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COLUMN: Amazon And What It Takes To Be A Great Channel Chief

The Channel Company's Executive Chairman Robert Faletra gives his thoughts to Amazon's new channel chief on what has made some of the truly great channel leaders in the past so good.

Amazon recently made a change in web services channel leadership, promoting Doug Yeum to take over Terry Wise’s role as AWS’ head of worldwide channels and alliances. Yeum has been AWS CEO Andy Jassy’s chief of staff since December 2017 and is apparently a strong technologist.

But any time there is a change in channel leadership at the top of a company as important as this, the partner community gets a bit anxious.

I don’t know Yeum and neither do the vast majority of the channel partners selling AWS into their customer base, so we will have to see what he does. But here are a few thoughts on what we would all like to see and what I believe has made some of the truly great channel leaders in the past so good.

First is realizing that this is a really hard job and, frankly, one that takes an incredible communications skill set. Channel chiefs not only need to communicate to the partner community, they need to communicate the value of the partners inside their own organizations.

I don’t know which is more difficult. Partners are as varied as snowflakes, with no two being identical and each having unique needs. Inside large organizations there are generally those who repeatedly question why the company is working with partners at all and many who want to take credit when things are going well with channels and then seem to disappear when they are not.

Great channel chiefs meet with partners regularly and build relationships based on trust and doing what they say they will do. This is a very difficult trait because you have to have the juice inside your own organization to come through once you’ve told a partner you will take care of it. So it’s important to be honest with the partners and not overpromise. The best tell partners they will check into it and do just that before making a commitment they are unsure they can pull off.

What’s most important is the partner base needs to know the channel chief is fighting the good fight inside their own organization even if they can’t fix every issue. So honesty and effort win even when a result may not.

Visibility is another key to success. Again, this isn’t easy because it means a crazy amount of travel. Putting your butt in a plane seat almost weekly gets old for even the most hardened business travelers. It’s important that channel chiefs build relationships, and that takes faceto-face time. It means being as efficient as possible and coming to the right partner events, such as XChange and Best of Breed, where you can meet with many partners in a short period. But in the end, you need to be ready to put in the hours and time away from home to build the kind of relationships that down the road allow you to do more by phone.

Great channel chiefs also have to manage the bull you get from some partners that are just unreasonable. It doesn’t happen often, but there are times when you are asked to do things that just don’t make sense for your business and border on the ridiculous. Having the ability to listen and honestly tell a partner you can’t do that is part of the job as well.

In the end, to me the best channel chiefs I’ve known over the past 35 years were visible, accessible, honest, willing to put in the time and very good people that wanted the best for both their own company and for the partners.

They built great relationships that benefited their companies because they were the type of people we all wanted to be successful

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