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How to Manage Strategic Accounts

In one of my bi-weekly Channel Perspective columns for Ziff Davis Channel Zone , How to Get More Out Of Your Strategic Vendors, I describe what resellers need to do to build more effective relationships.

1. Talk business issues with your rep.

2. Get the facts - benchmark your business.

3. Use the rep's time wisely.

4. Create specific joint initiatives.

5. Measure results and try again.

However, the vendor also has a responsibility to create stronger, more effective relationships. Beyond the traditional program, what should the vendor do to improve productivity across its managed accounts? Below are five correlated steps vendors need to take to transition from passive channel administration to active channel management.

Raise the acumen of the CAM. Hire a higher-caliber CAM. Train the rest on business development. Practice holding executive discussions. Reherse specific iniatives. Objectively assess and grade individual CAM skill sets.

Get the facts. Channel Ventures can help you benchmark and highlight your channel's real business issues. Data has a great effect on the level of conversation possible between a rep and the account.

Raise the bar on account management. To date, channel sales have not been held to the same standard as direct sales. Take a more strategic view about customer targeting, profiling, commitment and interaction. Develop new processes to support the new strategy.

Pilot and template new solutions to business issues. Channels and programs without new solutions wither and die. Hint. This has NOTHING to do with your road map and products. To get a return on your investment in channel infrastructure you have to get intimately involved with your providers businesses and their financial issues.

Increase accountability. New metrics must be created to accurately measure and reward the field for building sustainable channel sales. How good was their last executive engagement? What new channel business have they been able to document? Which of their individual initiatives can be standardized and included in the program? Despite the lack of real time POS, reps need to be given consistent feedback on their performance.

Professional channel management is the only process that allows a channel executive to regain a sense of control over his or her destiny.

Scott Karren is the CEO of Channel Ventures, a specialized consulting firm that works with vendors and partners to build profitable channels. Mr. Karren has led his companies to successfully complete over 1,000 channel projects impacting over $150B of channel revenue.

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