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.

5 Principles for a Channel-Committed Company (Living the Five)

father-and-son-fishing-at-sunset-aaron-bakerWhen I was a young boy my Dad taught my brothers and me that with the 5 “C’s” we could accomplish anything we set our minds to. These 5 “C’s” were courage, conviction, concentration, consistency, and moral conscious (but of course, when he saw a teaching moment he’d often work in other “C’s” from time to time too!)

The 5 C’s remind me of 5 principles that are key for manufacturers to accomplish what they’ve set their mind to.   Many sales organizations struggle with going “all in” with a Channel go-to-market strategy. Instead, they often like to keep their options open and see if the direct model is going to be this quarter’s big winner. Unfortunately, that approach can only last so long—it rarely ever succeeds as a long-term solution. The fact is, if you are ever hoping to expect more from your channel partners, then they need to know that their partner is going to be “all in” with them.

Now, I don’t claim to be my Dad, but I’d like to take a page out of his playbook and offer my own set of principles for channel partner success. So, if you can try and LIVE these 5 principles, you and your partner will both know that one another is “all in” when it comes to your partnership. These 5 principles came to me in church when I learned about the book “Living the Five” by Jim and Jennifer Cowart.

  1. You can’t reach your company’s full potential Alone
  2. Growing partners challenge and change your organization (for the better). How can we help our partner grow?
  3. Successful growing partners embrace sharing in a channel community (Create a healthy ecosystem)
  4. Winning manufacturers serve their partners first, then there is potential for win-win
  5. Being a Channel-Committed Company is more than just a business decision—it’s a lifestyle or company culture

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.

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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Are you ready to “elevate” your company through Channel Partnerships?

4977a0d1cdf53461d5816cffdf683be8I just returned from a company’s National Sales Meeting.  It was everything that a NSM should be; inspiring, fun, rejuvenating, yet exhausting.  The conference’s challenge was to “Elevate”, elevate beyond their past year’s record highs, elevate beyond our comfortable sales room,  to find the biggest room in the world: the room for improvement.

The group, comprised of highly successful sales professionals, all part of a direct sales team.  The company has earned its place as the leader in its core industry through excellent Executive and Sales management which implements a direct sales strategy executed at a high level .

OK, Travis…  Why are you writing about a direct sales example on a site called Move the Channel?   Wait for it…  A growing, yet small portion of this organization’s business is through channel partnerships and alliances.

So why would a company that is so successful at selling direct invest in a partner channel?

The answer is simple, Innovation.  Going-to-Market Innovation.   The best companies not only innovate what to bring to market, but how to go-to-market.

Strategic channel partners can take a company to new industries, markets, and to new segments of their core industry.  Not only can they do this, they can do it at fraction of the cost and risk.  These costs and risks are minimized by avoiding assembling industry experts and deploying expensive sales people.  That’s right, through strategic partnerships a company can gain instant industry expertise, credibility, and access to the partners’ sales force.

I expect some push back especially with this audience, but a direct sales organization is primed to develop a sales and distribution channel.  They have proven products & services that can be tweaked and customized to the right partner in the right markets.  As a reseller or OEM partner, I’m much more likely to “partner” with a proven winner. 6d496cc1400e3219cc0a017f68a0c957

I’m not claiming this is easy or happens overnight, but with vision, commitment, and the right channel team; a traditionally direct sales organization is in excellent position to leverage its products, sale practices, and respect into new markets through the right partners.

Are you ready to elevate your company through channel partnerships?

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

Move the Channel,
Travis

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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

Global Channel Incentive Programs:   Multi-Business Unit, Multi-Distribution Channels, Multi-Cultural, OH MY!

create-your-own-adventureIf Dorothy thought lions, tigers, and bears sounded scary, imagine the anxiety she would feel living in our complex, multi-national channel world. I have to admit I still occasionally break out into a cold sweat when I try and wrap my head around all that’s involved with global channel incentive programs. 7 years ago, I was intimidated by the idea of building and managing a global platform and strategy, and rightfully so. But today that fear has become more like a sense of excitement and anticipation when visiting a new country, the feeling you might get right before you start a new adventure. I recently heard that there is no such thing “too much” adventure. This statement is certainly true as it relates to your channel incentive programs. The fact is, unless you are adventurous with your channel marketing and engagement, you are falling behind. Let’s continue to be in the forefront!

Adventure is a good thing, but only if we properly prepare for the journey. Most importantly, if you decide to pursue a global channel incentive program, careful navigation is key. To be sure, while you aren’t signing up for a Mount Everest expedition, running a global program isn’t exactly a walk in the park either. Above all else you need to select the proper “guide” (vendor partner) for your “journey,” one that not only has the global footprint and resources to make the trip a successful one, but also has the years of experience and scar tissue from actually executing these types of exhilarating solutions.

But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why would anyone want to pursue this holistic global channel “adventure” in the first place? Well, there are a few reasons I can think of:

  • One platform that can scale across multiple business units, channels, and 132 countries
  • Consistency and continuity, while providing flexibility in each region and business unit
  • Sharing best practices across the globe, while providing flexibility to each region/business unit.    that are applied to their unique business objectives and sales channels
  • Analytics—a single pane-of-glass reporting and channel insight

There are a handful of channel incentive companies that think they have the resources in place to run this kind of incentive program, but only a few who have actually gone out and executed them successfully. The reality is global incentive programs are hard. I mean really hard.

So what’s the trick? “Plan global, execute local.”  In a nutshell this means having a global platform that provides constancy, continuity, and controls while providing local strategy and program management (people) down to the theater or even the country level.

global

The fact is that this type of strategy can generate the kinds of incremental mindshare and market share gains that make it simply a no-brainer! Imagine empowering your regional sales and marketing leadership the flexibility to launch their unique incentive campaigns.   And while I certainly understand that a foray out into the global channel arena can be a bit daunting at first—heck, it was for me!—if you can overcome the initial fear of the new, there are rewards to be reaped that will make you glad you took that bold first step into the unknown. After all, isn’t that what adventure is all about?

Is your global channel incentive program giving localized flexibility to multinational sales teams? Are you considering extending your program across the globe?

As always, reach out to me with idea, questions, and comments.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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Why Channel Marketing Is NOT A Field of Dreams

Kevin_Costner_Field_of_DreamsKevin Costner has headlined some of my favorite sports movies of all time, including Tin Cup and Bull Durham. But perhaps his most loved and best-known sports film is “Field of Dreams,” famous for the line, “If you build it, he will come.” The story involves a down-on-his-luck farmer in the Midwest who suddenly hears a mysterious voice encouraging him to build a baseball diamond where his cornfield currently stands. Taking a leap of faith, the farmer decides to build the diamond, and the move eventually pays off as 1000s of visitors eventually line up to come see the “Field of Dreams.”

I’m someone who loves to see people make bold moves and follow their heart, but in Channel Marketing you can’t just “build it” and leave it up to fate.  Many companies with the best intentions go and build “Fields of Dreams” in the form of partner portals, marketing resources, learning management systems, partner relationship management solutions. They “build it” with the assumption that their channel partners will magically “come” and use these valuable resources, resulting in more sales and a stronger, more committed channel. An even bigger myth is that these “Fields of Dreams” will attract a new crop of partner prospects. However, unless your channel is exclusive to your products, the results and returns on these dreams always disappoint. field-of-dreams-movie-clip-screenshot-people-will-come_large

All too often I see companies building channel marketing plans, investing time and money into various systems without a clear path for achieving returns. They simply feel that if they “build it,” the partner “will come” and engage by embracing their new systems. But the good news is your investment in these valuable channel resources and tools don’t need to be like taking a leap of faith. A well-designed channel incentive program that shines a light on, rewards for, and recognizes key selling behaviors (including frequenting the systems “built,” such as your partner portals, marketing solutions, learning systems, etc.) can help build a strong channel partnership, one that offers a clear path to profitability. By highlighting these behaviors and introducing compelling rewards, you can help your partners understand WIIFM while laying out a blueprint for successfully selling your products. Ultimately, this will make for an easier, more clear-cut choice when they are deciding whether to do business with you or your competitors.

So remember: When it comes to Channel Marketing Programs, just because you build it, doesn’t mean they will come.

How do you design the right channel incentive program?

What is the right reward and reward investment for your partner demographic?

 

As always please reach out with questions or comments!

Move the Channel,
Travis

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Global Channel Incentive Programs: Plan Global, Execute Local.

 

USA images

There are a handful of channel incentive companies that think they have the resources in place to run a global incentive program, but only a few who have actually executed these types of programs successfully. The reality is global incentive programs are hard.  God knows I have a ton of scar tissue from years of trying to iron out the many wrinkles that my programs have had to adjust to.

This past week I was in meetings with some of the brightest, most experienced and accomplished global channel incentive thought leaders in the country. These people are the brains behind 4 of the 6 leading global incentive programs in operation today. While I definitely learned a lot from these meetings, there was one concept in particular that stood out: “Plan global, execute local.” I love this motto. Not many years ago, the main factors for global programs—as opposed to regional independent programs—were that manufacturers wanted “the 3 C’s”: consistency in quality, controls (single pane of glass reports & audits), and continuity in best practices. So, back then we would roll out a centralized program that scaled across the globe with local delivery and customer service. This was a success!

soccer ball

In the short term, we achieved the 3 C’s. However, over time we realized that our solution was not flawless. For example, the various regions and countries didn’t want to be told how to engage and motivate their local partners. “The Americans don’t know my partners,” they would say—and they were right. We don’t always know what participants in one country want versus another. So how do we still share the technology investment and best practices without force-feeding a one-size-fits-all strategy into APAC solutions? One thing you can do provide them with local program management resources that can allow them to design and communicate their own programs that are unique to their regions, their partners, and their business objectives.  HMI-MMI is built for this type of support and program management.

True, this model comes with an increased cost; but the incremental mindshare and market share gains make this “plan global, execute local” strategy a no-brainer!

Is your global channel incentive program giving localized flexibility to multinational sales teams? Are you considering extending your program across the globe?

As always, reach out to me with idea, questions, and comments.

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

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Move the Channel,

Travis

The Worst thing you can do for your Channel Partners

mature-ecosystem-low-resYour Channel Distribution Partners have always been an important part of your business. Today we know more than ever we have understanding and insights into our distribution that enable to be a better partner. However, the more we understand the channel network, the more we realize how complex the channel ecosystem really is. It is easy to get lost and lose significance in such a complex ecosystem. However, we also know that with complexity comes great opportunity.

This points to a deeper question: Are you a positive influence on your channel ecosystem, causing it to thrive or are you passively watching the ecosystem fluctuate? If your channel marketing engagement and incentive programs look the same or similar as they did 5 or even 2 years ago, YOU are watching…. Not influencing.

I see it time and time again: A manufacturer feels like they have reached their initial channel marketing goals, and decides that they no longer want or need to push the envelope to get the most out of their channel. What begins as a goal-oriented strategy that’s based on growth and progress eventually seems to plateau into what is comfortable, familiar, and relatively risk-averse.

But make no mistake: I believe this is the WORST thing you can do for your channel partners, which is to say keep doing what you’re doing.

But we are recognized by CRN as having a five star program—why should we change?”

Or

We have worked hard to offer our channel a partner portal, marketing resources, field resources, as well as some of the best benefits in the industry—why should we rock the boat?

An effective channel marketing program should be a journey, not a destination. The moment you decide that your program has “made it” is the moment it starts to become stale.

Are you bringing new talent into your channel organization that includes fresh ideas and a unique perspective?  Are you working with new (or at least new to you) leading vendors who bring upgraded best practices and ways to engage the channel?

As always, send me a note with ideas or to discuss further.

Move the Channel,

Travis

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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.

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781-680-0258

www.movethechannel.com

 

Your Channel Partners need more Coaches, Not Discounts

This was a terrific sports weekend for the Smith house. March Madness is always a favorite time of year, but this week was especially fun. First, my wife’s alma mater, the University of Dayton, beat my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the big dance. Then they went on to upset the mighty Orangemen of Syracuse to move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time in almost 30 years. To top that off, our local high school made an amazing run in the State basketball tournament to earn Division I State Champion Runner-Up. But by far, the highlight of the weekend was witnessing my old high school basketball coach finally win a Division II State Championship.Coach Gray cutting the net

Of all the big sports news from the weekend, why was this so 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 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: Culture eats strategy for Breakfast

Culture BreakfastOver 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 its culture. 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 usually internal team building event or a remote brainstorming sessions.  Make sure to spend time not just on 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 promote it, export it, and include your channel partners in the process. 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.  I always enjoy the channel community’s feedback and thoughts!

Move the Channel,
Travis

Channel Conduit: Why the most innovative, brightest companies rely on 3rd parties for Incentive Marketing Programs

Experience vs knowledgeThe agency I work with is lucky enough to work with many of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies in the world.  Why on earth would they need a 3rd party to do anything?  Well, they are very smart.  Although they have more knowledge of their channel and how to engage them, they don’t have the experience of actually running award-winning channel performance incentive programs.  Also like in their own industries, things move quickly.  If you are not living and breathing channel performance incentive marketing, you are delivering a stale program.

It’s not that your team isn’t bright and capable.   In fact they are probably superstars!  Let them work with a 3rd Party with experience and watch an amazing solution and results happen.

What channel marketing efforts are you trying to manage internally?  Are you saving money or missing opportunity?

Move the Channel,
Travis

Exclusive Channel Incentive Leadership Forum’s most Valuable Element

Channel Incentive Leadership Conference

As most of you know, I was recently invited to speak at HMI’s Incentive Leadership Forum. The annual event is a way for HMI to host their most strategic clients in an ideal location, with its goal being to bring together forward-thinking executives and industry thought leaders to discuss the latest trends and concepts in the world of performance improvement. This year, The Forum took place at the spectacular Paradisus Palma Real Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. It offered a perfect blend of academic theory, real-world research, and presentations on innovative best practices. Some of the presentation topics included:

  • “The Future of Channel Reward Programs”
  • “New Advances in Sales and Loyalty Program Design”
  • “The New Frontier of Data and Business Analytics”
  • “Social Media & Community Dialogue”
  • “Group Travel Incentives”
  • “Several Shades of Grey” of Programs

There was almost zero vendor positioning at The Forum, with HMI simply acting as a facilitator for these industry-relevant discussions. One of the great things about The Forum was that its attendees were all in positions to actually put into practice many of the themes and ideas that were talked about over the 2-day event. In fact, this small, exclusive group included some of the world’s most respected organizations, and represented some of the largest channel incentive programs being run today. Many of these attendees expressed interest in the various ways that they could take their programs to the next level, all while moving the entire channel incentive industry forward.

The Leadership Forum also brought together members of academia and research leaders from around the world, and who were eager to share their insights on the exciting evolution of global incentives. Topics that were discussed in terms of the global arena included “Global Reward Strategies and Execution,” “International Engagement Issues,” and more.

The Forum wisely reserved one of the last sessions for a discussion entitled “All About You.” During this session, attendees were encouraged to talk openly about their specific goals and challenges for the upcoming year. Each channel leader received tremendous feedback and suggestions from their peers, who were representing a wide range of unique industries. The all-in brainstorming session hit just the right note, serving as the perfect coda to an event where, for a few short days, sharing and learning took on a primary role.

It turns out that no matter what your industry is, or who you call your channel partners, almost all performance improvement principles are universal when it comes to Moving the Channel.  Without doubt, the most valued component of the forum was not on the agenda at all.  It was the rare peer-to peer-sharing of channel marketing leaders from other world-class companies.

Please stay tuned as I continue to share “lessons from the leaders”.

Move the Channel,
Travis

Channel Conduit of the Week – Partner Recruitment

Partner RecruitimentDo you have a few channel partners, but still aren’t sure whether to commit to a distribution channel Go-To-Market Strategy? When I talk to executives whose companies are at this point I often hear things like, “We know it’s time to commit to a channel strategy, but how do we recruit enough of the right partner?”

This is an excellent question, and the key words here are “enough” and “right.”

Here is a high level Channel Partner Recruiting Strategy for early channel adopters.

The Right Partners:

A.)     Profiling the perfect partner (2-3 different profiles):

  1. Of your current partners, which ones do you consider best? Chances are you have a few partners who might justify acquiring more.

i.      What core or supplementary products do they sell?  It is likely that those other products already go through a more mature channel.  If you have success stories with one or more of those partners, probabilities are the rest of the channel would be willing to listen.

ii.      Do these partners specialize in a certain industry?

iii.      How big of an organization are they? How many sales reps and technical people do they employ? You might be tempted to chase bigger, sexier partners, but it’s usually a good idea to stick with what you know, and more importantly what you can support.

2.  Talk to some of your happy end-user customers. Of all the products that bump up against yours, which ones do they consider world-class products, and what do they think of the organizations that stand behind them?  (This is also a nice introduction from a fortune 500 client which always gets resellers’ attention)

Closing Enough Partners:

B.)    Developing A Partner Recruitment Strategy

  1. Target your perfect partner. Accumulate a list of potentials that fit this profile, and start to pursue them. (If you can’t build a list from your perfect profile, you might need want to reconsider your standards)

i.      Target the other core or supplementary product’s channel partners discussed above  (Chances are their reseller network is published and easy to obtain)

ii.      Most industries have an organization in which channel partners are/can be members. This could be a good tool to use for when you compile your list. You should think about joining the organization if you haven’t already. NEAD is an example in the electrical space.

C.)    Executing a Partner Recruitment Strategy

  1. Closing the deal with new partners

i.      Web Conference Pitch — Get as many to attend as possible and make sure your pitch is a good one. Why would they invest their time and money, and allocate their resources to your company? Give them a reason they can’t ignore.

ii.      Sponsor and Participate at other core or supplementing product company conferences.  — In the tech space this might be EMC World or IBM PartherWorld or Oracle Open World.  This is a great chance to meet face-to-face with many target partners.

iii.      Good Ole Fashion Selling — Train your sales team & future channel managers to identify potential partners, pitch your channel marketing program and its benefits, and talk about the success stories of other similar companies.

Certainly this post just scratches the surface of what it takes to achieve.  To dive deeper please download the Move the Channel Marketing Guide and RIMES Chart or shoot me an email to discuss how I might help.

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Move the Channel,
Travis

The New Channel Chief: An increasing Responsibility

As the economy starts to slowly pick itself up, most industries and companies, in terms of investment, are leaning on the channel for their go-to-market strategy. Organizations are making the decision to grow their business through their channel because they know that the best way to deliver their solutions is through loyal, vested, and well-trained business partners who are local (or specialized) in relation to the end-user. With all of the advancements now in social media, LMS (Learning Management Systems), PRM technology (Partner Relationship Management), and motivating Channel Incentive Programs, companies can penetrate and impact the channel more economically than ever. 

With this channel momentum, comes great responsibility to our Channel Chiefs. Gone are the days of the channel serving simply as a distribution arm for products. Today, more and more companies are beginning to see it as something more and the channel is considered part of the entire organization. As these companies continue to transform their approach to the Channel, all departments, whether it be product development, marketing, sales, etc., now must have the channel in mind.

As a result of this burgeoning commitment, the role of today’s Channel Chief has expanded.

Channel Chief Image

Internal Focus:

Sales & Marketing Harmony: Now more than ever it is crucial to align your sales and marketing teams.  We all know this is easier said than done. Dissonance between these two major branches of your organization is to be expected. That’s because the sales team is tasked with closing the business right in front of their noses, and the marketing team is challenged with casting a vision that creates future opportunities down the road. Spending time in both departments, I have been on both sides of this dissonance, and what it really is at work here are long-term goals and planning versus short-term action. Both approaches ultimately work toward the same goal end game—driving business growth—but they each go about it in very different ways. Now, organizations are rolling both departments up to one executive, our Channel Chief.  This help with cross department goals and teamwork.  For proven solutions that can close this loop between your sales and marketing teams, click here http://movethechannel.com/?p=254

External Focus:

End-User & Partner Harmony: Channel Chiefs are now more sensitive—and they should be—to the ways in which they can more effectively sell to the end-user, not just through the channel partner, but with them as well. This involves excelling at both building relationships with your partners and managing the best interests of the company.

Building Relationships:  Many Channel Chiefs are effectively using Channel Incentive or Reward Programs as just one of the tools to create loyalty and motivate channel sales and technical people to invest their time in both training and recommending the right solutions to the end-user.

Closing Business:   Many channel marketing professionals fall on the right side of the graph above. It is important to remember that all of our efforts boil down to one goal: Selling more while continuing to create happy customers—a challenge that is once again tasked to today’s Channel Chief.

Download the Guide and Chart Here:

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

Name: Email:

Move the Channel,
Travis

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