I hesitate to use the terms “hunter” and “farmer” because of the connotations they have in the minds of some sales leaders. The more aggressive leadership is, the more they want salespeople who will “make the kill” then “move on to new game.” In their minds, farmers are those docile creatures that you assign to inside account management or channel management. They sit on the phone all day and make sure everyone is “happy.”

Think about a real farmer for a moment. What he or she does in the spring has a significant impact on how they live come fall. There’s even a wider view than that. They have a relationship with their environment that goes well beyond this year’s yield. How they use or misuse resources such as land or livestock can have an impact for decades to come.

Channel managers are the same way. They need to get the most from their resources (channel partners), but they also need to take a long-term view. They can’t push their partners so hard one month that they have nothing left the next. If they mistreat them, it could mean the end of the relationship.

Likewise, your conversations with your CAMs need to take the long-term view. Certainly you should talk about opportunities in the funnel, but you should also be having discussions around the future of the territory and what the CAM is doing to develop it.

Selling vs. Coaching

What you want your CAMs to spend their day doing is different than what you want your direct salespeople to be doing. You need CAMs to be coaching partners, not selling for them. It’s similar in many ways to what sales managers experience with the star performer who has been newly promoted to team leader. They know how to sell, but they don’t inherently know how to manage others. You need to put your coaching hat on – as though you ever take it off – and help them understand the difference.

Different priorities

Unless your direct salesperson is still in the onboarding stage, they should be fully functional. Yes, you still need to manage them through account reviews and joint sales calls, but that’s all part of your role as coach. While your management style might vary somewhat from salesperson to salesperson, you can generally follow the same pattern, holding account reviews at the same cadence and covering the same agenda items. Your objectives are almost always focused on ensuring a healthy sales funnel and revenue attainment.

Patterns aren’t so predictable when managing channel account managers. Even in a relatively mature channel, there is partner turnover. A CAM may be onboarding a number of partners at any given time, trying to turn believers into achievers and even transitioning a few partners out of the channel. To manage them based solely on funnel and revenue performance is to discount the impact activities have on future performance.

What they have in common

Now that we’ve looked at the differences between managing CAMs and managing direct salespeople, I want to point out one commonality that you absolutely must keep in mind. Your channel partners are not the customer, they are your partner. Just as in direct sales, every action your CAMs take, every joint activity they execute with a partner, should be done with the customer in mind.

Agree?  Disagree?

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