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COLUMN: CEO Support Is The Cornerstone Of Channel Success

Jennifer Follett

CRN Executive Editor Jennifer Follett says it’s critical for CEOs to communicate to the channel on a regular basis to provide assurance that the foundation is solid and that the vision is clear.

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One surefire way to tell how dedicated a company is to its channel partners is to gauge how committed its CEO is to its indirect sales strategy.

As the CEO goes, so goes the channel.

In the 25-plus years I’ve spent covering the channel as a reporter and editor for CRN, I’ve interviewed a good number of them and have also heard them address their partners at their own conferences and at ours.

It’s always invigorating when a CEO can delve right in to paint a vivid picture of the value the company gets from its channel and the value its partners provide back to it, demonstrating a clear understanding of for it, particularly from their strategic partners.

Every year CRN publishes its list of the Top 100 Executives. It includes our list of the 25 Most Influential, comprised of the IT industry CEOs who have done the most over the past year to drive the direction of the channel.

For 2023, our selection for the No. 1 Most Influential executive is Nikesh Arora, CEO of Palo Alto Networks, who has distinguished himself as someone who fully embraces the concept of disruption, both of the security industry as a whole and of the company itself.

He also communicates clearly (and regularly) to his partners about the opportunities on the horizon the challenges partners face and the ways the vendor can help the channel overcome those hurdles, to mutual benefit.

Arora has made it a strategic priority to take an active role to make sure the channel is firing on all cylinders. That means developing unbreakable relationships with partners that power big sales growth.

Building those unbreakable relationships with partners requires CEOs to spend time with partners face to face to get feedback on what’s working and what’s not in the sales trenches.

One of the premier vehicles for getting that partner feedback and winning channel share is CRN parent The Channel Company’s Best of Breed (BoB) conference, which is attended by the channel’s most elite solution providers.

Over the last decade-plus, the BoB conference has spotlighted on-stage CRN interviews with the most prominent channel-savvy vendor CEOs in the industry.

This year’s BoB Conference in Atlanta will feature IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, Nutanix CEO Rajiv Ramaswami and SentinelOne CEO Tomer Weingarten live and in person.

I hope you can join us there for another great of example of top executives understanding the value of communicating with partners.

Jennifer Follett

Jennifer Follett is the Executive Editor for CRN where she has been covering the IT solution provider channel for 20 years. She currently oversees CRN magazine and CRN.com, the website for the industry’s leading channel publication. She can be reached at jfollett@thechannelcompany.com.

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