When any of your executives travel, do they make a point of visiting Channel Partners?
Follow me as I blog my way through my book: 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Partner Channel Brain.
While there’s no substitute for textbooks and classroom instruction and the discipline of good study habits, I’m pretty sure I’ve learned a lot more useful stuff by just being observant.
One of my best “instructors” was my first boss, Bill Roach. In the four years I worked for him at Intel I can’t recall a moment when he went to the whiteboard to sketch out some principle or got out a pad of paper to outline his thoughts. In fact, I don’t remember him ever taking a note (must have had a photographic memory…really!).
Rather, Bill was one of those people who calmly told you (once) what to do and expected your ears to be listening. He also said a lot of important stuff in passing like, “Oh, by the way, when you meet Dan Flynn at MCI today remember to …”
Something I picked up from Bill was his sense of territory. He believed a sales rep was responsible for what happened within the geographic boundaries of their sales territory. Good or bad, it was on you. He expected us to know the companies, the competitors and distributors who did business in our little corner of the earth.
He was also protective of sales territories. There was a time when I had a potential sale that crossed into another sales rep’s territory. I was calling on the engineering group (which was in my territory), but manufacturing was someplace else.
Even though I was just in the early stages, and the likely sale small (like $5k), Bill brought me into his office and the two of us made a call to the other sales rep just to let him know what we were doing and that if a deal did come through, he could expect to receive a commission split.
Another time I had to hop on a plane to Washington DC to visit MCI’s headquarters. I was working with Dan Flynn, an exceptionally forward-thinking vice-president in Chicago. Dan set up a meet-and-greet for me with Bert Roberts Jr., the COO (which was a real hoot given I was just 24 years-old). And just like the previous time, Bill and I hopped on the phone with the DC sales rep to clue him in.
Lesson caught: Honor the other guy’s turf.
Virtual Push Pins
I’ve applied Bill’s principle throughout my career.
Before I hopped on a plane to a conference or tradeshow I reached out to our territory sales reps and made myself available for meetings with customers or Channel Partners. If my schedule was tight, I offered to have a meal or coffee with them, provided they could meet me at the convention hotel. And if I was really, really short on time, I just asked the rep to extend the invitation to attend the show or my presentation.
Some of these meetings were as brief as 15 minutes, but hugely powerful. Plus, I found that I was the main beneficiary by way of the street-intelligence.
That led me to create a simple push-pin map for my travel. My staff could visually monitor where I was going to be and notify local reps on my whereabouts.
Of course, that was a time before Tripit, which makes it a cinch now. Given that you can have your itinerary automatically posted within your LinkedIn profile (like a virtual push pin), there really isn’t any excuse for missing these opportunities now.
The only challenge I still see is the difficulty capturing the notes from the meetings and passing them along to the territory rep if they weren’t in attendance.
Just for you business travelers who remember the trusty 727 (with its own collapsible aft staircase) and DC-10, which despite its ultimate fate, was one heck of a powerful bird. At full-throttle, takeoff was, well…, like a real takeoff.