Woody Allen Was Right About The Channel

Woody Allen wasn't wrong when he said "eighty percent of success is showing up." In the channel, it's 90 percent.

More importantly, far too many vendor executives don't practice it. Maybe they're tired. I'm tired too. Maybe they think it's not necessary to repeatedly press the flesh. I disagree. And I'm not only talking about senior-level executives; in some cases, I'm talking about channel executives as well.

It's why when I see a culture of channel engagement in a company that flows up and down the ranks, I'm not surprised by the positive impact that follows with its numbers.

Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., solution provider, was at The Channel Company's (owner of CRN) XChange conference a bit more than a year ago when his phone rang at 7:15 on a Sunday evening. When he answered, to his surprise Michael Dell was on the other end. Goldstein had been quoted in an article expressing concern over how the Dell privatization might impact the channel. Michael Dell wanted to address this issue firsthand and, by the time they hung up, Goldstein was on board.

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[Related: The Perfect Fit: Looking For A Channel Chief]

This week I had an early morning breakfast in Boston with Marius Haas, president of Dell's Enterprise Solutions. At 8 a.m. Haas was coming off a dinner the evening before with a dozen local partners. He was headed toward more partner and customer meetings before he did it again in another city. At the table with him was direct report Rory Read, COO and president of Worldwide Commercial Sales, who hasn't even started in the job yet but felt he needed to be there. Beside me was longtime channel sales strategist and Dell's vice president of Global Channel Strategy and Programs, Frank Vitagliano.

These guys get it. Making it happen in the channel is about relationships. It's not gained through the entitlement of working for a large, important company. It's earned through hard work, a lot of airport food and time away from home. You don't get it by working the internal hallways of your own company. You purchase it a little at a time by pulling up in a rental car to the single visitor spot at a partner facility that could fit inside the reception area of your headquarters.

You earn it by asking what your company is doing right and, more importantly, where it can improve. You earn it by coming through on a thousand promises over many years. You don't overpromise, and you don't ever say something you can't deliver on.

You earn it by consistently showing up at the XChange events along with your own and helping your distribution partners deliver on their promises to partners as well.

So I'm not surprised when I hear unconfirmed reports that the once famously "Be Direct" Dell is now pushing 43 percent of its business through partners, and I won't be surprised when it surpasses 50 percent in the not-too-distant future. Remember that Michael Dell is an entrepreneur, so he thinks like a solution provider trying to build a business. He is focused on the channel and that is filtering through the ranks. As he brings more relationship-builders like Haas, Vitagliano and Read to bear on his effort, the numbers are going to get better.

Michael Dell is unique in that he will call a single partner over what seems like a small issue. It's never a small thing to get an unexpected call from him. Trust me, I know, because I've personally had a few from him over the years. The benefit of the relationship-building he's making will grow exponentially over time, and some competitors don't understand that.

BackTalk: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is CEO of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at [email protected].