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What Is a Channel Account Manager (CAM)? Your Guide

As more organizations transition to a partner-first model, channel account management is increasingly critical for business growth. If you're curious about a channel account manager (CAM) role and want to know how to excel in it, this guide will cover everything you need to know. 

From understanding responsibilities and skills you'll need to learning the steps to success, we've got you covered. Let's get started.  

 👉 Keep reading to learn more about: 

What is a channel account manager?   

A channel account manager (CAM) is responsible for managing a company's third-party partnerships. You may also hear this role referred to as partner account manager, channel sales manager, or ecosystem manager. Channel account managers play an outsized role in recruiting new partners, onboarding them, engaging them with regular communication, and managing the day-to-day aspects of partner relationship management.  

A channel account manager typically reports to a higher-level manager, like Channel Chief, Head of Partner Ecosystems, Director of Channel Sales, VP of Business Development, or Head of Partner Programs. Their supervisor will oversee the strategic direction of the company's partner program and provide guidance to ensure that the manager receives the support they need to cultivate a successful partner relationship. 

Today's partnerships are going beyond just reselling; partners are increasingly playing a significant role in company growth. Partners also support the entire customer journey in many cases, assisting with customer implementation, support, and more.  

By nurturing these relationships and helping partners maximize their potential, you help your company improve its overall customer experience, and increase its market share and revenue. Companies are taking notice of this shift in the importance of partnerships. Industry leader Jay McBain predicts that many of tomorrow's CEOs will have a partnerships background.  

🤔 How much do channel account managers make? This will depend on the scope of your role and location, but reports that the average channel account manager's salary is $110,000 per year. More experienced workers may make $150,000 or more.  

What does a channel account manager do?  

Your role as a channel account manager involves balancing strategic planning with hands-on support for your company's channel partners. Some primary responsibilities include:  

  • Recruitment and onboarding: You'll identify, recruit, and onboard new partners who align with your company's goals and products. This includes guiding new partners through the onboarding process, ensuring they have access to key resources. 
  • Training and enablement: Providing partners with the tools, training, and resources they need to effectively market and sell your products, often via a partner portal. You might organize webinars, distribute product documentation, and provide personalized training to address partners' unique needs. 
  • Partner business planning: Collaborating with partners to build strategic plans that meet both parties' goals. This requires understanding their unique business strategies and developing a joint approach that benefits both companies. 
  • Sales and marketing support: You'll often assist partners with sales strategies, campaigns, and marketing collateral that enable them to drive demand and close deals. 
  • Performance reporting: After setting up goals, you'll track partner performance and provide feedback to help them optimize their approach. Regularly review metrics, identify areas for improvement, and offer tailored suggestions to help partners improve their effectiveness. 
  • Conflict resolution: You'll handle any challenges or conflicts that arise between partners and your organization. You'll need to approach conflicts proactively, seeking win-win solutions that strengthen the relationship, and then using key learnings to build better policies and processes for the future.  
  • Managing your partner tech stack: There are often too many partners to manage them manually. The use of partner relationship management (PRM) software and other tools can help you track sales pipelines, monitor performance, and easily share resources.  
  • Partner portal management: Likewise, in many cases, you'll be responsible for managing a partner portal that acts as a central hub for your partners, including training materials, upcoming events, marketing resources, and more. Ensure the portal is user-friendly, up-to-date, and accessible to partners for self-service support. 

What could a typical day look like? For example, at a cybersecurity company, a channel account manager might start the day reviewing the latest security updates and industry threats and share them in an email newsletter to keep partners informed. They then conduct a training webinar to help partners understand the new features of the company’s intrusion detection product.  

Afterward, they may analyze sales data and identify a partner struggling to reach their quota. The channel manager would arrange a one-on-one meeting with that partner to refine their sales approach. At the end of the day, they may update the partner portal with the latest technical documentation to help partners confidently pitch their software to potential clients. 

How to become a channel account manager  

Becoming a channel account manager requires a blend of education, experience, and skills. Every journey will look different, but key factors will include the following.  

  • Education: Many CAMs have a bachelor's degree in business administration, marketing, sales, or a related field to build a strong foundational understanding of business practices. Coursework in finance, consumer behavior, and strategic planning will help you later on. Some employers prefer candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or other advanced degrees.  
  • Marketing or sales experience: Often (but not always!), you'll first gain practical experience in a sales or marketing role. This helps you understand sales cycles and customer engagement processes, which are crucial for supporting your partners in the same. Experience in managing accounts, nurturing leads, and creating strategic marketing campaigns will give you valuable insight into the challenges partners face. 
  • Technical knowledge: If your industry is technology-oriented, you'll need technical expertise to effectively guide partners through your complex product portfolios. Consider gaining certifications relevant to your sector, such as cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), or cybersecurity. These will demonstrate your proficiency and reassure partners that you can provide informed, strategic advice. 
  • Industry relationships: Partnerships are simply relationships after all, so it makes sense to start by deepening your understanding of your industry's specific dynamics, including key players, relevant professional groups, emerging trends, regulatory requirements, and customer needs. Follow blogs, attend industry and partnership conferences, and join professional associations like Partnership Leaders to get involved. 

With this background, you'll be well-prepared to succeed as a channel account manager. However, remember that every journey to partnerships looks different. A wide range of skills can be applicable in this industry.   

How to be a successful channel account manager  

As a channel account manager, you need to build strong, collaborative partnerships while also providing continuous value to your company. To excel in this role, you'll need a mix of interpersonal skills, technical understanding, and strategic thinking.  

Strong relationship-building abilities will help you cultivate more engaged partners through clear communication and consistent support. Strong business acumen is crucial, allowing you to understand your industry, product, and market so you can offer relevant strategies and guidance.

You'll also need analytical skills to assess partner performance data, identify trends, and make data-driven recommendations. Much of your day-to-day work is done with partner management software, so you'll need some technical ability. Solid negotiation skills will empower you to establish terms and conditions that benefit both your company and partners. Finally, strong problem-solving abilities will enable you to quickly identify and resolve issues that can arise between partners.  

How to succeed in your new channel manager role 

New in town? Welcome to your new role in partnerships. No doubt you want to make a great first impression. Follow these steps in your first thirty days and beyond. 

1. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings 

You’d be surprised how many managers fail to prioritize this important step. Eager to get started quickly, headstrong leaders do not take the time to thoroughly understand their company’s products or services, go-to-market strategies, and competitive challenges.  

A good place for you to start is with your own management team. Get on the calendar of your leaders quickly. In between meetings with your organization’s leaders, pore over your company’s website. Study your company’s language and learn its taxonomy.  

When you feel comfortable at your company, reach out to others outside of your organization. Engaging with your new partners allows you to gain a fuller understanding of the organization you’re joining and is helpful during this discovery process. 

If you don’t take these steps within your first two weeks, you could have trouble later getting buy-in for any changes you suggest. Further, taking the time to familiarize yourself with your company’s history, deliverables, and culture will go a long way to helping you understand the types of partners it engages, the programs it offers, and your status in the market.  

2. Make space to observe and learn 

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to partnerships or a channel veteran, the onboarding process can be challenging for everyone. Don’t rush, try to understand everything before moving on and identify any major challenges that surface.  

To make the most out of your new role from the start: 

  • Set expectations with your new leader and make sure to mutually define success in your role in a way that aligns with company priorities  
  • Build strong relationships with your product team to help ensure the partner-friendliness of future product releases 
  • Spend time with support teams to gain a clear grasp of solutions implementation and support, and to gather data on non-transactional partners already in your ecosystem 
  • Schedule onboarding calls with your partner management software team, so you can quickly get up to speed on how to use these tools  

Don't forget to gain perspectives from your key partners to document the state of your partnerships with data from internal and external sources, so you can create a preliminary action plan.  

Finally, schedule formal 30- and 60-day check-ins with your supervisor, so you can solicit feedback and share findings or make edits to your plans. 

3. Build your first-year plan 

If one doesn't already exist, it's important to build a roadmap for your first year. What do you want to accomplish?  

Once you’ve gathered data, communicated with many members in your program, and have a better understanding of your new role and responsibilities as channel account manager, you're ready to get started. Begin by reviewing: 

  • Your organization's vision and mission, as it's a great opportunity to see your organizational strengths and potential areas for improvement with partners 
  • The partner management solutions you might be using and what technologies are available that could streamline your workflows  
  • Your full partner’s journey from start to finish to understand the entire process and look for areas to improve 

From there, you'll develop a strategic plan to better engage and enable partners. The strategies detailed in this plan should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART goals). Include quick wins that prioritize several short-term opportunities as well as longer-term initiatives. 

Dig deeper: Don't have partner management software (also called PRM software) in place? It's a must-have for today's partner programs, and can coordinate all of your partner processes in one place. Read our full guide on how to find the right PRM for your needs.  

4. Start executing on your annual plan 

As a channel account manager, it's time to shift your focus to tactical execution. Stay flexible, make adjustments as needed, and always remember your strategy when it's go-time.  

Start by setting a milestone framework that includes three tasks: establish a timeline and highlight quick wins to foster momentum, cement KPIs for partners (if they don't already exist), and tie these KPIs into more holistic reports on overall partner ROI.  

Focus on the positive impact of any changes you implement and how they will benefit your partners. Once you start communicating changes, train your internal teams and partners on program and operational updates. Establish a phased cadence of training focused on processes, program changes, timelines, benefits, requirements, and more.   

Get your plan approved by your supervisor, and then schedule a 120- and 150-day review to maintain regular communication.  

Change can bring uncertainty, so always listen, communicate, and plan ahead to make this easier for yourself and everyone involved. Your new partners will value consistency, transparency, and clear communication. Be an effective steward by adopting changes that contribute meaningfully to your partner program.  

This is a strong starting point, and with these steps, you can make a lasting impact on your partner ecosystem. 

Discover how Impartner can help  

A channel account manager plays a pivotal role in fostering productive relationships with a company's partners. By understanding the responsibilities, you'll be well-positioned to excel in this challenging but rewarding field.  

At Impartner, we're committed to helping channel leaders like you learn more about the industry so you can make decisions that drive growth. We encourage you to follow our blog, attend an upcoming event, or register for one of our free MasterClass webinars

Today, millions of partners in nearly every industry across the globe access Impartner's partner management tools. We coined the term "PRM" and have been active in the channel community since the beginning. We'd love for you to take a look around at our partner management platform. 

Impartner is the fastest-growing, most award-winning partner management software on the market. Our partner relationship management (PRM) and partner marketing automation (PMA) solutions help companies accelerate revenue and profitability through their indirect sales channels at every partner lifecycle touchpoint. 

From partner training and onboarding to pipeline management and performance tracking, Impartner handles it all and more with best practices and automation built-in. 

Need to accelerate your partnerships? We’re ready when you are. Book a demo with our team today to learn more!

About the Author

Impartner is the fastest-growing, most award-winning provider of partner management and partner marketing automation solutions. We've been around for decades, and were the first to coin the term "PRM". Today, over 40,000 users leverage Impartner to manage millions of partners within their ecosystem of distributors, resellers, and more. We draw on decades of experience with best practices in the channel to create content that helps partnership leaders grow their careers and scale their programs.

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