One of the issues solution providers often have with vendors is that the local regional sales managers for any given vendor are essentially a force unto themselves, with almost absolute power concerning which partners get invited to participate in deals discovered by the vendor.

On the other hand, one of the issues vendors have with the channel is that they have almost no visibility into the channel’s sales process, which makes it difficult for vendors to forecast the financial performance of their companies. As a result, vendors tend to want to get their hands on as much data about pending sales as possible, usually through the efforts of a regional sales manager.

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On the face of it, these are two separate issues linked by one common element: the presence of the regional sales manager. To get a better handle on the overall prospects of the business, vendors have been increasingly turning to automated sales channel management tools provided by companies such as BlueRoads and Computer Market Research.

For example, BlueRoads recently expanded its deal registration service to include an integrated lead management capability, while CMR has added a new module to its larger suite of channel management services that makes it easier to automate the distribution of co-op dollars and MDFs (market development funds).

Both offerings are services designed to replace the patchwork quilt of systems and isolated processes that many vendors use today to inefficiently manage the channel. In fact, when you think about it, a deal registration program that is not tightly linked to a lead management system doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

What these and other steps toward more sophisticated channel management systems represent is a maturation of the business processes in the technology sector. And, once in place, the aforementioned steps should ultimately give vendors much more visibility into the overall sales process than they enjoy today.

Now, you may be wondering what all that has to do with the absolute sales power of the local regional sales manager. Well, unless vendors have actual visibility into the sales process, there is no meaningful checks-and- balances system in place that can audit which deals the regional sales manager is sending where. But with such a system in place, it becomes pretty clear using even the most rudimentary reporting tools that, say, 80 percent of high-value leads are being fed to, say, only 20 percent of the partner base.

There may be some legitimate business reasons for that, but chances are also equally high that this is happening because that 20 percent of the base plays a lot of golf with a particular regional sales manager and may even know the manager’s favorite brand of cigars.

To be fair, the vast majority of regional sales managers are upstanding members of the community, but in this age of compliance, we’ve all learned that those dark corners of our financial world are the very areas subject to the most abuse. And, unfortunately, history has shown us time and again that absolute power eventually corrupts even the most resolute of souls.

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So with all these issues in mind, we should welcome the new wave of IT automation that seems to be sweeping the channel landscape these days because, as painful as change can be, the current alternative is increasingly becoming unacceptable to all concerned.