How to fix field en­gage­ment

CRN - - EDIT OPINION - ROBERT FALE­TRA Email Robert Fale­tra at rfale­tra@thechan­nel­com­

There are very few is­sues that are a uni­ver­sal prob­lem across the chan­nel. Gen­er­ally there al­ways seems to be some ven­dors that have fig­ured an is­sue out while oth­ers strug­gle with fix­ing the prob­lem.

But there is one is­sue that the more I dive into it, the more I re­al­ize no ven­dor would get more than a pass­able grade, and most flat-out would fail the test. I’m talk­ing about field en­gage­ment and what hap­pens where the rub­ber meets the road.

Most ven­dors push their part­ner ac­count man­agers (PAMs, to do ex­actly what they shouldn’t be do­ing—that is, man­age the part­ners. By man­ag­ing, I mean treat­ing them as though they re­port to them, and it is their job to re­port back what they have in the pipe­line, what they ex­pect to close be­fore quar­ter’s end and other mean­ing­less de­tails that clearly help the ven­dor but do noth­ing to ad­vance the ball in the mar­ket.

I don’t be­lieve this is the fault of the field-level play­ers. The blame be­longs much higher up in the chan­nel man­age­ment food chain and most squarely on the head of sales.

There are many rea­sons why this hap­pens. A ven­dor may want a sales­per­son to push cer­tain prod­ucts, but the sales­per­son may want to sell some­thing else be­cause it is eas­ier or car­ries a larger com­mis­sion. As a re­sult, the sales­per­son’s agenda wins over the com­pany’s.

When it comes to what hap­pens in the field, so­lu­tion providers need en­gage­ment with PAMs that are fo­cused on help­ing them go to mar­ket to­gether. This, of course, is driven by PAM/ CAM com­pen­sa­tion plans and gen­eral chan­nel sales man­age­ment tech­niques, which, in turn, are de­vised at high lev­els of any or­ga­ni­za­tion. This of­ten does not align with, nor help, in build­ing and ex­e­cut­ing a plan to go to mar­ket with the part­ners in the field.

When I talk to so­lu­tion providers and ask about field-level en­gage­ment, the feed­back is gen­er­ally more along the lines of things that need to im­prove, and it’s re­ally more of a pipe­line vis­i­bil­ity dis­cus­sion than driv­ing new busi­ness.

Fix­ing this is­sue takes de­ter­mi­na­tion and a fo­cus that needs to start at the top of any or­ga­ni­za­tion. While I wouldn’t give any ven­dor an “A” in build­ing a field-level struc­ture that pro­motes the per­fect field en­gage­ment, there are some that are mak­ing progress here.

One ven­dor I be­lieve is mak­ing real progress is Hewlet­tPackard. Changes that have been driven by Meg Whit­man’s fo­cus on bet­ting its fu­ture on the chan­nel are mak­ing their way to the field and are sow­ing the seeds of change. It’s still early on, and we will talk more about the im­por­tance of field en­gage­ment in fu­ture col­umns, but there is hope here, and the for­mula for suc­cess isn’t all that com­pli­cated, but it does re­quire com­mit­ment.

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