What to Consider When Hiring Channel Partner Managers
The role of channel partner managers (also known as partner account managers, channel account managers, or partnership managers) may only be familiar to a narrow niche of the business world. However, this will soon change as increasing SaaS suppliers seek to diversify their business development pursuits outside of Direct Sales.
Companies large and small increasingly report newsworthy growth by partnering with third-party companies to sell products or services on their behalf. For example, Zoom leveraged the last two years’ events to rocket past competitors, thanks to channel partners. Forbes reports, “Zoom’s partner program saw significant expansion in 2020. Partner sales bookings increased more than 7x year-over-year. Over 20% of international business bookings in the past quarter were driven by Zoom’s partner ecosystem.”
However, for a company to successfully grow a thriving channel partner program, it must bring aboard a designated professional.
Which Department Accounts for Channel Account Managers (CAM)
Channel partnerships would ideally be its department that closely collaborates with other teams, but this may be too aggressive of a step for smaller tech companies still laying their foundation.
When the partnership programs are in their infancy, organizations making their first few hires will commonly ask customer account managers to report to Direct Sales. However, because CAMs are responsible for supporting all elements of partner enablement, it’s not unheard of for them to join marketing or customer success teams.
Everyday Responsibilities of a CAM
The role of a channel account manager can be summarized as a dedicated point of contact for outside partnerships that guide individuals towards success while shaping underlying program strategies. Their focus is well-defined, yet the tasks that achieve such goals are surprisingly diverse. In turn, the Channel Account Manager should be someone who easily slips on many hats. Prime responsibilities will include:
- Recruit and manage partnerships. The chosen channel account manager must be a people person. While they can leverage designated software to automate certain activities, it falls on their shoulders to be the face of the company with which companies connect.
- Achieve revenue goals through data-driven partner enablement. CAMs should create and execute sales enablement strategies using training, sales playbooks, incentive campaigns, and marketing spending.
- Serve as an internal proponent for partners’ needs. The CAM will collaborate with marketers, designers, and copywriters to develop promotional materials partners can co-brand and share with audiences. They must also collect and distill feedback to share with internal divisions, such as Direct Sales, Accounting, Product Development, etc.
- Data analysis to drive tactical changes. Channel account managers will conduct semi-regular audits of partner engagement and sales pipelines. Ideally, they should connect various data points, identify trends, and pivot strategies based on their findings.
- Self-educate about industry standards and competitive practices. The hired CAM is the go-to specialist, so they must take proper measures to remain informed about industry developments including employment data. This encompasses new technologies, competitors’ aggressive recruiting tactics, partners’ expectations for commission structure, and other topics that help the company’s program be best-in-class.
Valuable Past Experience and Skill Sets for CAM Candidates
- B2B software sales background. Preferably, candidates will have experience with partnerships, specifically. However, this is not entirely necessary, as long as the applicants have vital business development records and the drive required to self-educate.
- An independent, creative thinker with impeccable judgment. Early CAM will pave the way for others by shaping the program’s processes and general direction. While they will closely interact with other teams and be held accountable for results, they should not need hand-holding. Similarly, they shouldn’t need to follow predetermined scripts when representing the company; partners often have unforeseen questions or requests, and you should trust the CAM to respond with intelligence, accuracy, and empathy.
- Natural leadership skills. The CAM will be the brand’s touchstone for channel partners, meaning they have the power to make-or-break relationships. They need to know when to say yes or no and confidently convey information.
- Inherent inclination towards new technologies. A candidate’s first instincts should not be reaching for the spreadsheets, as such outdated practices become increasingly obsolete. They should exhibit open-mindedness to new partner management technologies and regularly research new software solutions to help keep the program competitive.
- Appreciation of B2B marketing. As previously mentioned, the CAM is responsible for recruiting new partners and helping them generate new leads through co-marketing activities. Therefore, they must be able to intelligently discuss related subject matters with both internal teams and partners and, based on data analysis, contribute ideas of their own.
How to Grow the Channel Sales Team
As the number of partners accelerates, consider investing in partner relationship management (PRM) software to lessen manual work and enable managers to operate efficiently.
Upon achieving early success and growing the designated budget, bring on new talent to free up account managers to balance partner recruitment with management. Similar to how many companies structure their direct sales teams, have a director-level supervisor make strategic decisions that juniors can relay to their assigned partners.
Ali Spiric is the Marketing Manager at Allbound.
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