strange” include “odd,” “peculiar,” “bizarre,” “unaccountable,” “weird,” and even “freakish.”

But didn’t our parents also tell us that what’s “strange” about us also happens to be what makes us great? Personally, I’m of the opinion that there’s a very fine line between what one might consider odd and what people might call a gift. The key, according to this school of thought, is to identify your uniqueness, embrace it—and leverage it. At this point of intersection, your flaw then becomes your inherent gift.

With that in mind, there are some other synonyms for the word “strange” that are more in line with this philosophy— words like “curious,” “uncanny,” “unexpected,” and “extraordinary.” I love Apple’s “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” 1997 marketing campaign and TV Ad.

Which group of words describes your organization? Very likely you have some “strange” people working for your company or within your channel. But isn’t it that strangeness that differentiates you from your competition? Steve Jobs of Apple always encouraged us to “Think Different.” In other words, embrace your organization’s strangeness and the people who make it unique. At the same time, don’t expect everyone outside of your organization to immediately recognize and understand this uniqueness as the gift that it is. These things take time.

And herein lies the opportunity to help your channel partners who might be considered “strange.” Like you and your organization, your channel partners most certainly possess some unique qualities and ideas. But you probably know better than most that their unique style and leadership aren’t necessarily negative things. Their “strangeness” is an essential part of who they are and probably one of the main reasons for their success. So, when behaviors among our partners that seem “strange,” we have two basic choices: we can try and help fix these behaviors (strangeness as a problem), OR we can celebrate it, embrace it, and help them leverage it (strangeness as a tool). If you show your channel partners that you truly appreciate what’s “strange” about them, you’ll gain a loyal partner for life—and a very productive one at that!

Do you embrace the strange in your channel partners?

As always, send me a note if you’d like to discuss or talk through some of these ideas together. And feel free to join in on this conversation at Move the Channel Group, your exclusive destination for Channel insights and innovation.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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About the AuthorTravis Smith is the CEO & Founder of Move the Channel, a worldwide network and community of channel marketing & sales Chiefs and channel thought leaders. He also is a leader at HMI Performance Incentives, a business improvement company focused on Technology Channel Incentive Strategies. Travis helps some of the most respected companies in the world design, implement, and manage their domestic and global channel incentive programs.

Move the Channel: #1 Driver of Customer Loyalty is the . . . Buying Experience throughout the Sale

Loyal CustomerIt has long been understood that if you’re going to increase customer loyalty among your end-users, then your organizations should be building their customer loyalty strategies around three basic drivers:

  • Product and service differential
  • Improving brand impact
  • Improving perceived product value

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Conversely, a study by our friends over at CEB has found that end-user loyalty is not being impacted primarily by these traditional drivers, but rather by one important element: the end-user’s buying experience or what they experience throughout the sale. When we talk about sales experience, it’s more than just delivering on your product and/or company promises; additionally, it includes providing insights and added value to the customer. In other words, a salesperson should be capable of doubling as a trusted advisor—certainly no easy task.
How do these findings impact channel organizations? Well, to be frank, this discovery makes many of us VERY uncomfortable. For the most part we are in full control of executing our strategy when it’s based around the traditional pillars of product and service differential, improving our brand impact and improving our perceived product value. In fact, we have very talented people in our marketing teams working on these areas every single day.

But when it comes to controlling our channel partners’ salespeople and sales engineers, to ensuring they are providing a good end-user buying experience for our product, our confidence is a lot less assured. Without having our hands physically in the mix, it can be hard for us to trust that due diligence is being exercised. So I can totally understand why this is prospect might be, shall we say, scary to certain Channel organizations. But I’m here to reassure you that the end-user’ buying experience is actually not out of our hands; in fact, we can exert some measure of control.

For starters, there’s been significant innovation in the area of how to better influence and train our channel partners’ sales people. Arming them with the right content at the right time is one area where we’ve seen a big impact, with companies like SproutLoud and Allbound leading the way. But perhaps the best levers to pull when it comes to this challenge may also be the most obvious: incentivizing them to do the things that make them stronger, more trusted advisors to your end-customer.quize

For example, HMI Performance Incentives helps companies reward these important influencers for 1.)  Completing training quizzes so that they become more informed, more confident and comfortable, and ultimately more influential during the sales experience. Other methods include rewarding your partners’ salespeople for 2.)  Getting your team involved in the sale early on, 3.)  Rewarding for new account introductions, 4.)  Early deal registration, or 5.)  Setting up professional Demo or placing POC (Proof of Concept).

So, just because the territory is unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s impossible to navigate. Don’t you feel better now? I sure do.

As always, send me a note if you’d like to discuss or talk through some of these ideas together. And feel free to join in on this conversation at Move the Channel Group, your exclusive destination for Channel insights and innovation.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Have we out-kicked the coverage when it comes to Channel and Alliance Partnerships? 

puntIn American football, this analogy references the idea of the punter having such a good kick, that he out-kicked his special team’s coverage.  The tremendous kick has the cover team out of position at no fault of their own.  As a result, the kick returner is able to capitalize and runs the kick back for a game swinging touchdown!  It is hard to find a more disappointing and pivotal play in sports than a punt return for touchdown against your team!

In channel marketing & sales, we are starting to out kick the coverage. There is no doubt, channel marketing automation tools and channel sales tools are more advanced and effective than ever.  However, is that a bad thing?   Should we tell the punter to not kick it so far?

Of course not!  Bombs away!   But, we do need to rethink our coverage team and plan.  Your channel and alliance managers need to adjust to the terrific “kick” and provide even deeper coverage.  The booming kick isn’t a reason to scratch the play…  its reason to sprint harder, faster, further.  Just like the booming technology is reason to increase your relationship efforts and understanding with your channel partners.  Too many think the marketing automation and sales tools are reason to let up.  Wrong!  In fact, more than ever we need to “up” our coverage.  
Channel Account Managers (players) shouldn’t take the play off and Channel Chiefs (Head Coaches) need to remember how vital good players are to winning.  A good kicker is a huge asset but don’t stop coaching and properly incentivizing your cover team.

Take note and make some half-time adjustments that put your channel reps back in position to execute.

As always, please send me a note with your thoughts and your experience.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Don’t just fill your channel partner’s pail…

beautiful-jungle-waterfall-nature-wallpaper-beautiful-759063643This past weekend my wife graduated from The Ohio State University with her PhD.  She is now embarking on her new career as an education professor working with and preparing future teachers.  Her expertise is in science education, and she cares deeply about improving science education experiences, teaching and learning for all children.

In her dissertation dedication she references one of her favorite quotes by Yeats, and one she applies in her teaching,

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the igniting of a flame.”

As always, when I hear such a powerful and moving statement I try to see how that statement might be applied to moving the channel.

All too often we fill our partners pails with discounts, co-marketing programs, trainings, and everything else that may be on our partner program checklist with hopes that this ‘pail filling’ will be the ignition we are seeking.  To take a step back and examine the pail, have we drenched the partner to the point of stifling the partnership?  Don’t get me wrong, filling the pail with a well-designed partner program is the foundation for a successful and fruitful partnership.  But a foundation is just the beginning.

Lets deliver and communicate a world-class channel program and benefits, but then turn our efforts to understanding our partner’s needs, challenges, opportunities, and passions.  If we can get to know our partner and what drives them we can “ignite” the partnership into a greater business opportunity than ever imagined.Don't just fill your partner's pail

Are you only filling your partners pail?  Where is the source of ignition with your partner?  How do you “ignite” your partnership into growth and profits?

As always, send me a note with your thoughts and feedback.

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Book it! Share a stirring book with your alliance partner

Little BetsAs I look back, the most memorable and stirring incentives I’ve ever received have come in the form of handwritten notes.  For whatever reason, I’ve always appreciated the time and thought that goes into putting pen to paper. It’s a personal gesture that feels far more meaningful than, say, an email. Of those notes that I still cherish and read often, most have been written on the inside of a book. I have a library full of business and leadership books, but the ones that have a special place on the shelf are those with personal messages written in them by a boss, business partner, or person I just greatly respect.

Is there a book that your leadership is reading that could apply to any business? Is there a personal favorite book that has shaped your personality and how you do business? Have you written your own book? One of the better ways to align your channel distribution partner with you and your organization is to have them read the same book as you. You can encourage this process by sending them a title with aFullSizeRender personal message inside. It’s a terrific gesture of respect and inclusion in your go-to-market strategy.

What books have you read that would be a good one to share with your alliance partners?

If you email me with a book gift idea I’ll make sure to accumulate a list from the responses and share it back.

Best,
Travis

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Trading Places with your Alliance Partner

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKiAAAAJGJlMzA4NThmLWU4NjktNDFkYi1iMWY4LTVlN2UxYzNhODVhYgIf empathy is a key to good partnerships and sales, then try trading places.  As channel marketing & sales pros, it’s important that we are always trying to put ourselves in our alliance partner’s shoes.  This helps us get out of the vendor vacuum and design channel programs that help our partners become more successful.

Let’s take that concept and flip it on its head for a moment: Why not have your partner stand in your shoes ?   Go ahead… role play over lunch.  Too often we ask, “What else can we be doing to help you grow your business?” Don’t get me wrong, we should be asking this question–and often!  But we might be amazed if we also asked:

 “If you were me…”

  •        …Which opportunities in the market would you attack?
  •          …What would you use your channel program to be a differentiator and get the mindshare of the channel? 
  •          …What gap in the market would you be well positioned to bridge? 

They will be honored you asked and have a better understanding of your market perspective. But more importantly, you will also learn unexpected valuable lessons. 

 

As always, send me a note with your thoughts, ideas, and personal experiences.

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

March Madness: Your Channel needs more Coaches, Not Discounts

March Madness is always my favorite time of the sporting year.  On my flight to Austin yesterday I read a great article in the New York Times that provided a nice reminder about how the “Games Are Big, but Life is Bigger”. 

Wisc

Why is basketball so special and important to me? Even though it has been 20 years since I graduated from high school, I still feel a great deal of loyalty, appreciation, and pride for High School Basketball Coach, Coach Gray. Many of the lessons he imparted to us as juniors and seniors have stayed with me to this day, and it seems a bit strange now to think that in the course of my life, one of the most important and inspiring teachers I ever had was a coach. Somehow, through his leadership, he was always able to get the most out of us, his players.

Leadership is a skill that is required in business as much as it is in sports. Take channel marketing and sales leaders, for example. Much of your efforts are spent designing, implementing, and marketing the perfect partner program. Discounts structures, rebate tiers, MDFs, CO-OPs, partner benefits, etc., are all foundations for any Channel Partner Program. In fact, Move the Channel has published its own Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart to serve as a sort of “playbook” for all of these critical features.

But even if you have the best playbook in the business, it’s difficult to get the best results without an effective “coach” to implement the plays and motivate the “players.” These coaches are the people in your channel organization who interface directly and consistently with your channel partners. They are the people selling in the field whose compensation is linked to the partners they support. In many organizations, their main role is to “manage” their accounts; but if they’ve never managed (or coached) before, they might have a hard time doing this efficiently, with deals only getting done when they are heavily involved.

The people that interface with your channel partner need to have a coach’s mentality. All too often in business we have a first practice, hand out the playbook, and check back in the next quarter to review how many rebounds, assists, and points the partner and partner’s salespeople scored for our team. These partner “coaches” need to recognize the partner’s strengths and weaknesses in order to identify how that partner might best contribute to the “team.”  This takes time, energy, organization, and leadership—basically a coach’s approach. In the short term, this can lead to increased mind share, market share, and sales. In the long-term, you will have a partner who is loyal and appreciative, and who takes pride in working with your championship-caliber organization. Just don’t expect them to call you “coach.”

Enjoy the rest of March Madness and make it a great week!

Move the Channel,
Travis

Channel Conduit of the Week: Show your Channel Partner What is Important (other than sales)

Channel Conduit of the Weekpractical-stress-relief

  • Small gestures that make big impacts on channel behavior
  • Commonsense reminders that make the difference b/t you and your competition
  • Elements that should be considered in a Channel Incentive Programs

Channel Incentives must be focused on the right behaviors….  not only sales.  

Our partners want to bring value to our solution and to be recognized for being an important piece of our strategies.  Yes we do a good job of telling them what their yearly growth goal is or what it’s going to take for them to achieve “Gold” status.  Don’t get me wrong these are important behavior to define and recognize.

But there are other behaviors that should be recognized too.  And almost always these other behaviors lead to more sales.  Make sure they know what behaviors are valued and then make sure to recognize for them.  Here are some key behaviors that are often included in a Channel Incentive Program:

  • Deal Registrations
  • Early introductions into the sales cycle
  • Achieved Sales and technical certification or accreditation
  • Customer service – End User tells brags about the support from the partner
  • On-time delivery
  • Integrity
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Teamwork
  • Case Study worthy clients

Take some time today to identify your company’s key values and communicate them to your partner.  Then use those values as the foundation of your channel incentive efforts.

As always, send me an email with your thoughts and comments!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Conduit: Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Culture BreakfastI recently had a thought provoking conversation with impressive channel leaders at a dynamic company that inspired this blog.

The conversation made me think of the late Peter Drucker’s infamous quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  On the surface we might think he’s suggesting that a company should focus on changing their culture before implementing new strategy.  But after more research and considering the context of the statement, he isn’t suggesting changing culture at all.  In fact Peter also said, “Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got”.

So how can we apply this same wisdom to Moving the Channel?

Over the last couple of weeks we have spent time discussing and debating the importance of developing a strategy and sharing the playbook with your channel partners. In this same vein, it’s also imperative for your organization to focus its sights internally in order to evaluate the special dynamics of the channel partners’ culture.

First, we should recognize and embrace our channel partner’s culture and “work with what we’ve got”.  Maybe the cultural differences between your organizations are holding up the partnership and sales.  Instead of battling these differences, try to adjust your support, strategies and approaches to fit their beliefs and values.

Second, does this present an opportunity to share your winning culture with your channel?  We know expecting major changes of culture may not be the best idea, but certainly isn’t influencing it a possibility?

Is your company culture a differentiator for you in the market? If so, it could be one of your biggest assets when it comes to creating a loyal partner network and Champions of your brand.

Just as many companies fail to include their partners in their channel strategies, so do they also neglect to share their organization’s principles & values with their channel.   Invite your channel partners’ Executive Management to a typically internal team building event or a remote brainstorming session.  Make sure to spend time not just on your playbook’s X’s & O’s but philosophy and various viewpoints.  ROE (Return on Experience) is often achieved when you host your top performing channel partners to a group incentive trip to a desirable destination.

While your competition can adjust their strategy, pricing, and partner programs to look like yours, what they cannot so easily emulate is the unique culture of your organization. If your company has a winning culture, it is critical for you share it your channel partners. All else being equal, the right company culture can often make the difference between a reseller of product and a true champion of your brand.

Please shoot me a note with ideas and questions.  Do you have a story about culture or current culture challenge?  I always enjoy the channel community’s feedback and thoughts!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Channel Marketing Reminder from Mrs. Disney “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

Mickey and MinnieOn October 1, 1971, five years after the great Walt Disney passed away; Disney World had its grand opening. During the dedication ceremony, someone turned to Mrs. Walt Disney and said, “Isn’t it a shame that Walt didn’t live to see this?” Mrs. Disney replied, “He did see it, that’s why it’s here.”

Walt Disney World sits on forty-three square miles—nearly twice the size of Manhattan—of some of the most valuable property in the state of Florida. Originally, it took seven years to plan, and more than four years to build. Such an enormous undertaking, I think you’ll agree, could never come to fruition without a great mind having a clear vision.

When a channel professional lacks vision we lose in two ways. One is not having a vision at all, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I think we can all agree this is true for every aspect of business and life. Many times I have seen good companies walt-disney-florida-mapwalt-disney-with-map-of-florida-olp-travel---news-viewsolp-zzuys1w3with good products try and go-to-market through a new channel. But they don’t have a plan; they haven’t refined their vision beyond the basic premise of selling and distributing their products to a larger universe. They don’t know what to expect from their partners, nor do they fully realize what their channel program could become. It seems like 100% of the time these new channel efforts fail. WDW Opening Day 01

For the more mature channel we can fall short in a different way. Often times we as manufacturers or distributors will fail to cast or properly communicate our goals to our partner. If we don’t explicitly show them the mutually beneficial vision of the partnership and the larger channel ecosystem, we risk leaving partners behind or worse: they switch to a competitor that has more effectively communicated a strategic vision.

How do we know Walt Disney effectively communicated his vision to his partners? It’s a fact that he spent seven years planning and communicating his dream of Disney World to those people who could turn it into a reality. And that’s exactly what they did. Five years after he passed away, his partners continued to carry on the relentless pursuit of Walt’s amazing vision. Today, Walt Disney World is one of the most recognizable icons in the world.
Have you shared your goals and vision with your channel partner? Do they understand how they are an important component of that vision, and why it is exciting for them to share it with you?

As always, send me an email with your thoughts and comments!

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Channel Marketing Conduit: Correct Way to Respond to “Thanks”

How to respond to Thanks

How to respond to Thanks

I know as channel professionals we feel like we don’t hear the phrase “thank you” enough from our partners. So when we do receive gratitude for our efforts, it’s important to respond in a way that really strengthens our partnership.

Last year I read a wonderful and very appropriate post from my friend at influencePEOPLE. Brian Ahearn is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer and, through his blog, trainings, and workshops, he helps people influence others. If you want to hear your clients, friends, and family say “yes” more often, you should definitely subscribe to his blog.

In his Thanksgiving-week blog, “Correct Ways to respond to ‘Thanks!’” he points out how most people typically respond to the phrase “thank you”:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

In the words of Ahearn, people need to “strike each of these responses from their vocabulary!”

I couldn’t agree more. When it comes to engaging with your channel partners, it’s important to take advantage of any and every opportunity that’s available. Here are some suggestions for how to respond next time your channel partner offers their appreciation to you:

  • “You’re one of our most important channel partners, so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you, your business, and our continued partnership.”
  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (Some people will appreciate the humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (and your business).”

During this holiday season, it is so important to count our blessings and give thanks. But equally as significant is how you respond to those that take the time to say “thank you” to you.  Whether you are around the dinner table or the boardroom table, don’t miss a wonderful opportunity to deepen your relationships with those around you.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Channel Marketing Conduit: Apple just gave iPhone buyers the gift of a rockin’ U2 album.

u2_apple_bono_tim_cook_2014_l (1)2 weeks ago Apple paid U2 $100 million and distributed their new album Songs of Innocence to 500 million people – for FREE!

Of course, a bold marketing move from one of the most powerful companies on the planet is bound to attract some criticism. Everyone in the marketing world has an opinion, and those opinions regarding Apple’s strategy range from it being a huge debacle to a stroke of marketing genius.

Let’s be clear, Apple got everything it wanted out of this deal; an enhanced image, increased branding, positioning in the market, a greater global reach, and most importantly, hype. Looking to launch and sell its new products, the iPhone 6 & Apple Watch, Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook, wanted to ensure that everyone was still talking about Apple, no matter how successful or unsuccessful the new product ended up being. After all, the Apple Watch hasn’t generated the type of social conversation that Apple’s been hoping for, certainly not in the same way that Songs of Innocence landing in people’s iTunes accounts probably has.  What’s more, how many millions of people now have a better understanding of Apple’s iCloud technology? Although most of the Move the Channel audience is very familiar with the power of the cloud, there is still much educating and an album magically appearing on your phone is doing that.   It seems that Apple is getting their money’s worth right there.

As someone who designs Channel Incentive Programs, I often apply the same principles of loyalty and persuasion that Apple utilized during its campaign in order to inspire MY customers and Move the Channel. The concept behind these principles comes from a book I read, The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

For example, one of the proven principles espoused by Cialdini is the Principle of Reciprocity. It’s that feeling that we ought to give back to those who have given to us.  To activate loyalty and the power of Reciprocity the reward must be meaningful, customized, and unexpected.  Apple’s actions enough to trigger sentiments of reciprocity in its customers?

On top of all of the other benefits of the campaign, we have to acknowledge that this was meaningful to most, customized not-so-much, but certainly an unexpected REWARD, especially for fans of U2. But even if you don’t care for the band, or even rock n’ roll, my guess is that you still might appreciate the gesture and enjoy being part of the worldwide conversation.music2

Or should Apple have just given cash or an iTunes discount? Would that have been a more successful marketing ploy? I certainly don’t think so. What would Apple have received from this type of reward? I have to imagine that a few extra dollars in your account would not have the same impact as a free album that you could listen to over and over again. Now, every time a customer sees Songs of Innocence in their library, or hears it on their iPod, they will probably think back to when Apple gave it away to them as a reward for their continued loyalty.

As most of you in the Move the Channel community know, there is an ongoing debate about what is the right reward or incentive when it comes to engaging and growing mindshare in your channel.   The fact is that a meaningful, customized, and sometimes unexpected reward is something that can trigger the powerful Principle of Reciprocity, lead to increased loyalty, and impact future buying behaviors.

Apple had a difficult challenge coming up with a reward for its millions of diverse customers. Fortunately for those of us in Channel Marketing, our audience is much more focused, making it that much easier to engage, communicate with, and reward them when the time is right.

Should YOU be rewarding YOUR Channel Partners for their loyalty too?

As always, please send me a an email with questions or comment.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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About Travis

First Fight with your Channel Partner? Now you’re getting somewhere!

arm wrestWho doesn’t love those first idyllic months of a new relationship? You’re enamored, giddy and can do no wrong in one another’s eyes. But then whammo! One not-so-fine day the bubble bursts. He forgets a major commitment or she shows up an hour late for the third time and suddenly, instead of kissing, you’re sparring. Hello, reality.

If the above sounds like it might be the start of a blog from Match.com or some other dating advice site, it’s because it is.

Just like in personal relationships, channel partner relationships tend to go through stages of development that, although not without their challenges, can ultimately lead to healthy and mutually rewarding partnerships.

In my opinion, here is a rough outline of the 5 stages that any healthy relationship will go through:

  1. The Romance Stage
  2. The Power Struggle Stage
  3. The Stability Stage
  4. The Commitment Stage
  5. The Co-Creation or Bliss Stage

The Romance Stage is easy. If you have recently entered into an agreement with your partner, chances are to this point there has been lots of courting and a focus on all of the positives that the partnership can bring. At this stage both parties are probably excited, and may even possess some unrealistic expectations about the potential of the relationship.

Without a doubt, you should enjoy and make the most of this Romance Stage—but be careful not to stay in it for too long. The fact is that if you remain in this stage, it could mean not much actual business is getting done. If there is no friction, there is a good chance a big deal hasn’t forced you into the weeds of the partnership.  And therefore the partnership has never truly been tested.

I know this is going to sound crazy (and maybe even a bit strange), but your first “fight” with your channel partner could be the best thing to ever happen to the relationship. A fight might be a disagreement over the margin of a deal or who should “own” the end-customer relationship, etc.   Things might get a bit rocky for a time, and some partnerships might not even survive the first fight.  But you can work through it, you will have the foundation needed to build towards the highly lucrative and mutually beneficial partnership.   It isn’t until the partnership had been tested or until each party’s colors have been exposed they the relationship will enter into the Co-Creation or Bliss Stage. But remember: patience here is critical. While this final stage probably won’t be reached right after the first “fight,” it almost certainly wouldn’t happen without it.  sb10062994aa-003

The first “fight” is probably the best and most honest learning opportunity you will have with your partner. From this opportunity comes understanding, from understanding comes acceptance, and with acceptance comes a much easier path not just to longevity, but growth and success.

 

Are some of your best partnerships the ones that you have had a “fight’?

I wouldn’t ever go looking for a “fight”, but I might start questioning the partnerships that haven’t led to some kind of disparity or scuffle.
As always, please reach out with questions of comment!
Move the Channel,
Travis

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Channel Marketing: Is there really such a thing as a “good” problem?

Travis Good Problem QuoteLast week I was talking to a Channel Chief about her business, and she offered the following: “We are very excited that we met on our quota of new partner recruits last quarter. But now we’re struggling to give them the attention and training they need. I guess it’s a good problem.”

Here’s the rub. Most of the time, these “good problems” have to do with an increase in new business or new channel partners. However, I personally don’t believe there is such a thing as a good problem. You are either managing your business properly by anticipating the challenges that accompany success, or you’re not. If you’re a channel organization, one of your goals is to bring new partners into the fold who can help drive new business. But, if you aren’t able to support those new partners, then it’s liable to be bad for business, and anything that is bad for business can’t be good. I think that in order to be successful, you need to expect success. You need to be prepared for growth that might put a strain on your business, for new partners who will need your help closing and delivering on your solutions. When you anticipate these challenges, you can develop the tools that are required to solve them, such as a channel sales support team, a channel training team, and a scalable channel program that makes it easier for your partner to become more self-sufficient.

The thing about a “good problem” is that it sounds, well, good.  I call it what it is, a “bad problem”, because bad is something you want to avoid.  

We all have talked about our “good problems”.   Next time you catch yourself saying those words,  let it be an alarm for you to assess your business.  Let’s be honest and call them what they are, BAD Problems.   If we aren’t honest, we will always be OK with “Good” problems.  When we admit there are no good problems,  we can avoid bad problems in the future and start focusing on good opportunities to grow the business.

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Your Channel Marketing Program: If you can’t explain it simply,….

albert-einstein-if-you-cant-explain-it-simply-you-dont-understand-it-well-enough

…you don’t understand it well enough. And your channel partners understand your programs even less than you. I have seen Channel Program Brochures that are 10 pages long, and presentation Channel Program overviews that are more than 40 slides.

We often get so involved in delivering MORE resources and MORE benefits, that we get trapped into thinking MORE is always better. It can be—to a point. Usually more resources and more benefits are a positive, but if your program needs a map and compass just to navigate through it, chances are you’ve overdone it.

Move the Channel has developed a Channel Marketing Guide & R.I.M.E.S chart. Don’t be trapped into thinking that you need to employ every one of the bullet points in your channel marketing program. Rather, consider the few that would be most impactful for your business and the relationship you have with your channel partners.

Download your MTC Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart here:

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Enter your name and email address to download Move the Channel Guide and RIMES Chart

Name: Email:

Move the Channel,

Travis

Dear Channel Sales Rep,

Anthonoy Iannarino Coaching

The letter below and many of the concepts included in it are borrowed from Anthony Iannarino’ weekly newsletter. Of course I spun it into a letter that could be directed to your channel sales force and injected it with some Move the Channel vernacular.

Anthony is a sales coach for hire, and one of the best Keynote speakers I have ever seen. I usually start my morning by reading Anthony’s blog, and I never miss his weekly newsletter. If you are a Channel Sales Leader, you and your sales force should make The Sales Blog part of your weekly diet too.

 

Dear Channel Sales Rep,

If you are going to sell successfully with your channel partner, you can’t be “just a salesperson,” or “just a vendor.” You need to be someone with the business acumen and situational knowledge that can help your partner grow their business while also growing your own.

What sort of business acumen do you possess? As someone who’s position is atop the sales channel, your knowledge of your industry should cater to both the micro and the macro elements of business. This means mastering the language of both our business (i.e. the manufacturer) and the language that is unique to your channel partner’s business. Do you understand the unique business of your business partner? Obviously, their goal will not be just to sell more of our products–after all, their loyalties lie first with their shareholders and employees. However, if we can align our goals with those of our partners, then ideally the achievement of their goals will result in the selling of our products. In other words, we want to be a (big) part of their overall solution and offering. Thus, if we can understand our channel partner’s goals, we can better position our products and services to help them achieve those goals.

How much situational knowledge do you own? To sell effectively, you need more than just experience. You need to know which choices are available to your channel partner and the end customer, including which products to buy, which services to use which partner to sign with, etc. Even if you are the industry leader, they have choices. As someone whose position is atop the sales channel, you need to be an expert not just with your products, but with your partner’s overall solution as well, and you need to know which options are available to the end customer. There should never be information parity between you, your channel partner, and the end-customer.  Obviously, you are expected to be the expert when it comes to your products; but in order to help your partner and the end-user, you also need to know all of the choices that are unique to them.   

As our Channel Sales Rep, what are you going to do this week to develop your business acumen?  Can you apply knowledge & empathy to your partners’ and end-customers’ situation?

Let’s go Move the Channel!

Sincerely,

trav signature image

 

 

Travis M. Channel

 

Channel Chief, Any Leading Company, Inc.

Email

781-680-0258

www.movethechannel.com

 

Channel Partner Meetings: Quantity or Quality

quality_vs_quantityBack in the day when I was a regional channel rep, I would pride myself on the number of partner meetings I could fit in during a 48-hour city visit.  My all-time high meetings in a single Day was in Phoenix when I met with 4 partners, 2 partner prospects, and 2 end-users.

Here is what a REALLY good day looked like:

  • 7am – Breakfast Partner Meeting
  • 9am – Partner Meeting
  • 11am – End-User Site Visit
  • 12pm – Lunch with Partner Prospect
  • 2pm – End-User Prospect Meeting with Partner
  • 4pm – Partner Meeting that ran into happy hour
  • 6:30pm – Dinner with my largest Partner’s Sales Team

Yes, this was back when our T&E budgets were bigger and less scrutinized! It was one of the best times of my career, when I met and befriended some great people with whom I did lots of good business. Of course I still enjoy traveling and visiting clients today, and I’m always trying to secure as much face-time with partners as I possibly can; but looking back on that whirlwind day, I can’t help but think that with that kind of schedule I could not have been properly prepared for each and every one of those meetings. Sure, I went through my finely tuned checklist, introduced my products, and even helped train some of my partners on how to position and sell those products. But did I take the time to research each of their unique and evolving business interests, and show them how OUR products could help THEM provide a more complete solution that would lead to more and longer-lasting end-customers for their business? You know, I probably didn’t do this as well, or as thoroughly as I should have. I’m guessing that somewhere during that Day of Many Meetings I missed a big opportunity, both for myself and for my company. My attention had to be in too many places at once.

Since then I’ve realized that to improve the quality of my meetings, I may need to limit their quantity. Sure, it may sound impressive when I say I successfully met with more than a dozen business associates over the course of seven different meetings, but nowadays I’m a little more focused on the output of those meetings, and the success that comes of them. Despite how exciting it can be to “run up the score,” the fact is that not every meeting is a win. To earn a win usually means taking the time to get to know our partner and truly understand their business. Only when we show this level of respect can we expect these meetings to bear fruit.

Are you focused on the quality of your meetings, or the quantity?

 

Move the Channel,

Travis

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