Channel Partner Management in a Rapidly Changing World

By Camilla Currin

When the news first came through about lockdown, my heart sank. How was I going to maintain sales engagement and momentum with partners, especially the ones I’d only recently taken on and did not know well? Navigating these personal relationships, from sales floor to boardroom, is challenging at the best of times. In many ways, the weeks and months that followed proved my initial feelings both right and wrong. 

On the one hand I was right to be nervous: the role of the Channel Account Manager (CAM) has been impacted significantly by pandemic-related events over the past few months. However, with the right approach, the right team and the right product set behind you, it is possible to pivot to success amidst unprecedented change.

Supporting home workers
Things moved so far and so fast in the first few days that it was a challenge to stay upright on constantly shifting sands. But it became pretty clear early on that Trend Micro had a strong story to tell in helping to keep companies operational as remote workers were assailed by phishing threats and attackers took advantage of stretched IT teams. 

Trend Micro’s industry leading cloud, endpoint, detection and response and network offerings deliver a wonderfully broad portfolio that gave me plenty to discuss with partners. Early on we took the decision to provide them with as much as possible at little or no cost to pass on to their customers. To help them enhance security in the new home office we offered:

Phish Insight —a free of charge enterprise-grade phishing simulation tool to educate and test employees’ awareness of email scams. It requires zero budget and only five minutes to begin a highly realistic phishing simulation

Maximum Security for Work from Home on personal devices  Six months free home use security licences for employees working from home on personal devices without sufficient protection

The good news is Trend Micro’s leadership in cloud security will continue to stand us in great stead as the ongoing situation encourages more organisations to embrace digital transformation.

The next few months
After the first couple of weeks, it became pretty obvious that things weren’t going to return to business-as-usual anytime soon. This is when CAMs need to draw on their reserves, adapt to the new reality and make the best of a very challenging situation. It’s about finding out very quickly what works and then embracing the change. 

Good channel partner management is built on a joint business plan, but also driven by face-to-face meetings: walking sales floors, chatting at coffee stations and even providing ad hoc training and whiteboarding. It’s about relationship building; bumping into that individual you’ve been trying to meet but never had the chance to. And all with a big smile on your face. So how do you do that under lockdown?

Well, strange as it may sound, over the past few months I’ve actually managed to meet and get to know more partner teams than I could ever have managed in the pre-COVID world. Online comms platforms have been a particularly useful tool—supporting better quality calls with specific people, fewer distractions and tangible outcomes. Over a two-month period I delivered training via Zoom to over 120 people and got to meet many more, for example (top tip: please keep your camera on during these sessions as it’s easier to engage and see if the training is resonating).

It’s all been a steep learning curve but a necessary one. As we evolve under the new reality, I’ll continue to drive engagement, boost sales and embrace the new ways in which my partners, Trend Micro and I evolve.

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