Effective, Productive Channels Depend on Great CAMs

The ‘revolving door’ through which CAMs enter and exit hurts vendor-partner relationships and prevents vendors from realizing channel ROI

By Larry Walsh

For years, vendors have sought “the right partners” – resellers and integrators that will dedicate themselves to a vendor’s products and services, and deliver consistent sales and revenue performance. In fact, much of a vendor’s channel effort is squarely behind the recruiting and enablement of partners in the hopes that a few will stand out and produce an ROI.

A critical piece of the indirect-sales model is channel account managers (CAMs), who are charged with overseeing and administering the partners within their respective territories. CAMs are the first line of offense and defense in channel operations. They communicate with partners, learn their business models, understand their partner markets and customers, assist in sales, and troubleshoot and short-circuit operational impediments.

The importance of the CAM to channel operations and success cannot be understated. Vendors will often tout how CAMs are critical to their channel success. Partners will say the same. In the 2112 annual Channel Perceptions study, solution providers rate CAMs as the most critical position related to the quality, effectiveness, and profitability of their vendor partnerships.

Let’s restate that: CAMs are the single-most important vendor position when it comes to the success of a vendor-reseller relationship. On a 10-point scale, with 10 being the best, solution providers gave the importance of CAMs an average of 8.27. Comparatively, channel chief – the top-ranking channel executive in a vendor organization – received an average of 5.34. And vendor senior management – namely, the C-suite from which the channel so often seeks buy-in and approval – earned an average of 4.10.

In other 2112 studies, solution providers report CAMs as their single-most important source of information and support. CAMs are essentially the town criers of the channel. They convey more news, information, and enablement materials to partners than any other source. And because of their working relationships, CAMs are more trusted than any channel media or automated information source.

Troublesome to solution providers, though, is the frequency with which CAMs are moved, re-tasked, or otherwise distracted by their management. High turnover that leads to frequent changes results in breaks in continuity in the vendor-partner relationship. Every time a new CAM comes in, solution providers say they essentially have to restart the relationship.

Vendors are not oblivious to the disruptions that moving and losing CAMs causes. However, they often claim powerlessness. CAMs require career advancement; a star in their ranks is cultivated, and rewarding that top performer with advancement is good for the vendor organization, they say. This is true, but flawed. By frequently moving good CAMs around, vendors relegate field tenure to mediocre or underperforming CAMs. This further exacerbates the performance gap and causes rifts in the vendor-partner relationship.

As much as vendors want to re-evaluate their partners and recruit high-performing and dedicated solution providers to their ranks, they also need to do the same with CAMs. Channel success will come from having the right CAMs who are trained and enabled to work with partners. And vendors need to ask CAMs to commit to serving more than just a token period in their field roles. By doing so, vendors will help CAMs form better and stronger relations with partners and generate more productive returns on channel investment.

The 2112 Group offers an array of CAM training and enablement programs, as well as partner enablement support. Through our tools, services, and resources, 2112 helps vendors, their CAMs, and partners form more productive and lasting relationships. For more information about 2112’s services, email info@the2112group.com.


Larry Walsh, The 2112 GroupLarry Walsh is the founder, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group. Follow him on social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.