What might a reality TV show about business have in common with the channel? The answer is that by not having the right skill set, you may be missing out on the investment you were hoping for.
The Apprentice sees confident and ambitious candidates from all sectors of the business world around the globe put through their paces to win the chance of a huge investment, and the title of business partner.
Despite 24 versions of the show being broadcast around the world, in every series it is easy to predict the type of character who will enter the competition. We can guarantee there will be a shy inventor, a controversial troublemaker and an over-confident sales manager.
And just as we can predict the types of candidates taking part, we can also foretell the outcome of the challenges. We know from previous years that the sales manager will excel in the challenge where the candidates have to sell potatoes or cleaning products to the public.
However, when it comes to putting together a strategic business plan, this particular candidate may not have the right skills. His or her bid for the top spot will undoubtedly end with a point of the finger, and the dreaded words "you're fired".
In the channel, being a great salesperson obviously has its benefits, especially when it comes to upselling and value-adding. However, just like in The Apprentice, being more than a salesperson is even better – for both the channel partner and the customer.
Firstly, being able to have the right conversations with the right people is critical in the channel. As we know from The Apprentice, the candidates aren't all that good at talking to each other or working as a team.
But for the channel to be successful, partners need to have the skills to talk to their customers and understand their limitations and needs. Speaking to customers about their budget pressures and what they can and can't change in their infrastructure means being able to modify the offering for the customer's environment and business goals.
A strong training programme is crucial here. Conversations you have with your customers need to be confident. This is particularly important when it comes to new security offerings – as customer fear is not about the new technology but the fact that it might fail.
Address this fear with the knowledge and expertise you have developed.
Marketing and sales managers need to know how to sell products and services, whether using a menu of marketing activities or online training support. This training proves crucial in the post-sales period.
Being able to upsell and offer additional services after a sales deal has been secured means the customer can reap the full benefits of what is offered. Similarly, technical support teams need training to deliver the promises made to customers, while retaining a strong customer relationship that can be the foundation for future investments.
While the channel is about bringing goods and services to market, it also must be about the training, maintenance and integration of these products. Obviously, it's about understanding customer needs and overall goals to ensure what you provide has the right fit.
We need to see the channel as more than a sales model and as a result, escape a swift exit from the boardroom.
David Small is EMEA vice president of channel sales at McAfee
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