Championing the channel manager

The role of the channel manager is something that vendors will need to give serious attention to if they are to reap the rewards of their indirect sales models in the Middle East.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  September 7, 2008

The role of the channel manager is something that vendors will need to give serious attention to if they are to reap the rewards of their indirect sales models in the Middle East.

Although it is a position that still tends to be more common in established IT manufacturers, smaller brands must also think carefully about the benefits of employing a local go-to guy for partners.

Seasoned channel chiefs will probably tell you they spend half their time fending off partners’ concerns and diverting mini crises, but there’s no doubt that being a good communicator remains a core component of the role. If a channel boss isn’t there to facilitate the relationship between vendor and partner then who is?

Some aspects of the channel manager post clearly carry more purpose in the Middle East than elsewhere. Building relationships with resellers and VARs, critical to vendors as they expand geographic presence and introduce new product families, certainly stands out. But it is also vital for partner bosses to act as true channel ambassadors, pressing home the value of business partners to customers and being seen to resolve topics of concern.

It’s often said that in order to be effective, the channel manger needs to occupy a particularly high-profile position in their organisation. As vendors in the Middle East expand organically, I think you will increasingly see that happen. Certainly when you look at established outfits such as Sun, Oracle and Cisco it is already the case.

Perhaps more tellingly for this region will be how quickly vendors move to appoint channel managers on a country basis. The traditional method has been to base an executive in Dubai and permit them to hop on and off a plane touring each market.

It remains a complaint of distributors and resellers that the channel managers’ chair has attained infamy for its revolving nature, with individuals using it as a window for a transfer elsewhere or a stopgap on their ascent towards a more senior post, particularly when a large organisation with a clear corporate structure is concerned.

This is something that vendors have to address, because if there is one thing that frustrates a reseller it is spending months building a relationship and agreeing a business plan with someone only to see a new face turn up at their office after six months.

While resources might understandably be an issue for smaller vendors, larger ones must have some form of contingency plan to minimise disruption. HP went about it the right way earlier this year with an internal switch that saw Bernhard Isemann seize the SPO baton from Salim Ziade, thereby minimising the disruption that can ensue when a high-profile name moves on.

As vendors increasingly talk up the significance of value add, it is reasonable to expect that the contemporary channel manager is more likely to educate customers on how a product adds value to a solution rather than desperately trying to persuade them to place a bulk order for equipment. At the same time, channel management duties will inevitably become far more comprehensive than they were in the past — forcing vendors to select their candidates with considerable diligence.

In the next issue of Channel Middle East we’ll be taking a look at the changing role of the channel manager. I’d love to hear your views on what you think makes a good channel manager or the qualities that you believe a partner manager needs in this region.

You can contact me on +971 4 435 6180 or andrew.seymour@itp.com with your thoughts.

Are you confident about the channel?

Don’t miss the opportunity to take part in our Channel Confidence Survey, which you can complete online by visiting www.itp.net/events/channelsurvey.

If you are a vendor, distributor, reseller or retailer then we want to know what you think about the Middle East channel’s prospects ahead of the fourth quarter and how seriously you view some of the key issues impacting the market at the moment.

The survey, which comprises just 14 multi-choice questions that won’t take you any longer than five minutes to answer, aims to get a feeling for the level of business confidence in the Middle East channel right now.

We’ll be compiling the results and publishing them in our October issue — giving you a chance to see how your views on the market compare with your channel peers.

Andrew Seymour is the editor of Channel Middle East English.

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