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How Should Distribution Account Managers Spend Their Time?

Business Time

Kenneth FoxIn the complex ecosystem that is the sales channel, vendors, distributors and resellers exist in a state of symbiosis, ebbing and flowing with the ultimate goal of raising everyone’s bottom line. Overseeing these relationships are distribution account managers (DAMs) who act as liaisons between each link in the chain, coordinating communications, generating potential business leads and greasing the wheels to ensure that vendors and their partners are logistically effective.

On paper, relationship management is the foundation of that job description. In reality, however, this isn’t exactly the case. A majority of a DAM’s time is actually spent dealing with operational issues. Rather than acting as the line of communication between vendors and partners, DAMs too often find themselves filling the role of foreman in the channel industry, focusing on the nuts and bolts of distribution and coordination rather than high-level partnerships. 

Consider what would happen if the minutia was eliminated from the equation. With operations and logistics handled, how would your DAMs spend their time? Here are three good places:

1. Leveraging Analytics: Few understand the intricacies of planning and executing a marketing promotion like a DAM. The coordination, communication and implementation involved in promotions create a mountain of data which, when translated, paints a 360-degree picture of the entire process. DAMs are unique in their access to and understanding of this information.

When allowed to take a step back and look at the larger environment, DAMs can use this data to determine how effective their strategies really are and develop more-targeted programs. The sheer amount of time DAMs spend coordinating a promotion is, in the larger sense, wasted if the result doesn’t actually yield additional profits or engagement with channel partners. Having access to channel data, and the associated transactional information, provides the key insights necessary to deliver the right offers to the right distributors and partners, exactly when then they need it.

2. Optimizing Programs: A vital requirement to the role of a DAM is the ability to think strategically. Specifically, to think strategically about how to best manage the channel-partner relationship. This means first understanding which products and services have the potential to generate the most return on investment, and which products and services channel partners favor the most. With this information, DAMs create an invaluable resource for their organizations, capable of formulating hyper-targeted promotions, maximizing the potential for profit.

Ultimately, this is where vendors start to see the benefit of empowering their DAMs by offloading routine tasks. In a space in which competition is fierce, vendors need to differentiate themselves. The first step to doing so is having a track record of anticipating partner needs and proactively providing value. Vendors who don’t take advantage of this opportunity are effectively letting profit walk out the door.

3. Developing Relationships: DAMs are, in essence, a physical extension of the vendor that employs them. This means that the No. 1 priority of any DAM should be the communication and coordination among the vendor, the distributor and their channel partners. While this is self-evident, there are a few not-so-obvious reasons why this should be placed in such high regard.

As liaisons, DAMs have insight into the needs and wants of each partner. This accessibility allows them to have their fingers on the pulse of the market as a whole, with the ability to predict upcoming trends before they take hold. By opening up communication channels with partners and gauging their receptiveness to programs, DAMs can be proactive in creating exactly the type of promotions that partners need, when they need them. As the primary interface with end-user customers, partners are the best vehicle for transmitting back, via DAMs to the vendors, just exactly what the market is asking for — whether that’s lower pricing, a better bundle, a multi-vendor solution or something no one even considered.

Vendors that understand where they can optimize commercial advantage for their distribution partners, as communicated via their DAMs, stand to gain mind share and shelf space at their distributors, leading to increased sales, market share and overall value. 

The DAM, like any professional, needs to work smarter, not harder. One way is with an automated system, like the one offered by my company. However, there are also some best practices:

  • Develop trusted-adviser relationships with key distribution partners as well as with primary resellers, in order to know what the market is asking for.
  • Understand where technology is going and work to position your partners to be ready.
  • Organize sales events and team-building activities to develop brand loyalty; you get the idea.

In short, DAMs have a lot on their plates. Look for ways to add efficiency and thus provide them with the time to focus on driving the business of the vendor and the partner. That will benefit all parties in the channel ecosystem.

Kenneth Fox is the CEO of Channel Mechanics, the developer of a cloud-based channel enablement platform. An accomplished business and IT leader, Kenneth has more than 18 years of experience in the global ICT sector. He previously held positions at IBM, APC, Nortel and Avaya.


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