5 Ways to Enable Channel Sales & Account Managers

Ellen Linkenhoker
Ellen Linkenhoker

channel sales account manager holding a key

Channel Account Managers (CAM). Channel Sales Managers (CSM). Partner Sales Managers (PSM). Regional Sales Managers (RSM). Whatever you call them, these field or territory managers are influencers that hold the key to channel success—but they’re often forgotten as a core piece of your channel program strategy.

As essential gatekeepers to the channel partners you’re trying to reach, field managers are in a unique position to increase performance and engagement of partners under them. So why do these roles tend to go unnoticed in channel programs? And how can you better support and enable them to impact sales and participation?

The Power Behind a Well-Enabled Channel Account Team

Field manager roles are self-directed and the ways they do their jobs vary. They often lack a consistent partner-management approach. Some stand-out channel account managers excel at having strong partner relationships, but others just check the boxes and rely on instruction for how to best engage channel partners. One of greatest opportunities (or biggest misses) of partner success is how you enable your field teams to engage with partners.

Field managers can make or break:

  • Promotion or new product launches
  • Program structure changes
  • Required or optional partner training
  • Program sentiment
  • Program and brand value propositions
  • Recruitment and onboarding
  • Program advocacy

You need your field managers to be well supported to enable success.

5 Ways to Enable Field Managers for Better Success

Here are some best practices for enabling field managers to generate buy-in with partners to reach sales and participation goals.

1. Build Field Manager Dashboards

A dashboard provides an easy way for field managers to keep track of partners. It can break down KPIs and metrics to show which initiatives are on track, lagging or below previous years. We’ve also implemented proactive suggestions in some dashboards to guide field managers on which partners to focus on and appropriate actions to take.

Field managers rely on data, so push dashboard data directly to their inboxes by scheduling training, sales and goal progress reports. This approach balances the in-depth intel available through self-serve dashboards with easy-to-see snapshots they can access on the go from their email. PDFs, reports and spreadsheets also help channel account managers know who to talk to about what and be proactive if they need to push action.

Related: Our client was struggling to reach their KPIs, so they reached out for help. Learn how a dashboard helped identify the problems and provided data to fix them.

channel program dashboard on laptop

2. Create a Channel Account Manager Scorecard

Outstanding field managers lead to outstanding performances by channel partners and their employees. Why not create a scorecard for your top channel account managers, like you would for top-performing partners? That way, channel account managers in other regions can model and replicate ideal behaviors. Consider adding an incentive and behavior program to encourage similar outcomes among all your channel account managers.

As you’re crafting a channel account manager scorecard, include important relational elements like:

  • Touchpoints
  • Meetings
  • Trainings
  • Business reviews
  • Planning sessions
  • Kudos and recognitions
  • Spot awards

example of scorecard for channel program account manager

3. Craft Channel Program Messaging With Field Managers in Mind

Have you ever been accidentally left off a work email and then felt completely lost when the team discussed its contents? That feeling is what field managers experience when a new promotion or program update rolls out and they find out at the same time as the partners they’re responsible for.

Field managers are the ones who handle program questions from partners (e.g., “How does the program work with my role?”, “What are the requirements?” and “How do I make money?”), but they often aren’t equipped to answer the way you’d like. To answer the tough questions, field managers need more insight into the program and its goals than a Program Overview PDF. Ensure you’re crafting messaging specific to channel account managers’ needs to allow them to answer questions and create enthusiasm. It will make them more invested in the success of whatever you’re rolling out.

Here are some questions you can ask your internal team or agency to make sure they address field managers in the messaging. Not all questions will apply to every situation, but they are a helpful starting point.

  • Am I addressing elements I care about as a vendor, or elements that field managers know partners care about?
  • Have I presented the details that will help field managers capture partner attention?
  • Have I presented all the details field managers need to answer questions?
  • Do I have a plan for maintaining partner excitement through ongoing field-manager-sent communications?
  • Am I providing field managers with appropriate headlines to capture partners’ attention?

4. Give Channel Account Managers Field Enablement Kits

Another practical engagement tip is to involve field managers in rolling out promotions. Channel account managers can help you communicate promotion goals and tailor talking points to meet the complex needs of multiple partner types. Build custom enablement kits with all the pertinent information field managers need to facilitate rolling out the program. Be sure to include communication templates and instructions for sharing with their partners.

Upon diving into their enablement kits, field managers should discover the answers to questions such as:

  • What is the new program?
  • How does program participation and eligibility work?
  • What FAQs will they get?
  • What are key messages to share with partners?

examples of channel partner communications

5. Build Recognition Into Channel Programs

Finally, give field managers the ability to recognize partners for jobs well done. Spot recognitions are a solid way to drive engagement and participation.

For a real-life example, we helped a leading manufacturer revamp their incentive program to enable their 100 nationwide field managers to recognize (and build stronger relationships with) their partners in a highly competitive market. Previously field managers would reward partners with untrackable, lackluster gifts, like fast food gift cards and meals. Field managers pulled their incentive budgets from multiple sources and spending ran wild. The brand wanted a formalized program with oversight and trackable results.

As the new program rolled out, the brand discovered that partners bonded with their field managers over the more meaningful recognition that acknowledged their hard work and accomplishments. Partners who received recognition, even in small amounts, outperformed those who didn’t by 30%. As ITA Group tracked good ideas and utilization reasons, we shared our findings with other field managers, leading to a KPI that each manager issue at least one recognition a month.

The program gave the brand control over the incentive budget, plus trackable performance and retention results. All while humanizing the relationship between partners and field managers, the faces of the brand.

Empower field managers to give that kind of recognition and watch how their partners reach new heights. Get channel account managers to be proactive and don’t be afraid to set aside budget for this powerful tool inside your programs. It’s something that can set your brand apart from competitors because it drives emotional connections. The connections stand out in a market of similar products and promotions.

Remembering Field Managers Can Lead to Success

Field managers have a massive influence on your relationship with channel partners. They are the face of your program and getting them on board is a key step toward success. Help them know what to say, how to answer questions and how to check-in appropriately to create two-way communication and foster a strong relationship between partners and your brand.

See what else you can do to improve your relationship with partners. (Hint: it’s all about the partner experience.)

Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen Linkenhoker

Ellen is a life-long learner who finds joy in exploring new ideas and thrives on disruption in all forms. She is an award-winning marketer and navigates all things channel, incentives, and tech. In her role as an Insights & Strategy Leader at ITA Group she keeps a pulse on the changes in the market to direct the vision, position, and evolution of their incentives portfolio. Her position as a leader on the American Marketing Association board keeps her immersed in the latest trends and advances in the marketing field. When she’s not working or volunteering you can find her competing on the volleyball court or working on home renovation projects with her husband.