How to Develop World Class Channel Partners

How to Develop World Class Channel Partners

Channel partners can make or break an organization. In this transcription of a conversation with channel professionals, you’ll learn about developing world class channel partners, what most companies do that get them into trouble, and how to grab and keep your channel partners focused on your products.

With Mark S A Smith |

MARK:        What is it that you would like to accomplish on this meeting? What would make this a great hour that we’re hanging out together?

BERTHA:   I don’t know. You have said when we were… as in on that first day, you specialize in selling to channels and teaching channels how to sell and stuff like that.

MARK:        Yes.

BERTHA:   Anything that revolves around that would be excellent.

MARK:        Okay, sort of an overview of how channels work and how to make them work for you? Would that be helpful?

BERTHA:   Yes, that sounds great.

BERTHA:   I don’t know if I said this but I am very new to this. Quite frankly, if I had applied for this job, I don’t know that I would be qualified for it. So anything you can tell me would be excellent.

MARK:        All right. That’s good. It ends up channels are not complex. They’re not. They’re not at all difficult. So let me just roll along for a while here. Let’s talk about channels for a little bit and then figure out how we can make our product line work best with channels.

The reason why – let’s take a look at it from the company standpoint. The reason why you choose to use channels is because it extends your reach. The company doesn’t enough people or enough relationships to have conversations with everybody we need to have a conversation with, to scale the way that the board of directors wants us to scale. So the way that we allow ourselves to scale faster is to go through channels.

I believe that right now, you’re primarily a single tier model so it’s the company directly to channel partners. I think that where you need to go in the future is through distribution. We had a little conversation about that in Hollywood. But I think we need to extend that conversation a little bit later with that. I have specific rationale why I believe that’s the case.

So a channel is a way of reaching more prospective customers and serving more customers at a lower risk, lower margin but also in an expanded fashion. We can get to the channel. We can get to the customers faster through a channel because they have existing relationships with people that we want to do business with.

The challenge of a channel is that we don’t have their full attention like we would with a badged employee. They’re going to go after the lowest hanging fruit, the simplest deals, the highest margin deals. We have to train them. We don’t have any direct control over them so we have to manage them through persuasion and influence versus being our employee. That makes things interesting. It’s possible. A lot of companies do it very, very profitably and very successfully. But it does require a different viewpoint on how you manage your sales team.

The bulk of the channels on the planet started off with some technical person probably in high school or college and somebody said can you fix my network? Can you help me deploy the server? Can you help me get my Windows up and running? With some technical capability that they had and they said sure. The person said what are you going to charge me to do that? Then they stammered out the largest number that they could. That’s how they started the business.

So most channel partners have a technical core and are formed out of a technical group of people. Some of them will grow up because the founder realizes they don’t have a lot of sales skills and business skills and they’ll bring other people onto help them grow. But a lot of them get stuck. The bulk of the channel partners on the planet are small mom and pop operations probably 10 to 15 people. They’re doing a couple of million a year. They’re think they’re doing all right. Quite frankly they are except they’re working themselves to death and there’s really no exit plan. It’s the curse of entrepreneurialism.

Then we have other channel partners that get smart and they grow and they do really well. They have multiple locations. They have a genuine corporate infrastructure with HR and legal and all that kind of stuff. They’re doing 200 million, 500 million in business. They’re way more sophisticated. They work with way larger organizations because of their viability. Smaller channel partners tend to be in third to your markets and they tend to do business with the people that they went to school with. It’s an interesting culture.

So when we take a look at channels, what we need to do is first of all understand their business model. What is their approach to going to market? Is it a small niche where you have to do a small geography or a specific vertical like healthcare or banking or manufacturing, automotive? Are they a system integrator where they’re pulling together bits and pieces from a lot of other companies stitching them together and then presenting a complete infrastructure solution to their customers? Those people make the bulk of their money from services versus selling hardware and software.

So how does their business model interface with our desired business model? Well I believe that the biggest opportunity for The company was system integrator type of business partners because they’re out there designing the network systems. Then they’re going to pull along our instrumentation. They’re going to pull along your software to make all that play well for their customers. So their integrated solution is better than their competitors because of the The company components that they include in the recipe that they’re putting together for their customers.

So far so good?

BERTHA:   Uhmm, I’m taking notes.

MARK:        Any questions so far?

BERTHA:   Not yet.

MARK:        All right, good. So the channel is going to – they’re going to look for business partners that help them increase their margins because of better products, better margins, better competitive position for their customers. They’re going to pick products because they’re easy to sell, they’re easy to install, they do the job, they’re easy to maintain, and they fit their business model. So from channel partner looking at us, that’s what they’re going to look at. Easy to sell, easy to install, it works, easy to maintain, fits their business model. So when we put together our package to go to the channel, we have to focus on those five areas.

So easy to sell, what’s required there? Well there has to be some sort of marketing support so that customers know about you. They’re willing to accept the conversation with you. If we ask our business partners, our channel partners to do missionary work, that’s not going to go very far unless you pay them to do so. So we have to be doing something to generate buzz in the marketplace and stimulate conversations. So let me pop up to another level then we’ll come back to this.

So there are six components that’s required for successful business. Have we had this conversation yet?

BERTHA:   No, I don’t think so.

MARK:        Okay. This is the piece I say so often that sometimes I forget who I tell it to. So we need to have a product that creates value for our target market. We need to have all those things – value, target market. Just because it creates value doesn’t mean it’s value for our target market. So in this particular case, the value is going to be both for our channel partners and for our customers. We have to take a look at two different value scopes when we talk about products go through a channel. So what is the value for the channel partner? What is the value for their end customer? I believe you have that based on the small understanding that I have of your product. I think what you have is pretty kickass and cool and will change the world.

The second thing we need is marketing that generates conversations, relevant conversations. So we have to have a way of engaging with people with channels and customers that we’re going to have a conversation that is relevant. I can create conversations but they may not be relevant. So it’s got to be a relevant conversation. A conversation with somebody who gives a damn about what we are doing.

Then the third thing we need is sales that create profitable transactions. I can create transactions but they’ve got to be profitable. That is the role of sales is how do we move from a conversation to a transaction? How do we get to that agreement?

Then the fourth thing we need is customer service that creates loyalty. We have to have the ability to manage a customer issue that shows up on the backend whether we expect it or not. Otherwise we have a hole in the bottom of our bucket and all of our business is leaking out.

Then the fifth thing we need is a culture that creates a valuable brand. The company relaunch is creating a new culture both with the channel and internally and to our target customers. So there is this opportunity that you can contribute to that cultural definition. Culture is what creates brand. It’s not the other way around. My view of brand is that it is a customer experience. Brand is all about the customer experience. That they’re willing to pay for that they want to repeat, that they can’t get anywhere else, that they’re willing to tell others about. I need to have all of those pieces for it to be a brand of any value.

So the brand is formed by the culture. The culture is perpetuated by defining the culture of you within the company and then aligning with business partners that have a similar culture. So the thing that is rarely discussed in the world of channel management is alignment of culture. Yet, that is the piece that creates a headache for a channel. If you have a misalignment of cultures, it is a nightmare.

KATIE:        Nightmares!

MARK:        You recognize that Katie?

KATIE:        Oh yes, I completely agree with everything that you’ve been saying. That is probably the biggest challenge that you can have all these other pieces but if you can’t figure out how the cultures align and you sit there and say but we should be incredibly successful with this partner, it’s probably that fact and it’s the hardest to do. I also think it’s one that’s least paid attention to.

MARK:        It is. It’s completely ignored, completely ignored yet what I’d like to do in our conversation is move culture to the top of the stack. The reason why is because culture trumps everything. It’s difficult and it’s challenging but it’s easy because all we have to do is state here is our culture. This is how we go about doing business. These are the type of people that we do business with, too. If you can’t agree with this then it’s not a good match.

It doesn’t take long to create culture statements. It can be as easy as – we’re the people that know about, know more about our products, our customers and our competitors than anybody else. That allows us to help our customers get the most out of their networks. It can be that simple. In that particular case, the culture statement is about learning culture. We’re always learning. We’re always learning. We don’t know it all. We’re always learning, which is a really cool culture to have in the world of technology because it’s moving. It’s such a moving target. But there are other things we can do to generate these culture statements but I just want to say that.

Then the sixth thing that we need is an infrastructure that permits us to scale. So, product that creates value, marketing that creates conversation, sales that create transactions, customer service that creates loyalty, culture that creates valuable brand and then an infrastructure that permits scaling. In this particular case, we can apply these both internally and externally.

So when we analyze our channel partners, I want to take a look at those six things and I want to see how well they line up to what we can deliver from those six areas. So what marketing can we bring to the channel partner with sales support, with customer service support, with cultural support or infrastructure support can we bring is to assume we’re bringing a product. When we talk about the channel partner, they are going to augment, ideally augment our product by adding services and by adding market knowledge to make it more valuable through that partner than if we didn’t have the partner. That’s where the concept of value added reseller comes into play.

KATIE:        So I’m going to just to draw a parallel for Bertha to what she’s experienced at our company to what you’re talking about. Can you start seeing where we were falling down as far as working with our channels listening to this – of working with them, of allowing them to bring their value in and taking advantage of that value in their market shares? The fact that we were so rigid about everything that we did.

BERTHA:   You mean about like giving money or anything like that for MDF (market development funds).

KATIE:        Everything. We were very stodgy about how we did things. It was more of a dictatorship and what I hear now is this is more of – it’s a true partnership. We are still the upper hand of the partnership but it’s more of a partnership.

MARK:        Oh well, I would challenge that Katie. If you believe you have the upper hand, you will not have a solid partnership.

KATIE:        Well you don’t really have the upper hand but when I say upper hand, I mean the upper hand in that when we actually have the final say. At least that’s how it worked at our company which is probably why our channel program was sometimes really successful and sometimes really not. Maybe that’s a small change but even I have to change that. It really is more 50-50 because that is not ever how we’ve operated.

MARK:        If you want it to be a success, it has to be a partnership. You have to bring value. They have to bring value. Where you meet in the middle is the value that is synergistic because you’re using channels. If what you want is employees, hire employees. If you want to have the upper hand, if you want to be the dictatorship, hire people. Hire employees. A channel partner is going to be extremely resistant to a vendor that is dictatorial. The reason why is because they’re in the business of being a channel partner to call their own shots.

KATIE:        Right.

MARK:        One of the things that I’ve heard within the company is we own the customer. No, you don’t.

KATIE:        We don’t own the customers. The customers own us. Are they kidding?

MARK:        The moment that you say we own the customer in the face of a channel partner, you’ve just killed the conversation because all the channel partner has is customer relationship. That’s it. Their business is to develop, expand and protect relationships with their customers because it’s all they’ve got. It’s their ability to pick up the phone and talk to people and introduce new products to them that creates any value in their life and frankly in our life. If they couldn’t create those conversations, we don’t need them. We don’t want them. It’s their ability to trigger conversations with people that we want to have relationship with that is the value. They own the customer.

There are some cultural views that have to shift about the channel within The company if you’re going to have a successful channel partnership. The good news is it’s easy to do. It’s about respect and it’s about understanding the value that both players bring to the party. It’s a marriage of a type and that both people bring something special that creates more than we could do individually. So far so good?

BERTHA:   Yes so far so good.

MARK:        Yes, that’s a hell of a lot in 25 minutes.

BERTHA:   Wow! That was a fast 25 minutes. Most of my meetings today have been a really long 25 minutes.

MARK:        Aha, well you’re letting me monologue on stuff I know so that helps a lot. So what we do is take these models that I’m presenting with you which is the six elements of a successful business. We see how we can map that to what they have to create a new partnership that’s successful. So we’re looking to them to bring additional marketing. We’re looking to them to bring us sales conversations. We’re also looking to them to bring us some customer support at a local level and all of that within local language.

Although that said, you can’t expect a business partner to write copy. You can’t expect for them to translate copy. You have to give them everything they need because it becomes too challenging or too expensive. We have to provide them with as much as we possibly can to get things going. Then of course we want to have a culture match. We see them as an extension of our infrastructure that allows us to scale.

When we can have conversations on all six of those levels, we’re going to have a very successful channel program. If we miss any of those six, it’s going to be not so easy and very frustrating. So I just handed you the secret of how to create and manage channel partners with that model of the six points and how you line them up. Everything else becomes details.

All right, questions, comments, concerns, kudos?

KATIE:        It is very nicely done.

BERTHA:   Good with me.

MARK:        Thank you. All right, let’s change gears and talk a little bit about channel partner recruitment because once you have recruitment in mind, everything else is going to flow. My suggestion is that you consider all your current channel partners to be recruitable. Go out there and do the same thing with them. To tighten up the relationships and stitch up the loose ends that are out there just because of, shall I say it, naïve channel approach. That’s not meant to be pejorative. It’s just an observation based on what you’ve told me. It’s okay because we get to learn. We get to grow. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just where we are today. Let’s take some steps to move to that next place.

So when you bring a channel onboard, the first person you have to sell is the owner or the CEO depending on the size of the channel partner. They’re the first person you have to recruit. They are the first person you have to sell. You have to sell them on the business value doing business with you. What will they be able to do with your partnership that they can’t do now? Where will they be able to go? What conversations will they be able to have? What solutions will they be able to sell? How will they be able to scale up their sales within their business models that they couldn’t do without you? That’s the conversation you have. It’s not how good your products are. It is what can we do to support your business model expansion within your vision of your business.

Keep in mind not all business partners want to grow their business. Some are very, very happy doing $2 million a year with 15 people. Thank you very much. I really don’t want to grow much. Well they may not be the right channel partner for you unless they have a strategic account that they can introduce you to. Then you just take it from there. But that’s more of a decision of how does your business model align with their business model?

Once we have the owners sold that there is opportunity and we have an alignment of cultures then we can generate okay how are we going to do this? How are we going to market? What resources can you bring to bear? What resources do we need to supply to make this a success? Let’s put together a plan, a business plan between the two of us. It doesn’t have to be complex. It can just be three or four pages. Any more than that is going to be too much work and not any good. But you still have to decide what are your investments and marketing. What are your investments in training? What are your investments in people? What are your investments in technology and infrastructure to support all of these?

So there still has to be some decisions made along those ways. It’s like getting married. Okay where are we going to live? Whose car are we going to keep and whose car are we going to sell? What are we going to do with the dogs? Those same conversations have to go on with a channel partner. If you look at a channel partner relationship as a marriage, it’s pretty darn close. Both people are highly independent. Both people can say goodbye at any point in time. If it works, boy does it work great. If it doesn’t work, boy is it ugly. So it’s a partnership. It’s truly a 50-50 partnership in that particular case.

Now, once we have the channel manager or the channel owner all lined up with our resources identified and recruited then we can move to the next level which is technical training. We need to have technical training next. I would just do a 101 level to begin with, just enough so that their technical staff feels comfortable with an assessment strategy and an initial deployment strategy.

So with what you’re doing, you needed to find somebody who understands virtual machine architecture and knows how to handle VMware and whatever virtual machines that they want to have within their expertise, whether it’s Microsoft or Citrix or whatever, Red Hat, Oracle or whatever. Whatever virtual machine that they’re playing with that you’re willing to play alongside with. So that first level is all that’s necessary.

They may be loath to go to a week or two of training without seeing anything to begin with. But that’s okay. What I want in this particular case is enough confidence that the technical people say this looks great. I can recommend this to my sysadmin friends. I can a conversation with the CTO and feel comfortable and confident about this. Yes, I don’t know everything yet but that’s enough for now.

They’ll get the next level of training once they have some business. Once business starts to flow then they’ll be highly motivated to go to a week or two or three or four of training. But until they get the business flowing, we just need that first level that introductory level of what it is that needs to happen. Once we have the technical people trained and ideally we’ll have them deploy it within mere infrastructure, what we really want to do is have business partners eating our cooking.

BERTHA:   So let me ask you a question on that one and that’s something I think that we have struggled with at our company. Part of it is we’ve always had this little bit of an attitude that – how shall I put it? We’re not going to spend any money or figure out to sell them then we’ll spend money. So I’ve always thought it was incredibly important that we get the customer using it and using in their environment. However, except for software we’ve made that incredibly difficult. They had to pay us a lot of money. They were large investments and we were expecting a lot out of them before they even starts selling the product or even if they had sold the product. We basically want them to take all the money they made from that and turn it around by gearing from us. What are your thoughts on best ways to do that?

MARK:        The question I would ask the CEO of your company is how much have you invested in developing the product. How much? Give me a number. A guess is good.

BERTHA:   Let’s say 2 million. There you go.

MARK:        Two million, great. How much are you willing to invest in making sure the product that you’ve created is successful in the marketplace?

BERTHA:   We had a flat rate that we invested, I think 25%.

MARK:        25% so ½ million dollars. You put $2 million your product and you’re going to spend ¼ of a million dollars trying to make it successful? You need 2 million. If you spent 2 million to develop a product, you need 2 million to market it. You need another 2 million to sell it. A product is a third not 300%.

That’s what kills tech products is they believe that they can get by with a miniscule marketing budget and a huge development project. You flip that around. You have to have the same level of marketing and the same level of sales budgets as you do the product budget if you’re going to make something successful.

BERTHA:   Okay.

MARK:        I know you and I can’t fix that but if you reorient your thinking a little bit and understand that right now that limited sales in marketing budget is what is limiting the success of the product.

BERTHA:   I wouldn’t argue with that at all.

MARK:        It is a common problem in the world of technology where people believe if I build a better mousetrap the world is going to beat a path to your door. No. The world beats a path to the door where they’re making the most money and flashing the most lights that say free beer here. It’s the conversations. There are six elements not one element that creates a successful company, six. So we just have to shift that around.

So now you know my philosophy about this and my views on that. The answer is the more that you can get business partners to consume your products, the more they will sell. The more that you can get not-for-resale hardware in their hands, the more you’re going to sell.

KATIE:        I completely agree with that. I think that we had opportunities with certain partners where we could have significantly improved our customer base because we weren’t investing. I’ve always thought that was a big mistake that we made. Not that I didn’t try and battle it. Other people at the company tried to battle it but we can never get management to budge. So it’ll be interesting to see how that becomes a part of our marketing goal forward plan. Let me ask you ask you a question. The general manager of the business unit gets to veto or do they have to just go in line with the marketing plan? I’m asking you, Mark.

MARK:        Ideally it’s going to be a plan that everybody agrees to. The plan should always be agreed to at the executive level. If there’s disagreement on the plan, we can’t work together to make the plan happen. The marketing should be responsible for creating conversations and nobody should be able to veto marketing because they’re responsible for making conversations. Now, if the plan has elements that the board of directors doesn’t care for or the CEO doesn’t care for then that’s a discussion prior to plan execution. But that’s a cultural and operational design challenge and discussion that at this moment I don’t have any influence over.

But coming back to the conversation, the more not-for-resale technology into the hands of your business partners, the more success you’re going to have. Remember and this particular part of the conversation came out of the concept of the product has to be easy to sell. Five things that make a product channel ready – easy to sell, easy to install, it works, easy to maintain, it fits the business model. So easy to sell has to be easy to sell. So we’ve got the technology people to talk. So moving back over the channel enablement side, we have to have the business partner/owner give us resources. Usually people and time, they’re not going to give you a lot money but they’ll give you people and time.

The next thing is to train up the technical staff so they feel comfortable and confident talking to their techies about the product. Then after that stunt then we train the sales staff. Salespeople don’t need technical expertise. What they need is six things. Amazing how that keeps working out. They need six things. They need what is it? What does it do that you couldn’t do before? Who do I talk with about it? Number four is what do I say? How do I start the conversations? What questions do I ask? Number five is what’s the process that we go through to do this? Is it an evaluation process? Is it a pitch and discount process? Is it an assess and present and face rolled out process? What’s the typical, the successful way that we have sold this in the past? And what objections are likely to arise during that process? How can I handle those that give me confidence that I’m not going to get killed? Then the sixth thing is how do I make more money once the customer says yes? So that’s all that I need to do.

Now in that process, I don’t have to teach them how it works. I just have to have conversations around it. I have to decide when I bring in my technical people. Better than that I need to out there and look for opportunities where I can create new value. What can I do that I couldn’t do before? Then once you have the sales person trained up to have some of those conversations, once they start having conversations, they will be motivated to have more training. So it has to be a layered level of approach to training. You give them enough to get them dangerous. Then you have more stuff to back them up as they start to have more experience with this in the market place.

Then the fourth level that I do for channel enablement is start rolling out marketing plans. Start creating conversations. What kind of programs are we going to have? Are we going to do some trade shows support? Are we going to do some direct marketing? Are we going to call? Are we going to hire the folks down in Lake Mary, Leads On Demand and have them start banging the phones with their list for people that we know that could potentially do business with this based on their knowledge of an enterprise customers around the nation?

Maybe we do a direct marketing piece. We’re going to buy a list for their territory and we’re going to send out direct marketing series to start engaging conversations. Maybe we’re going to do educational seminars. Maybe we’re going to do some webinars. Whatever happens to be that starts that conversation. What’s the program that we do with a channel partner that they then roll out on their own? Ideally there’ll be some MDF on the backend to sustain that. So those are the four things we have to do to get them up to speed. How does that sound? Oh in that order. It’s got to be in that order.

KATIE:        Yes, it’s good. How you talked to the different layers.

MARK:        Yes, then when it comes to the conversational piece, you see this is all nested, isn’t it? Nest inside a nest inside a nest. Then how do we have those conversations. That’s the piece that we have to work on next. I’m doing a lot of that work with The company right now and that we need to have the ability to have conversations with customers at three different levels.

We need to have a business level conversation typically with the line of business manager. It could be the owner. It could be the CEO depending on the size of the organization but wherever the buck stops for that particular business unit. We need to have a conversation with the finance person typically a CFO. It’s going to be around cash flow, compliance impact on revenue, impact on cash flows. Then we have to have a conversation with the technical person which is going to be impact on our systems, impact on our people, impact on our processes.

We can have all of those conversations at one time if we need to have a meeting with all three or we need to have them separate. But each one of those players has a different set of motivators and a different set of KPIs (key performance indicators) that we have to address if we’re going to be successful. Now the thing that’s interesting is in those three conversations, there’s only one where we have a product conversation. The other two we have outcome conversations not product conversations. So those have to be carefully crafted with a view of the customer motivation and KPI set in mind. That’s one of my areas of expertise is how do you do that. What do you focus on? What do you talk about?

Then for the technical person, it can be a very high level. Ideally what we’re going to do is either move to a proof of concept or purchase with a warranty or a guaranty of satisfaction or maybe an assessment, an approach, an assessment approach to help figure out how to put together their strategy. Our conversation around sales strategy probably is going to be different. It’s going to require more than the 15 minutes that we have left in our call. But I have a very opinionated view of the sales approach that will work for you. It’s based on my, I can’t believe it, 33 years of selling technology.

MARK:        It was a good time and everybody enjoyed it. It was fun to get up. We’ve got about 10 minutes left. Questions, comments?

KATIE:        I think that was a great outline.

MARK:        So best idea from this event from this discussion we had today. Bertha, what was the best idea you got out of this?

BERTHA:   Actually the thing that kind of like a light bulb event here, you have to start selling to the head guy first. I feel like that doesn’t happen as much as it should. You start with more on the people in the field and then they might like it and then try and talk their boss into it but it’s not us going to the head guys. Maybe Katie can reiterate that. I’m not in the field much.

KATIE:        I would completely agree with you. I don’t think that’s necessarily the bad thing always because having an internal champion is great. The only thing, we only go to the internal champion and we don’t create that level of relationship all the time with the head guy. If you look at the partners that we’ve been most successful with, we’ve got that relationship and that was something like let’s take for [inaudible] as an example where that was part of the problem. We became partners with them because they acquired one of our companies. Right at that moment when that happened, there was no one assigned to sit there and go to the heads for approval.

So when it was assigned to me, we had been into the relationship for two years. Nobody cared. They sold in one spot. It was really hard to do that on top of doing everything else. When I would get somewhere with them because I think part and listening to other things that Mark has said about how we should have been doing our sales with them, I think that we also made a number of other mistakes with the rigidity of how we were doing our partner program. Our partner program is not designed for [inaudible] type of a company. It’s designed for the polling, where is the resource communications and that was part of the first big mistake.

We have gotten that feedback from the larger companies that it’s pretty difficult and actually from the smaller companies too where they have to front all the money and we gave them back after we get everything. It’s hard for these small companies to do that.

MARK:        It is. It’s extremely hard especially given that there are business models that tend to be very lean, very, very lean. All right good. That’s helpful to have that vision and insight.

I would like to challenge one thing you said, Katie. That is it’s good to have a champion. That is the worst sales training that was ever perpetrated on the planet is giving up our power feeling like we couldn’t go higher in the organization, feeling like we couldn’t reach up to the executives. So we had to go to somebody who would introduce us and sponsor us up the food chain. Worst possible sales training ever perpetrated on the planet. We can better reach to the executives than anybody else on the planet. There is no champion that can articulate how we can have value better than anybody else. Because that champion doesn’t understand the numbers, doesn’t understand the resources, doesn’t understand the value propositions at the executive level. We understand that. They don’t.

KATIE:        But you don’t think it’s beneficial to have somebody to do the introduction?

MARK:        No!

KATIE:        When I look at a champion, if I happen to know somebody that worked at ABC Company and they say hey I want to introduce you to the CIO, you don’t think that’s beneficial?

MARK:        Great, I’ll take it. I’ll take it.

KATIE:        I consider that person a product champion.

MARK:        I’ll take it. I’ll take the introduction. I don’t know if they’re a champion or not. The question is what is motivating them to be a champion? The question is what gives them the right to be a champion? How does that championship align with my objectives? I’ll take an introduction, a personal introduction anytime I can get it but I’m not going to rely on it as my sole way of starting a relationship.

KATIE:        Oh I would completely agree with that point and perhaps product champion is too much of a word. I guess we just link it to everybody with that. But I’ve gotten introductions. The only thing I always consider them good for is the intro. The rest is my job.

MARK:        That’s right. And yet that said, why would we do marketing campaigns to champions? I want to do marketing campaigns for the executives.

KATIE:        That’s what we’ve done and that’s also a part of the problem. We do that in the marketing. I don’t think we’ve done it to the people. I’ll tell you I think it’s just the lack of knowledge at our company.

MARK:        Well it is. It’s a lack of knowledge. It’s also buying into a sales model that is flawed, seriously flawed.

KATIE:        It’s like when someone tells me that there… and my product champion at the company left. I can’t get an appointment. I said well then apparently you suck at your job.

MARK:        Right.

KATIE:        They looked at me and said why. I said because if you were good at your job, you would know every single person. They would return your call that you need to be talking with that company.

MARK:        That’s right.

KATIE:        But that makes me mean.

MARK:        It’s not a matter of mean. We invest way too much money to have no outcome.

KATIE:        But it’s just one person. Yes.

MARK:        Salespeople tell me, “Yes, but if I go over their heads, they’re going to be pissed.” I said so? Your job is not to be liked. Your job is to facilitate a transaction.

KATIE:        Well I think the other issue is you need to go over there right from the get go.

MARK:        I agree. Our target is…

KATIE:        You need to be there. You need to know them. You need to go and talk to them which is why I always think it’s better to start a higher and work your way down.

MARK:        The reality is if we start higher there is no work to get down.

KATIE:        On occasion there is.

MARK:        We will be introduced down.

KATIE:        That’s the goal. That’s always the goal.

MARK:        I would much rather be introduced down than introduced up.

KATIE:        But it still has to go the upper ones.

MARK:        That’s right and that’s the value of longevity in the marketplace are those referrals through time as your network spreads out. Yes.

KATIE:        I just think this is the best conversation and I appreciate it.

MARK:        Woohoo! What do you want to do next? What do you need from me?

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