Through our many client engagements and vendor interviews on this topic, we believe it has become imperative to establish and refine partner management roles to match and support the phases of the partner development lifecycle. We identify the lifecycle in five steps: Attract, Engage, Enable, Ramp and Manage. Ideally, organizations shouldn’t be dumping Channel Account Managers in lieu of Partner Development Managers. Instead, these two roles should be working in concert for maximum engagement throughout the partner lifecycle.
When working together with Channel Account Managers and other channel team members, a Partner Development Manager offers high touch early in the lifecycle. The PDM designs and facilitates a strategic relationship with partners while the CAM manages operational tasks not automated through a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system.
The first priority is to find the right partners by matching your company goals with partner needs, then explore and define the benefits of working together. It’s more critical today than ever before for channel leaders to understand, own and sell the value a vendor brings to their prospective partner. They must convey to a partner how an investment of time and resources will result in increased profitability and productivity. Vendors need to actively foster the new Partner Development Manager role as a savvy hunter who understands business and technology and acts as a team leader.
Moving a partner past the attract stage to the engage and enable stages is the proverbial cliff many Channel Account Managers fall off as they try to progress partners through the lifecycle. At the enable stage, which sets up future sales, technical and marketing success, the partner is introduced to the vendor team to establish ongoing relationships and accelerate the success of the partnership. This stage is where the PDM relationship becomes especially critical for partner success.
It should be noted, it may take a while to move a new partner through the lead generation and sales development processes. In fact, enablement is often an ongoing and never-ending process as products and services are always evolving. But once a partner has met certain enablement criteria established by the channel team, they are transitioned to a Channel Account Manager for the final lifecycle stage: manage. CAMs own the growth and evolution of the relationship. This hand-off point may vary depending on the complexity and depth of the partnership.
The Partner Development Manager becomes a coach, teacher and facilitator – leading the partner management team which provides sales, marketing, technical and operational support. This unified team will help a partner ramp steadily and successfully to achieve ROI faster, all while keeping functional overlap and operational complexity to a minimum.
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