What 1 thing can a Channel Partner sales rep do to make money today?

I want you to take a ride on Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine to 1980. Intel, the undisputed 8-bit microprocessor king had stumbled. Xerox had just selected Motorola’s 16-bit processor for their next generation word processor (the predecessor of the office PC). That loss was the tipping point for Intel technology.

Week after week another Intel customer announced their intentions to “play with another team.” Intel was on the ropes. Japanese competitors were waging a price war on DRAM and EPROM memory chips while Motorola and Zilog were giving them Hell in microprocessors. It was a two-front assault. Many predicted doom. The stock was tanking.

In Santa Clara the sky was officially falling.

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What things is your company NOT good at?

What do you stink at?

Discovering your weaknesses is the opposite of discovering your strengths. How many books have you read about discovering your weaknesses?

Think about it. While I have many on my own bookshelf about finding my strengths… StrengthsFinder, Now, Discover Your Strengths, What Color Is Your Parachute?

… not to mention all those personality and psychological assessments I’ve taken (Myers-Briggs, Glamour Magazine, et al)… I have zero books on the topic of weaknesses…

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Is there “conventional wisdom” in your industry that is just plain wrong

When it comes to Channel Partners, it’s not uncommon for the staff responsible for Channel Partner relationships to have little or no field experience. Perhaps this explains why so many channel managers rely [way too much] on “conventional wisdom.”

But which piece of Channel Partner conventional wisdom is the worst offender?

To answer this question I interviewed noted channel veteran, Allan Behrens, Managing Director at Taxal Limited.

The cool thing about Allan is that he’s been successful on both sides of the aisle, giving him a perspective on Channel Partners few others share.

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, he helped build HP’s Partner Channel in Northern Europe and then left HP to become an HP Channel Partner. That’s a real testament to the strength of the program he created.

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Are there other services, providers, practices or products you can recommend to your Channel Partners

Are you a “new thing” miser? When you discover a new way to solve a nagging problem or a cool, new vendor, is your first reaction to share it with your Channel Partners, or do you hoard it?

Today’s question is actually not about the existence of services and products you could share with your Channel Partners. Rather, it’s really about what you share. And of course, by your answer you’ve just told me everything I need to know about the value you place on your Channel Partner relationships.

Have you ever dated someone who exists to talk only about themselves. The kind of person who hums the words to the parody song, It’s all about Me, Jesus?

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What can you teach channel partners to solve customer problem?

Yeah, Questions ARE Powerful

It works for your Channel Partner sales reps… A properly synchronized set of questions help reps guide customers to the best solution for customers—especially for considered purchases of capital equipment. It’s what solution selling is all about.

To bring this to practical application I asked Susan Pryor Welter to explain just how she does this for her Channel Partners.

Susan is Director of Sales for Summit Industries, LLC, manufacturers of the AmRad™ Medical X-ray equipment brand. Summit sells exclusively through Channel Partners.

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What’s the best reason for a customer to NOT do business with you or your Channel Partners?

Sometimes it’s a good idea to begin training sessions with a simple activity.

In one of my workshops for sales and marketing people I give each person a standard deck of 52 playing cards (no Jokers) and ask them to complete a simple assignment: Sort your deck of cards. Nothing further. Just sort the deck.

Besides a few odd looks, when I remind them they have only 3 minutes, they get busy.

What do people do? Here are some common variations:

  • Four stacks: one for each suit (most common).
  • Two stacks: face cards and numbered cards.
  • 13 stacks: one stack for each card value.
  • Three stacks: face cards looking left (Kings of Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs; Queens of Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs; Jacks of Diamonds and Hearts), face cards looking right (King of Spades; Queen Spades; Jacks of Clubs and Spades) and number cards. Card shark warning: don’t bet against this person
  • Two stacks: red and black cards.
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What’s your favorite success story? What role did your channel partner play?

If you’ve gotten your hands on a copy of my 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Channel Partner Brain book, you’ll see this Acknowledgement:

“I want to thank Jim Sheffler for getting me off on the right foot early in my career at Intel. Jim (then at Hamilton-Avnet) and I sold millions through distribution. We made a great team.”

Jim played a pivotal role in my favorite Channel Partner success story.

While I’ve had many, many other Channel Partner success stories, like my #2 favorite win: A $1million deal for CellBlazer data-over-cellular modems to IUSACELL (Mexico City) in 1992 for a non-mobile, local telco bypass (thank you, Butch Dawkins and Daniel Rios), my work with Mr. Sheffler tops the charts.

The tag-team of Sheffler & Fox (c.1981-83) was a combination of opposites and similarities…

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If you had the opportunity, would you still sell through Channel Partners?

I’ve asked this question of hundreds of business owners over the years. Reactions fall broadly into two categories: The NO Group and the YES Group.

NO people say things like: “If it was possible to get rid of these stinkers I’d do it in a heartbeat…correct that…less than a heartbeat.”

While YES people respond with, “It’s pure foolishness to think we could ever cover the market on our own without the benefit of a channel. I don’t care how much money you dump into advertising.”

Polar opposites to say the least. But when I evaluate the background of the people in these two groups it probably comes as no surprise…

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What’s a Dirty Little Secret in your industry?

Dirty little secrets are not limited to TV soap operas and Perry Mason’s defense of Harlan Merrill in The Case of the Renegade Refugee (a terrific episode, btw).

If you’ve ever interviewed for a job where a rosy picture is painted for you and then, after joining the firm, experience Hell on earth, you know what I’m talking about.

Every industry and market (and dare I say, company) holds a dirty little secret, known only to insiders and current and past customers. Whoa to Prospects who look to a new vendor with less than open eyes, anticipating nirvana. Watch out, there’s a giant banana peel in your path on the other side of “Yes.”

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