Obstacles for Channel Partner Managers: Five Important Skills every Channel Manager Needs to Possess
Want to hear the most conspicuous statement you will hear all day? Channel managers take on challenging responsibility. The list of channel partner management obstacles is not a short one!
If you’re not chuckling (or at least shaking your head) in obvious agreement, something is wrong—or perhaps my joke isn’t that funny.Channel managers are required to possess a plethora of social and tactical skills; not just someone who wears many hats. We are talking about someone with a comprehensive understanding of the channel. Channel managers need to fully understand the channel’s ever-evolving modifications (in both technology and economics). A manager needs to be familiar with the complexities and miscommunication of the channel produces as well as the ambiguous gamble an indirect partnership entails.
Yes, it’s a burdensome, but also a rewarding responsibility; nonetheless, a trade intended not for the faint of heart. That’s because unlike managing direct in-house personnel, channel management mandates guidance indirectly to one or possibly several different partner networks and teams. Obviously, this presents channel managers with challenges.
let’s explore 5 of the most challenging channel partner management obstacles and solutions for resolving these challenges:
1.) Channel Management Obstacles #1: Management of an Entity, not an Individual
Usually, when one thinks of management, one thinks of managing individuals. However, channel management requires a much broader scope of leadership. The type of direction that focuses on the “big picture” and not on micromanagement and individual consultation. Ultimately, a successful channel partnership relies on keeping a focus on the big picture for both companies. There isn’t enough time, resources, energy, and manpower to “take care of the little things.” This type of management would serve counterintuitive and/or unproductive for both parties. There are simply too many channel management obstacles in one channel partnership for a daily individual consultation or micromanagement.
Unlike direct management, channel management requires a deft perception on how to properly balance communication and prioritization (between both in-house and indirect personnel).
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 nosedive in channel management do so for a number of reasons. The biggest reasons are:
- 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
2.) Channel Management Obstacles #2: Indirect Reporting
Direct management requires in-house personnel documents results, roadblocks, tasks, and priorities to an individual, the manager. However, in the channel, reporting goes through a series of personnel; a hierarchy where a specific message is delegated through many “gatekeepers” and is eventually echoed back to the channel manager when deemed necessary.
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.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.) Channel Partner Management Obstacles #3: Priorities are Different
A vendor and channel partner may have similar ambitions, goals, and quotas to meet; however, priorities are usually never shared equally. The differentiation in priorities makes the job of a channel manager even more difficult. That is because what is urgent to the vendor may not be important to the partner. For example, a vendor’s priority may be to corner a specific market, let’s say the sports technology sector; on the other hand, the partner may only have one client in this market, and therefore does not value this demographic mutually. Ultimately, the partner decides to go in a different direction, leaving the vendor with added competition in the sports tech market, forcing a reduction in pricing.
Although channel partnerships represent a strategic alliance in producing a 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. The aim here is 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 by:
- evaluating their in-house facility
- determine their culture
- verify their proficiencies
- discover their weaknesses
- pay attention to the workplace vibe or energy (and listen to your heart)
4.) Channel Partner Management Obstacles #4: Different Partners Require Different Business Models
The relationship shared with one partner may be completely different than the relationship shared with another. Depending on the level of revenue acquired from a specific partner will usually determine this; for example, these differences may include:
- how incentive programs are distributed
- the time spent on product training
- helping partners convert leads into deals
- offering referrals
- working together on marketing initiatives
- creating co-branding content, and/or products, etc.
Constructing alignment on priority and programs offered is one of the biggest hurdles and most time-consuming components to what a channel manager endures.
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. It is also imperative that you offer richly rewarding, objectively designed and easy-to-participate channel incentive programs.
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.) Channel Partner Management Obstacles #5: Forecasting Becomes Ambiguous
In the channel, there are so many end-customers on top of so many different products that trying to predict and/or analyze market trends becomes painfully taxing. Additionally, knowing where to implement additional resources, knowing which incentives should be offered and identifying the end-customer becomes an ambiguous and demanding endeavor to accurately forecast. Sometimes, certain product categories may be performing differently, which means consistent and transparent communication is absolutely essential. As trivial and maddening as communicating through the channel is, channel managers have to not only be persistent with partners but also consistently prepared to ask the right questions at any given moment.
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 or web-based environment for exchanging imperative channel data make a channel manager’s job 10X’s most challenging.