The Importance of keeping commitments to your partners
As Channel Managers, we make commitments all the time. What defines us however, is how well we keep the commitments we make. From the mundane "I'll get back to you" to the implementation and execution of strategies, your partners will notice when you keep and break your commitments. No pressure, but this will play a big part in how you are perceived as a Channel Manager.
For several years I was fortunate enough to work in the channel. After having spent 20 years in sales and channel management at large vendors, I was now head of sales and marketing at a reseller. Over several years, I was in a position to be on the receiving end of some fantastic channel managers, and some absolutely useless ones. Aside from the companies they worked for and the products they sold, the one thing that defined the "usefulness" of these channel managers was their ability to keep commitments and their ability to communicate. Even now, five years later, my perception of each of these channel managers is still with me and they are now "pigeon-holed" in my mind as to their effectiveness.
Aside from being relationship managers, one of the required skills of being a channel manager is time management and communication. You may work for the best vendor or distributor in the world, your products may be great and priced competitively, but if you can't master your time, live up to your commitments and communicate effectively, you will be a mediocre channel manager on your best day.
Like you, personnel in the channel are also busy. They have to contend with customers, suppliers and internal staff just like you do, BUT, they have multiple vendors and suppliers they are dealing with. When they need help and you commit to sorting something out, they are relying on your as a piece in a larger picture. When you don't follow through on your commitments, the ramifications may be larger than what you are aware of. It was not uncommon to hear some of my staff discussing different channel managers and issuing throw-away lines such as "she's fantastic" or "he is a waste of space". These perceptions, whether right or wrong, become reality very quickly. When I quizzed my staff a little bit further on why they thought different channel managers were useful or not, several traits became apparent.
- Products and Price
The price and/or quality of the products was never a part of the discussion. In other words, my staff were able to distinguish (without doing it consciously) between the company and their channel manager.
- Gender, Age or Experience
Not a factor in the determination of assigning a channel manager to the trash bin.
This was a factor. Channel Managers that showed empathy, understanding, were well-groomed and spoke well were highly regarded. The ability to solve complex issues and place themselves in the shoes of my staff went a long way.
- Ability to keep commitments
This was the largest determining factor when my staff would collectively decide on whether a Channel Manager was actually useful to our business. Quite a bit of subjectivity to be sure, but the perception, and not the reality, is what drove them to arrive at their decisions regardless of the volume of business we were conducting with each vendor.
Have you ever said to a partner that you would look into something, and then not get back to them? Have you ever received an email from a partner seeking assistance and not acknowledged that you "now have the ball"? These are simple, even trivial, details that will go a long way to defining how you are perceived as a channel manager. The good news is, there are some simple techniques you can employ immediately to remedy this:
Receiving an email:
Reply to the sender as soon as possible saying that you have received their email, you will attend to it, and reply to them by xxx date/time.
If it sounds urgent, pick up the phone and call them! Then send a followup email as above.
Receiving a question by phone, or in person:
Ask how soon the person needs a response. Indicate if it is possible. Once a timeframe is agreed, make sure you deliver by that date. If the matter is urgent, consider giving a daily update on where you are up to. To understand the issue better, ask what the ramifications are if you can't answer within the agreed timeframe.
If you can't deliver by agreed timeframe:
Inform your partner as soon as you know. Don't wait for the due date or time to expire! Go on the front foot and explain why you can't make the agreed due date AND what you are doing about it. This is one of the most common failures Channel Managers make; coming through AFTER the due date with no answer. If a partner is relying on you for something and is not hearing from you, they will assume that you have it under control and on track for resolution by the due date.
Have a todo/task manager to list EVERYTHING that you need to do. By doing this you won't let something "slip through the cracks". Partners do not want to hear that you forgot something; you may as well just tell them that you don't care or that they are not important enough to you.
It is important not only to have a todo/task manager, but also to have time scheduled in your diary each day to review and attend to your outstanding tasks. By reviewing and working on your tasks at least twice a day you will be able to stay on top of things and you will also be able to see problems coming and communicate them before letting your partners down.
These may sound like trivial, and even ridiculous things to even think about, but these simple things are the undoing of many a channel manager. Sticking to these basics will build a reputation for you as someone who can be relied upon, and who delivers on their commitments.
Keep your commitments, communicate, and use a task manager system (even if it's just a paper system).
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