Channel Councils: Taking the Pulse of Your Partners

Published On: October 9, 2013Categories: Buzz, Uncategorized

By Ken Presti, Senior Consultant, Channel Impact


Vendors of all types are often looking for new ways to deliver their message to the channel. Nowadays, this not only involves the process of developing the message; it also relies on the ability to be heard above the din. After all, even the best and most well thought-out message is next to useless if it cannot be heard above the rock concert volume of all the competing messages that are vying for the channel’s attention.

One very viable alternative to being heard by your channel is to take action towards LISTENING to your channel. This return loop of the communications model can actually go a lot further towards influencing your channel, and one of the most effective means of establishing this dialogue is through regularly scheduled meetings of a channel council.

Channel Impact provides a wide range of services to facilitate these events, but rather than digress down this path, I’ll simply invite you to check out our website, or contact me directly at

Channel councils engage a handful of partners who are experienced with your company and have become trusted allies. Meetings should be held at regular intervals sometimes in person and sometimes through web conferences. A mix of the two methods often yields the most bang for the buck.

Arguably the most important reason to host such events is the fact that participation in a channel council reinforces your connection with key partners by giving them a stake in your success. After all, when someone provides advice in building your strategy, they are typically far more invested in your success than partners who don’t participate in this way.  And it goes beyond wanting you to succeed. It’s all about human nature.  People want to be correct. They want to be recognized for being intelligent and wise. Therefore, listening to their point of view and following up with information about how their counsel has turned the ship goes a very long way towards strengthening the relationship in addition to providing valuable insights from street-level people who leverage your product line and know your customers!

A certain amount of advance work will be critical to your success.  Pre-interviews with participating partners will help your team to understand the key issues in advance of the actual discussion.  Resist the urge to try to use this information to try to pre-empt the discussion at the time of the meeting.  The idea is to listen more than talk. And truthfully, this is something that is very difficult for a lot of people in this business, so it is important to set your expectations with your team.  Sitting down with your partners and yakking at them for an extended period of time actually defeats the purpose. If anybody engages in yakking, it should be the partners and not the hosts.

Make sure to schedule plenty of time to cover the whole agenda. Rushing through it or cutting them off in mid-stream won’t get the job done. Conversely, if the discussion reaches its logical conclusion, don’t try to protract the conversation to hit some arbitrary point on the clock.

Most importantly, be sure to follow up with your participating partners so that they can see that their efforts are not just appreciated, but being leveraged into something useful.  And take that message beyond the immediate participants and do outreach to your overall channel-at-large.  The channel council, in essence, represents the larger population of partners. And filling in the full partner base on the more pertinent details can be extra helpful and also demonstrate your commitment to optimizing your program.

It’s a cliché to say that communication is a two-way street. But your ultimate success in leveraging your partners and building channel loyalty is built upon your ability to listen as well as to be heard.  And channel councils can accomplish that.

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