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Top Traits For Top Talent In The Channel

A channel leader who has the trust of solution providers but doesn't have the influence inside his/her organization can never be successful.

With our annual list of channel chiefs out it's a good time to talk about the traits and skills these individuals need. After all, what their CEOs are really looking for from them is thought leadership and actionable programs that drive market share through the channel.

In some ways, the traits they need to develop are not too different from the characteristics of any true leader. But I will tell you that when you build the list of most important characteristics, you begin to realize how difficult it is to be really good at this.

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You and I both know that the No. 1 trait is trust. If you can't trust the person heading up the channel program at a supplier, it becomes very difficult to invest too much of your business in that vendor. Trust, of course, can only be won over time. It requires channel chiefs to be visible in the market, honest in their approach and willing to admit when their organization hasn't performed as promised. I hate to say it, but this is something that's very hard to teach. You either have the trust gene or you don't, and we all can identify very quickly the ones who don't.

The next key trait is the willingness to campaign. As Juniper Networks' Frank Vitagliano said to me recently, you have to shake a lot of hands and kiss a lot of babies. He's absolutely right. Channel leaders who spend all their time managing internal issues—which is important, don't get me wrong—and don't spend enough time in the market meeting partners can't achieve greatness.

To me, the follow-on critical attribute is gaining influence and political savvy internally. A channel leader who has the trust of the solution providers but doesn't have the influence inside his/her own organization can never be successful. It requires a deep understanding of channel nuances.

From there it's back to the market and another truly difficult maneuver—balancing every move to be a win-win. Channel programs, discounts, etc. that don't result in profit or other benefits for both the solution provider and the vendor don't last.

So there you have it. A short list of the characteristics needed to be successful as a channel chief. It's one of the most difficult jobs in high-tech, and they all deserve a round of applause.

What do you think are the key channel chief characteristics?
Make something happen. E-mail CMP Channel President Robert Faletra at

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