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Tame Your Quota Giant

Here are three questions that will help you determine whether you can retire your number

By T.C. Doyle

Ever feel like retiring your channel sales quota is akin to taking down Goliath?

If you do, then take heart: you can overcome your quota Goliath just like David overcame the Philistine who stared him down. Some new thinking may help your cause.

To stimulate new ideas, here are three questions that every channel sales manager and channel salesperson should consider at the start of every month, quarter and year:

  • Do I have the right talent?
  • Do I have the right processes?
  • Do I have the right technology?

Let’s examine each.

Do I Have the Right Talent?

Chances are you have a mix of high-performing channel salespeople, underachievers and sales jockeys that run somewhere in the middle.

You know how to measure their output, but have you measured their suitability? It’s an important question to ask because of how often deliverables, target markets and objectives change. In the tech industry, for example, many salespeople who joined the industry in the client-server era dominated by one-time transactions involving physical goods find themselves struggling in the new era of cloud computing that revolves around digital services sold as monthly subscriptions. To them, everything from compensation to sales cycles to deal financing is completely new and different.

Similarly, channel sales managers find themselves working in a very different market than just a few years ago. The rise of marketplaces, non-transacting partners and new sales motions are but a few of the new ripples that channel sales managers must contend with. Because of these, partner journeys are very different than they were just a decade ago.

Navigating new relationships, expectations and technologies often requires skillsets and dispositions that your existing team simply may not have. To find out if it does, you may need to test the suitability of you channel sales team. Some team members are no doubt ideally suited for these times. But others? Maybe not.

This includes many who enjoyed early success in the field after completing their education brimming with confidence and charm. While glibness and positivity often help in transactional sales, they do not necessarily translate well into a world of more collaborative and consultative channel selling. (If they did, there would be even more improv comedians in sales than there are today.)

Do I Have the Right Processes?

Compensation determines behavior. How many times have you heard that sales maxim? It’s probably more than you can count. But is it true? It’s a question worth pondering whenever you tweak or update your channel sales compensation plans.

In most instances, a channel sales manager or director will adjust reward policies to reward achievement based on key organizational objectives. Most comp plans are devised on the principle that individual salespeople are motivated first and foremost by money. But research and experience suggests this to be incomplete at best. According to the Harvard Business Review, “…stars, laggards, and core performers are motivated by different facets of comp plans.”

Other motivators include:

Peer or industry recognition: At one Silicon Valley tech giant, different global sales teams competed for “Viking Awards” that came with a cash prizes and a cheap, store-bought Viking helmet. One year, the company decided to eliminate the competition. “Cut the money if you must,” salespeople said, “but don’t eliminate the helmet.”

Organizational cohesion: Some people just love sales. They love the competition, comradery, customer engagement — all of it. Some naturally get very distraught when their jobs turn sour. This can happen when individual superstars and mid-range performers clash. Policies that pit team members against each other unnecessarily or unfairly demotivate sales teams as a whole.

Stress reduction: Retiring a quota for some isn’t all about the money; it’s sometimes about “lifting a burden from their shoulders.” To an untrained observer, it might appear that a high-performers love turning over new busines. But it could be they just want to reduce stress. In such instances, process changes might make their workplaces more productive.

Do I Have the Right Technology?

You wouldn’t line up for a single play in competitive football without a helmet, so why have your sales team take the field without proper equipment? It doesn’t make business sense.

Today, “proper equipment” can take on many forms, including world-class marketing tools, customer experience software and relationship management automation.

Relation management technology comes in two forms, customer relationship management (CRM) software and partner relationship management (PRM) software. Today, nearly three-quarters of all businesses and more than 90% of companies with more than 11 employees use CRM software. However, the percent that use PRM software is less, which is surprisingly given the amount of commerce the flows though middlemen or business partners. (Estimates vary but the figure is in excess of 70% in many sectors globally.)

Of those companies that do use PRM technology to help business partners grow, manage and support their sales, a surprisingly number rely on homegrown PRM tech stacks that have been cobbled together using different software components or built from the ground up internally. Homegrown tech stacks don’t typically scale, anticipate future needs or integrate easily with broader organizational objectives such as migrating to the cloud or standardizing around a core set of software providers.

All of this can thwart even the best of salespeople, including partner sales specialists, from trying to achieve their objectives. Without the proper equipment, in other words, your salespeople may as well be banging their heads around with little to show for it but bruises.

A better way? Invest in the tools your salespeople need to achieve their objectives. Better yet, let Impartner show you why nearly eight of every 10 customers who invest in PRM say they have gained a competitive advantage.

And don’t forget to ask the right questions that will help you take down your quota Goliath.

T.C. Doyle is the Channel Growth Evangelist at Impartner, the leader in channel management and Partner Relationship Management (PRM) technology. A journalist, book author and analyst, Doyle has worked in media for three decades. As channel evangelist, Doyle produces podcasts, case studies, e-books and more for Impartner. Doyle can be reached at tc.doyle@impartner.com.

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