McAfee's McCray Wins CRN Channel Madness Crown


Ken McCray has held nearly every title in McAfee's channel organization over the past quarter-century.

Now he has one more title to add to his resume: 2018 CRN Channel Madness Tournament of Chiefs Champion, emerging as the final man standing in the three-week tournament, which kicked off on March 15 with 32 of the industry's top channel chiefs vying for the title.

McCray, head of channel sales and operations for the Americas at McAfee, won the Channel Madness championship matchup against Jeff McCullough of NetApp with 60 percent of the vote.

For the solution providers that work closely with McCray, his Channel Madness victory comes as no surprise.

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One of those companies has been Newport Beach, Calif.-based DynTek, No. 123 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, which has more than doubled its McAfee net bookings since McCray slid into the driver's seat.

DynTek CEO Ben-Yishay described McCray as sincere, down-to-earth, and not at all self-serving. And he's heard everyone from McAfee's directors to field managers praise McCray for being a well-rounded manager and authentic giver.

"I've never heard anyone say anything negative about him," Ben-Yishay said, who's known McCray for a decade. "People really look up to him."

McCray has showered McAfee's top national partners – including DynTek – with more attention and support, including increased MDF, a joint business plan, and funding for an inside sales resource to interface with DynTek and grow the portfolio, Ben-Yishay said. McCray has also embraced joint marketing campaigns with DynTek around greenfield technologies such as cloud security, he said.

McCray has enjoyed an outpouring of support during the competition from both his channel and real-life families. McCray said he's received either personal emails or LinkedIn messages of encouragement from virtually all the company's top channel partners.

"I'm a big competitor, and I like to win," McCray said. "This will be a nice feather in the cap."

McCray's approach has been centered around transparency and integrity since rising to the top of McAfee's Americas channel organization in January 2016. McCray said it's vital he and other members of his team – which includes 30 people in the Americas and 34 in Bangalore, India providing back-end support – speak candidly both when things are going well as well as when the news isn't so good.

"Bad news doesn't get better in time," McCray said. "So if there's bad news, let's sit down and talk about it."

McCray spends more than 60 percent of his time on the road, visiting major technology partners like Amazon Web Services and Dell and channel partners such as CDW and SHI to get a sense of how McAfee can expand its business with them.

"I'm a sales guy," McCray said. "I thrive at being at a partner's location, talking to customers."

Even though he's constantly on the road, McCray makes sure he's back on the sales floor of McAfee's Plano, Texas, office every Friday to hear what's going on from the sales reps and promptly resolve any challenges that have arisen. McCray said he also tries to keep a pulse on McAfee's internal sales reps through skip-level meetings and conversations with customers.

McCray listens to everything partners have to say without interrupting or cutting them off and then devises a plan of action, said Matt Beale, managing partner at Chicago-based W. Capra Consulting Group. What makes McCray different from other leaders is that there's always follow through on the plan, Beale said.

"Every conversation I've ever had with Ken has led to a result," Beale said. "He just really is a good person to work with."

McCullough, vice president of Americas partner sales at NetApp, also garnered tremendous support throughout the tournament.

McCullough, who has been with Net App for only eight months, credited NetApp's strong standing with its partner community for his solid performance throughout the tournament.

"I haven't been at NetApp long enough to be impactful," he said. "So it's less about me. It's NetApp. It's partners seeing us focus on the channel or impacting their business. I can only conclude this is a strong reflection on NetApp and our channel. Or it could be my mom voting for me a few times. She's excited I was doing this."

NetApp's commitment to the channel is consistently strong, and the company has been rewarded over the last three reported quarters with increases in both total channel business and the percentage of revenue coming through partners, McCullough said.

"NetApp has a clarity about our portfolio," he said. "When our sales teams look at our go-to-market, we make sure we have deal registration, business development, channel coverage, demand generation, all these things. We make it easy for partners to make money not only on product sales but also on the services our partners bring to customers."

The fact McCullough did so well after only eight months on the job speaks to a couple of things, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime NetApp channel partner.

"He's able to rally the team, to use a March Madness metaphor," Woodall told CRN. "McCullough's been there less than a year. His votes speak to the large number of people who voted for him. And they speak to the value people place on the NetApp channel program."

McCullough inherited a strong channel program, Woodall said. "And it's only gotten stronger since he joined," he said. "He's shown a lot of finesse since he was handed the ball, again, to use a March Madness metaphor."

McAfee's Ken McCray wins Channel Madness 2018.