2014 CRN Channel Champions: Eaton's Channel Charge Ends APC's Winning Streak

It's not every day that a 20-year Channel Champion is bested, but that is exactly what happened when Eaton took the crown from APC by Schneider Electric in the Power Protection and Management category at this year's XChange Solution Provider conference.

The Eaton victory is a case study in how to build a channel program. It required a major investment over the past five years with a fanatical commitment to constantly improving every aspect of the program and, just as importantly, the product line itself with big investments in data center software.

Behind the company's win lies a long-term channel commitment championed within the company by Herve Tardy, vice president and general manager of the Distributed Power Quality Business Unit. Tardy, one of the great channel thinkers and strategists, has built a power management channel strategy from the ground up since joining Eaton seven years ago. He's the kind of channel executive who makes you proud to be part of this industry: indefatigable and committed to a profitable partnership that pays off for both the partner and the vendor. Of course, you need more than a great leader to set the direction and to keep it on track. You also need a talented team that can take the ball and run with it.

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From Director of Global Channel Marketing Ramesh Menon, who helped drive the channel program, to Director of U.S. Channels for the Data Center Sales Segment Curtiz Gangi, who battled in the sales trenches with partners, to the countless channel reps and technical talent always pushing the envelope—all were instrumental in securing the win.

Jed Ayres, chief marketing officer at MCPc, the $262 million Cleveland-based national solution provider ranked No. 89 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list of the top North American solution providers by revenue, said the kind of long-term, strategic channel effort mounted by Eaton is very rare.

"Eaton bought into the vision early on and has not wavered," Ayres said, even through trials and tribulations that would have caused other vendors to pack up their channel bags. "It's the relationships that you work through with both sides opening up that become stronger. Today, that mentality is more important than ever when you think about all the complexities of channel partnering and what it means with the direct sales force, deal registration, lines of business, and getting the strategy to filter down from the boardroom to the field. When things don't go right, that's when you find out whether you have a true partner or not."

Ayres credits Gangi with creating a unique dynamic in the sales trenches that has translated into a winning partnership between Eaton and MCPc. "Curtiz's personality is fundamental to this thing working," said Ayres. "He is tenacious and humble and had a vision from the beginning on how to make it work."

Eaton's Channel Champions victory inevitably sets up a battle royale between Eaton and APC. The winner will be partners, who have a serious choice to make in the burgeoning power protection and management market.

BackTalk: Are you putting up to win in the cloud computing market? Contact Steven Burke at [email protected].