Sports dynasties don’t come about by accident. General managers are constantly evaluating and recruiting talent with an eye towards not just filling holes in their existing lineups, but also building the nucleus around which their next great team will be built. Regardless of the sport, franchises that focus on talent have consistently demonstrated the ability to create dynasties that find a way to if not repeat as champions will at the very least be in contention every year.
Channel managers aiming to build similar dynasties need to rip a page from the management playbooks of these organizations. Today in the channel there is a lot of focus on the top 20 percent of partners that generate 80 percent or more of the revenue for an IT vendor. That may be a winning strategy in the short term. But professional sports franchises know players eventually retire or get traded. Channel managers deal with the same issue. In the case of the channel, a trade is equivalent to a partner suddenly being acquired by another partner that has a much stronger relationship with a rival vendor. Suddenly all the time and effort a channel manager put into grooming that partner is now working to the benefit of a competitor.
Worse yet, the channel manager needs to fill the hole the loss of that partner created. The issue channel managers immediately encounter is that when all the focus is on 20 percent of the channel partners, there’s no one ready to fill the gap. Savvy channel managers are developing farm systems that groom the future rising stars from the other 80 percent of their channel partners. But it takes time and effort to develop that talent. Unless channel managers put the time in now to develop a farm system, many of them will find their channel sales languishing behind rivals that have cultivated a broader range of partners that ultimately serves to make their channel programs more resilient.
Not every vendor, however, has the resources need to train, coach and develop a rich ecosystem of channel partners. Most sports franchises face a similar challenge to developing talent as well. That’s why so many sports franchises rely on farm systems developed by smaller affiliated organizations that develop players on their behalf. The same concept can be applied to developing channel partners.
For example, we at Gorilla work with channel managers from organizations to define a partner recruitment strategy, program objectives and revenue goals. We then profile the available pool of partners to identify which channel partners have the most potential. And just like any modern sports franchise, we give channel manager access to the analytics data to help track partners as they develop and mature. Our goal is nothing less than turning every IT vendor we work with into a channel dynasty capable of fielding winning teams year after year. Naturally, dynasties are not created overnight. But in our experience, focusing on the relentless execution of the fundamentals is usually the best place to start. There are no better coaches in the entire channel than the funded channel professionals we put in place to bring channel partners to the next level.
Alas, the scouts and data scientists that work for professional sports teams are not often recognized for the contributions they make. That’s probably as it should be. After all, the real stars are the players and general managers savvy to recruit to them. The same principles apply to the channel. The real heroes of the channel are the partners that struggle every day to make quotas, land new customers and enhance profitability by increasing attach rates. Nevertheless, no one gets to become a superstar without getting a lot of help along the way.