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Building an Efficient and Committed Channel Partner Community Requires the Right in-House Experts
These experts include skilled channel account manager (i.e. CAM), who are in the trenches of indirect sales and have more work in a given day than they could possibly do.
What is a Channel Account Manager?
An effective CAM is the company’s front-line brand ambassador, capable of engaging and motivating channel partners through a variety of programs, activities, systems and personal relationships. Vendors assign a Channel Account Manager to provide channel partners with the strategy, resources, and advice to drive revenue and accelerate growth.
What does a Channel Account Manager do?
Channel Account Managers work closely with in-house marketing teams in developing tools and programs to help their partners be successful in selling the company’s products and services.
Examples include training programs, incentive programs, deal registration, and marketing materials (e.g., ROI and TCO calculators) to enhance the end-customer relationship and/or drive new, profitable opportunities.
In addition to standard quantitative research, CAMs also look for opportunities to delve deeper into new markets through qualitative approaches as simple as online portals to focus groups. The goal is getting to the unmet needs of the target market and helping channel partners ensure their solutions address the root concern of the customer.
CAMs bring a variety of skills and experience to the channel. They provide financial advocacy, industry knowledge, and customer and market focus to the table. They also are able to relay a partner’s values to customers while also highlighting their own company’s benefits.
What qualities do channel partners seek in their CAMs?
High-performing CAMs utilize their personal business insight and delve deep into specific target markets to build a complete understanding of a partner’s business.
Successful and skilled channel account manager works closely with his/her sales counterparts to map out a needs-assessment for each reseller account. By asking the right questions to both the internal sales representatives and the channel partners sales and marketing staff, the CAM can then map out the assets and new tools needed to best engage and build relevant content and programs for the partner.
Great people skills, strong product knowledge, and excellent communication abilities combine to give the seasoned CAM the confidence to present on behalf of both the vendor and resellers to a large audience of targeted end-users. The ability to given guidance to target audiences on how to approach new technology integration brings value back to both the channel partner and vendor.
How can CAMs overcome the status quo of being “just another pawn” of the sales team?
CAMs should be recognized as more than just another sales team member focused on quarterly sales goals. Instead, they should be viewed as brand champions and communicators of the vendor’s strategic value, while also building strong, effective relationships with their partner community, which in turn benefits the sales pipeline for both parties.
Here are a few ways a CAM can stand out in the sales team:
- Utilize analytics and data science
A successful channel account manager recognizes the importance of utilizing predictive analytics. Data science and modern technology are irreplaceable assets when it comes to the growth of any business, and a top CAM knows how to employ this knowledge and easily search through data to find and develop productive channel building strategies. Without the ability to monitor and measure a partnership’s success, a CAM loses the ability to determine which approaches are beneficial, and which are worth pursuing.
- Find and pursue the best potential partners
It is imperative that a channel account manager recognizes the highest-revenue potential [profitable] partners, and puts a significant amount of effort into this relationship.
- Treat all partners equally
Time management skills are key when it comes to successful channel partnerships, and it is incredibly important that a CAM recognizes which accounts need and deserve the most attention, while also making each partner feel that they are receiving an equal amount of consideration and insight.
How can CAMs help partners build a profitable go-to-market strategy?
CAMs must utilize their direct-facing position to encourage and strengthen existing partnerships while also enticing new customers by offering solid strategies for their business partners.
Some examples of effective CAM marketing strategies include:
1.) Utilize internet marketing programs and tools
Many CAMs use cost-effective tools like SurveyMonkey to create powerful research programs that provide a blind, more honest evaluation of their programs and tools to ensure the best possible solutions are being delivered.
2.) Take advantage of industry events
CAMs also leverage industry events to create after-show round-tables. These round-tables leverage the fact that many of their customers are gathered for the show, and use the time and place to engage in a direct conversation with the key influencers for that specific market.
3.) Offer training and collateral
Notable CAMS should walk partners through training and software usage (e.g. web-based training, branding materials, manuals, and deal registration,) and also provide useful sales and marketing collateral while offering partners advice on how to best utilize these tools.
4.) Create incentive programs
Simple yet efficient incentive programs should be designed to keep partners focused and engaged. The responsibility to establish these programs falls under that of a channel account manager. These channel incentive programs must be precise and easily manageable, as it is the CAM’s responsibility to measure and report on the success of channel motivation arrangements.
How can a CAM help keep their channel partnerships strong and perpetual?
Knowledge transfer is a top priority when it comes to channel partnerships. CAMs don’t need to focus on making a quota by selling for their partners or through their partners.
Instead, they should help partners become self-sufficient in accessing programs, tools, and resources that will benefit the partnership in its entirety.
CAMs must also proactively include their partners when it comes to marketing strategies. Top-performing managers succeed by motivating and enabling their partners to proactively take steps towards generating demand for their company’s solutions. This also can be supported by offering third-party inputs and connections that may not otherwise have been facilitated without the channel partner’s aid.
Overall, your channel account manager must demonstrate their company’s benefits in any partnership while also highlighting their strengths in regard to each specific partner and their designated business goals. A thorough understanding of each channel connection is key in being a successful and valuable asset to a channel partnership, as well as to any future business connections.