The Born Again Channel Evangelist
By Scott Karren, Excerpt from "The Channel Executive's Bible"
As a young man, I served a calling as a missionary. Although I am now an executive and spend my time developing programs, motivating partners and training CAMs, I see a striking similarity between my past career and my current calling. Sometimes on long, international flights, the ghost of a Southern Preacher takes hold of me and I envision delivering the following sermon:
Brothers and sisters; some say that partners are unmanageable, some say that loyalty from partners is a thing of the past, some say that multi-tier distribution is a dysfunctional model. Yes, some even say that Michael Dell has proven that channels no longer function.
In the 90s, it seemed that the world had come to embrace channels. Networks were expanding. Sales were booming. Morale was high. Partners were begging for medallions. In the midst of this plentiful harvest, it seemed all power and glory would come to the devout. Yet it was at this very time that we lost the true path.
I am not infallible, brothers and sisters. I too have given into temptation and sinned. I have stuffed the channel. I have taken sales direct to customers to realize short-term quarterly gains. I have promised sales if partners would certify their products and staff. I pitched product features instead of business performance. And from these sins I have reaped a bitter harvest.
The sin of channel stuffing and other similar end-of-quarter, volume games are like speed: dangerous and addictive. Stuffed channels and excess inventory destroy pricing models, supply the grey markets and demoralize sales personnel. Redemption comes only through discipline. Avoid even the appearance of evil and put rules and structure in place to eliminate the ability to artificially manipulate volume.
The seeds of ruin are planted in fertile soil when we trade channel integrity for direct sales. Channels are about process and repeatable transactions. Just as we should not make deals that destroy process, we also should not build process for individual deals. Multiple channels do not create conflict, lack of clarity about the role of partners does. Devotion comes through sustained honest relationships.
The promise of future sales roles easily off the lips but can be impossible to live up to if we misunderstand the technology life cycle and its impact on the value proposition with partners. No amount of training can return a volume, commodity product back into a specialized solution. Eternal rewards are reaped when channel function and life cycle are in harmony.
Grievous as all the above sins are, none are more repulsive to true channel professionals than an inward focus on product. Channel stuffing, conflict and weak propositions are weakness of the flesh. Ignoring customer business acumen is a weakness of the heart. For a direct sales person who's customer user the product, the sin is at least understandable but it is inexcusable in the channel where the only value a product has is to generate revenue. Increased business acumen creates the understanding and faith required for absolution.
I am here to tell you that there is a way: a straight and narrow path to market coverage and profitability. Do not listen to the voices of evil. Do not give in to the wicked and adulterous generation that tempt with the instant gratification and recognition of direct sales. Repent of these sins and return to the true path.
Scott Karren, The Channel Pro