Often times we ask field salespersons to add on tasks which take away from their primary role and skills. Area Sales Managers need to maximize face time with customers. They should avoid performing secondary tasks because of their "proximity". I have been guilty of this in the past when adding channel management tasks to the Area Sales Manager. Time is the finite resource that Sales Management needs to allocate properly.
I have recruited numerous successful geographic Area Sales Managers, http://www.jimthomasintl.com/blog/archives/01-2016. The primary attribute I seek for these roles are hunters-they usually work in tandem with a distributor sales rep. They are the nose to nose closers. They are heavily trained on multiple sales processes and are focused on moving prospects through the pipeline. They win or they move on. Their role is to:
The qualifications for these persons is usually a technical background. Most have an Engineering degree and a varied background working as either a Product Manager, Application Engineer or a Product Specialist. They usually want more variable earnings and a bit more independence so they enter field sales. They understand the priorities of the manufacturers operations and are the face of the factory to the distributor and the end user customer. They should speak the native language used at the factory and will travel probably > 50% of the time. They will communicate the end user customer’s position, the competitive market situation and new product development ideas back to the factory.
In their role as intermediary they must maintain a positive relationship with the distributor. They will understand the internal workings of the distributor and distributor personnel will share confidential information with them. They will co-manage the project pipeline and work with the distributor on account prioritization. They will also work with the distributor on the shared annual activity plan. Keep them out of any task that will create a negative image or activities that could compromise their trust at the distributor.
The role of Channel or Distributor Manager is different. It should be independent of the Area Sales Manager. It should be a separate position reporting to the same leader. This person should be responsible for:
The Channel Manager should be heavier on commercial and marketing skills. The person will probably be based in the factory hive, but will have a tough travel schedule.
It is even more critical for the Area Sales Manager and Channel Manager to have open lines of communication and be a team. Both roles are critical to sales success.