CEOs Who Commit To The Channel Bring In Sales

CEO commitment has always been a staple of great channel companies, but it is becoming even more critical as solution providers make big, new bets in the cloud computing services era. That's because solution providers are building out their own integrated stacks, making huge capital investments to cross the cloud computing chasm. These bets are so big that many cannot make more than a few. In effect, CEOs are waging a battle for the cloud computing armies that will determine which vendors thrive and which vendors flail and flounder in the buy-IT-as-a-service era.

That CEO commitment, by the way, was front and center at The Channel Company's Best of Breed conference, the channel thought leadership event held recently by CRN publisher The Channel Company. Both Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman addressed solution providers with highly personal appeals to partner with their respective companies. And several partners had dinner with Dell, talking business in an informal setting. Both Dell and Whitman are their respective company's greatest assets, bringing not only extraordinary business acumen, but also a warmth and charm that many of their competitive CEOs lack.

[Related: CRN's Coverage Of The Best Of Breed Conference 2013 ]

Far too often, technology vendors forget solution providers are customers. And like all customers, they buy from people they like. It's about relationships. It's about personal commitment. It's about stepping in to help out when something goes wrong. And, of course, nothing is more powerful than one-on-one meetings to build those personal relationships. Besides those meetings, there are the personal touches that make a difference. Solution providers talk about Michael Dell sending Christmas cards and regularly checking in to see how a partner is doing. More than a few have asked for sales help and have been surprised at how quickly Michael responds.

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Jed Ayres, senior vice president of partner management and marketing for MCPc, said Michael reaches out regularly to MCPc and is helping his company, the winner of the 2013 SP500 Business Transformation Elite Award for its Anyplace Workspace, win new business. His Dell sales are up 50 percent in no small part because of Michael's personal commitment. The customer "intimacy" Michael brings to the channel translates into millions of dollars in sales, said Ayres.

Whitman has the same kind of personal power. When she meets someone one-on-one or is in the sales trenches connecting with partners and customers, you can bet it results in net new sales for HP. Rich Baldwin, CIO and chief strategy officer of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego HP partner, said Whitman's keynote at his company's customer event in July has already helped his company close about $9 million in new business with another $28 million in the pipeline. "It raised our ability to connect higher in many organizations, including three or four CIOs that we had not been able to get an audience prior to our symposium," he said.

BackTalk: Steve Burke writes a monthly opinion column on You can reach him via email at [email protected].