The changing role of the partner account manager

You would be forgiven for thinking that over the last six months, the era of the tech boom has suffered a dramatic downturn! With major tech companies making significant cuts in a bid to stay afloat during these economically uncertain times, it’s clear that the channel will also need to adapt.

Now, vendors might want consider how they will evolve the role of the Partner Account Manager (PAM) to keep up with the wider changes in the industry. Or will they need to?

Canalys’ Chief Analyst, Jay McBain, commented on LinkedIn that although PAMs are key to partner experience (PX), playing a critical role in driving partner activation, loyalty, experience and performance, the recent industry shakeup has impacted the role:

“Many vendors over-invested in [Partner Account Managers] over the past 14 years —using a surging economy to build out global coverage and capacity. Given the recent 200k (estimated) layoffs announced in the tech industry, channel leaders are now forced to audit these numbers.”

So, what’s the solution? Canalys suggests converting a number of PAMs into ‘community’ roles given the changing dynamics of partner types and points of value.

The post generated an interesting debate about the nature of the PAM role and what the future might hold. Tammy Vorster-Jones, Group Executive, Marketing, at rhipe, responded:

“A platform like PRM [partner relationship management], that specifically aligns with the partner sales cycle and channel ecosystem requirements, rather than the traditional CRM would go a long way in helping PAMs/CAMs be more effective. It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and hoping to get a solid seal.”

Is faster access to data the solution?

Although many people agree that it’s worth making some adjustments to the PAM role, it’s also important to consider the part that technology can play in boosting efficiency and benefiting the vendor simultaneously. Back in October, Channel Mechanics shared a blog post about the  changing role of the Account Manager, where CEO, Kenneth Fox, explains:

Vendors that are employing a platform approach to manage their partner ecosystem are creating competitive advantage. One great example of this is having a partner performance dashboard to track key metrics that are used by both partners and account managers. This approach ensures a single source of truth for partner conversations, keeps partners and account managers aligned, helps account managers become much more sales focused as opposed to having to spend time on multiple different systems to get the data they need to support partner engagement.”

Fox also suggests that a platform makes it simpler for all Account Managers to take a consistent approach with their partners, “so, when a key Account Manager leaves, it’s no longer the impact it once was”.

Indeed, as McBain noted in his LinkedIn post, “tools and platforms are necessary to help [PAMs]automate repeatable processes and grow support to service a wider group of partners. Analytics and KPIs help ensure performances are on track. The more committed partners are to a vendor, the more they expect personalized support”.

What does the future look like for PAMs?

It is interesting to note that misconceptions surrounding the role of the PAM aren’t new and businesses don’t always use them to their full potential. Check out this Purechannels blog post from three years ago, where we discuss the inaccuracies of channel perception and outline what qualities PAMs should maintain to be successful in such a complex position.

So, although there’s no crystal ball to show us exactly what the future holds, we can predict that two things will be important for vendors when defining the role of the PAM. The first is hiring the right people. The second is empowering those people with technology so they may perform better and encourage partner loyalty in a competitive market.

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