How to Face 5 of the Most Challenging Obstacles in Channel Management
In our previous blog post, we discussed the strenuous challenges and responsibilities that go into successful management of channel partners. Today, we will take it a step further and delve into the tangible and intangible solutions for solving 5 of the most challenging obstacles in channel management.
1.) Challenge #1: Management of an Entity, not an individual
Unlike direct management, channel management requires a deft perception on how to properly balance communication and prioritization (between both in-house and indirect personnel).
There is simply too much going on in one channel partnership, let alone several, for individual consultation or micromanagement in daily operations. Ultimately, a successful channel partnership relies on keeping focus on the big picture for both companies.
And this goes well and beyond “relaying the message.”
Developing a perceptive understanding of the end-customer demands, pain points and purchasing behavior is essential. However, so is identifying and delegating the right personnel with the right end-customers. Vendors that nose dive in channel management do so for a number of reasons, but interference (and competition) between direct sales and partners, failure to believe in the channel, developing uneven go-to-market strategies that benefit solely direct sales, misinterpretation regarding where end-customers want to purchase, etc., are the biggest reasons why.
2.) Challenge #2: Reporting is Done Indirectly
Receiving and communicating channel activity requires a channel manager with not only exceptional organization skills but also someone with intuition; knowing where/how to find the right information and who/how to relay that message to the right personnel, is an incredibly underestimated requirement of channel management.
Channel managers represent the eyes and ears of both the vendor and the partner.
In the go-go, cutthroat culture of today’s business environment, channel managers must be alert, prepared and efficient with the information they receive.
3.) Challenge #3: Priorities are Different
Although channel partnerships represent a strategic alliance in producing profit, at the end of the day, each business is concerned with only one thing: Their business.
Going blindly into a channel partnership without comprehensively understanding everything about your partner’s business model, industry reputation, objectives, go-to-market strategy, weaknesses, consumer base, etc., all but promise a butting of heads.
The goal here isn’t to align your partner’s profile to match each and everything with your business, it’s to not be surprised when this type of information surfaces. Develop a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis with a potential partner presents an objective perspective and foreshadows the expectations associated with the partnership. Listen to your partner and collectivity communicate what’s important to them. Spend time evaluating their in-house facility, and determine their culture, proficiencies, weaknesses and pay attention to the workplace vibe or energy (and listen to your heart).
4.) Challenge #4: Different Partners Require Different Business Models
As a channel manager, one of the biggest challenges for mutual cohesion is to identify the strengths of your direct unit and your partner. Know your partner’s business, and don’t force them to be something they are not; focus on what they’re great at and build on it. Define the segments of the marketplace that present the highest opportunity for partners to achieve their goals. What consistencies does your direct team have with your partners? Once realized, combine the two, three or four components to build on those strengths. Offer richly rewarding, objectively designed and easy-to-participate channel incentive programs is also imperative.
Correlate partners’ objectives to the most relevant channel program(s). For example, perhaps your partner is losing money on the resell of your product due to changes in the marketplace, added competition or modification in end-customer demand. Develop an automated claims management (“Ship and Debit”) program that credits your partner and makes up the revenue lost accurately. This build transparency and enthusiasm for the partnership to remain active.
5.) Challenge #5: Forecasting Becomes Ambiguous
One of the easiest and most effective ways to accurately forecast—and essentially eradicate the numerous problems associated with managing: inventory data, incentive programs, identifying the end-customer, accelerating the partner sign up process, documentation, and POS—is to build a partner portal platform. Vendors that fail to swiftly transition to a cloud-based environment for exchanging imperative channel data make a channel manager’s job 10X’s most challenging.