Do You Have 'Channel Attitude?'3:00 PM EST Wed. Nov. 21, 2012
Getting a Harvard MBA may gain you entrance into the Harvard Club, but it is not the best route to becoming a successful channel chief.
You certainly need to understand complex channel economics that can be taught in a prestigious university and be introspective to be a good channel chief, but it takes something more to develop what 30-year channel veteran Kevin Gilroy calls "channel attitude."
"You don't develop channel DNA just because you went to Harvard Business School or because you are smart," says Gilroy, the senior vice president of global indirect channels at ERP software giant SAP who is featured on CRN's 2012 Top 25 Channel Sales Leaders list. "It takes years. You have to chew the dirt of the street with the channel."
Gilroy, who has helped drive a channel renaissance at SAP, knows of what he speaks. He was also instrumental in building a strong channel culture at HP. Gilroy, in fact, drew a line in the sand between the indirect and direct sales organizations at HP with what he termed a "hard deck." That hard deck, which focused the HP direct sales on only the top 870 accounts, led to explosive channel sales growth at HP.
What Gilroy did at HP, and now has done at SAP, is bridge the divide between the direct and indirect sales organizations. "Good channel leadership has one foot in each camp," says Gilroy. "They know they work for representing the supplier, but they also represent the [indirect] channel inside the company, fighting for the channel, acting as an advocate for the channel."
That street-fighting channel attitude, by the way, extends into the sales trenches, pushing the company's solution provider partners to step up for the vendor, making investments, for example, in next-generation technology ahead of revenue and committing to sales growth year after year.
Gilroy, in fact, is put off when he visits partners that tell him their account rep is the "nicest person" in the world. "Show me that partner account manager, and I will show you a flat revenue line," he says. "It's not just about going out for beers or lunch. You need constructive contention. The best account managers push partners and get under their skin."
At SAP, Gilroy has brought in a significant amount of channel talent from HP, including former HP channel executives Michael Coleman, Meaghan Sullivan and Susan Reynolds, to build what he calls channel DNA.
Getting that top channel talent is one thing, but if you don't have a channel-savvy CEO, it is for naught. At SAP, Co-CEO Bill McDermott has made driving an aggressive channel sales transformation a top priority. "McDermott understood the value of the channel and he set in motion a plan for 40 percent of the business to go through the channel," says Gilroy.
That 40 percent of sales going through the channel was a 2015 goal. But Gilroy says he believes the 40 percent target will be met in 2014. Those are the kinds of numbers that would impress any Harvard MBA.
BACKTALK: Do you have channel attitude? Contact Steve Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org.