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Women Of The Channel 2019: Solution Sellers Share Team-Building Tips

‘When you have sales reps that work with us, and they have a quarterly quota, they don't see the vision of things that will take 12 to 18 to 24 months,’ says Kelly Ireland, CEO of CB Technologies. “Please balance them to have long-term goals and short-term goals. We don't sit there and work with them for low-hanging fruit. We go after winning projects that have outcomes for our clients’

Listening, communicating and collaborating are imperative for the sales motion shift that now has half of solution providers leading with services, according to Kelly Ireland, CEO of CB Technologies, a woman-owned systems integrator based in Orange, Calif.

“Partnerships are massive,” Ireland said at a solutions-selling session at The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel Leadership Summit West in Palm Springs, Calif.

Ireland referenced Texmark Chemicals’ Refinery of the Future project that CB Technologies is working on with HPE and its partners as an example.

“There's over 12 disparately different companies,” Ireland said. “OT, IT, services, OEM -- we're all working together. If you're not really open to that conversation and understanding what everybody brings to the solution, and how you all need to work together, then you're not going to be successful.”

It’s no longer just about products, said Wendy Hoey, senior director of global sourcing at Optiv, a Denver-based cybersecurity company.

“It's almost like it's flipped over. Rather than looking at what products we’re selling, it’s what are our clients’ issues,” Hoey said. “It's pretty apparent that when we talk to a lot of our clients, they’ve spent a lot of money, especially in the security market space. A lot of them are buying products, but they’re not actually using them correctly, or they're just not using specific features that might actually be better options. So how we're approaching it now is as an SSI -- a security systems integrator.”

Optiv is conducting assessments to look at what customers have on their networks.

“We're taking a closer look, so that we're actually an integral part of their organization as that trusted advisor,” Hoey said. “That's one of the major relationships that we have struggled with that, because it's a complete shift. It is a completely different way to sell solutions.

Click below to read more from Ireland, Hoey and Kris Rogers, president of El Segundo, Calif.-based En Pointe IT Solutions, about the solutions-selling business.

“They are the powerhouses in the channel,” said panel moderator Adelaide Reilly, senior vice president and general manager of media for The Channel Company.

Reilly: “Let's talk about the soft skills. What are you emphasizing with your teams? And how do you coach those team members through developing and mastering their soft skills?”

“One of my observations for a very long time is that men and women bring very different skills to the table, and it's not bad -- it just is,” Rogers said. “Women are the ones who produce children, we nurture them. Men theoretically went out and killed the bear and brought it back to eat. It's super important that women embrace the fact that we do have certain capabilities, soft skills, if you want to call it that.”

Listening and problem-solving are among those soft skills, Rogers said.

“We've heard a lot of examples…of very successful women who are planning a class trip, making dentist appointments, being on the conference call -- doing all this at the same time,” she said. “Women have significant capabilities in this area. Today’s end users are not coming looking for a server or firewall, they have a big problem, and they're trying to figure out how to solve it. That's the value that we're supposed to provide. You can't do that unless you are listening and you are taking the mindset of, ‘Okay, how do I solve this problem?’”

Gone is the old selling motion that was very revenue-centric and focused on sales, sales and more sales and meeting quotas, Rogers said.

“Instead, what we're trying to really impress upon the selling organizations…is, ‘OK, take a breath, listen, understand what the issue is and then walk tough how are we going to solve the problem for the customer,’” Rogers said. “It may

not involve selling anything right now. But in the end, if you ultimately are demonstrating value, you're giving something to the client, you're being a trusted advisor. We're having a lot of conversations about conversations. The biggest thing that I'm finding is that the our teams don't really understand the whole concept of conversation, they understand how to sell a specific product. The one thing that I would ask and have been asking from the vendor community for the last few years is, when you're building training programs and you’re building marketing materials for solutions, think about it as a conversation with an end user, because that's really where the engagement starts, and you're able to get some traction.”

All employees can benefit from learning soft skills, no matter how long they've been in the industry, according to Hoey.

“I try to instill that with my people as well -- just basic things like time management…providing me with weekly updates,” she said. “And that's a pain. We're always so busy. We’re always trying to get the objectives done as part of our job, but we're not particularly good at focusing some of those objectives back on ourselves.”

Hoey makes sure all of her team members have two hours of week to help focus on development.

“I have one-on-ones with them every other week, so that I spend some personal time with them understanding what they're trying to achieve with their goals with their personal career,” she said.

Ireland had a message for the channel and original equipment manufacturers.

“Compensation drives behavior,” she said. “When you have sales reps that work with us, and they have a quarterly quota, they don't see the vision of things that will take 12 to 18 to 24 months. Please balance them to have long-term goals and short-term goals. We don't sit there and work with them for low-hanging fruit. We go after winning projects that have outcomes for our clients. But when your sales force has short-term goals, and they don't see the value in what we're bringing, it's a real big imbalance.”

Reilly: “We were talking earlier today about diversity and inclusion, and diversity being more than just color and gender, but age and orientation. I know that sometimes…you have to be conscientious that it helps you win business. How does diversity and inclusion actually factor into how you're building your teams? How are you balancing that?”

Ireland says she hires millennials because they have a different approach.

“They have a fresh perspective, they have a different energy,” she said. “And my baby boomers are all sitting there, like, ‘Oh, we're going to mentor them and teach them.’ And I'm like, ‘No, you're going to mentor each other.’ They're bringing something that's distinctly different. You have the past, which is intelligence and knowledge, but if you don't blend that together, there is no way you're going to be successful.”

En Pointe Solutions reorganized three years ago under a new owner, CEO Fiddy Hakim, who’s a woman and minority.

“We all sort of started from scratch,” Rogers said. She's actually a very cool, high- energy, positive-energy person, and one of her visions was she really wanted to make a difference. So we set out with a really unwritten charter to try and have a diverse organization. And I have to tell you, really it was not a conscious effort. Seventy percent of our organization – and is it small, we’re only about between 30 and 40 people, are LGBT, of color, women.”

En Pointe also has a lot of older workers, and Rogers noted the benefits of having a lot of different perspectives at the table.

“We have this fascinating balance of the 25-year-old versus the 67-year-old,” she said. “It has been a very interesting dynamic and a very constructive dynamic. One of the things our owner likes to say is it's a safe environment to provide input, and I think has been a real benefit to us.

Audience question: “When women talk about their accomplishments, they often talk about what they, as a team, have accomplished. They attribute their success to a team working together. Men seem to take a lot of responsibility for their own accomplishments, even though we're all working in teams all of the time. Is it valuable to take ownership of your accomplishments even though we're all working in teams? How do you position your success in a way that is authentic?”

“It’s a phenomenon of men versus women,” Rogers said. “It's the way we're raised. It's the way we tend to default to. As women, we need to not not give credit to the team, but I think we have to do a better job of taking credit for ourselves and acknowledging what we do well. It's not in our nature to do it. You have to keep telling yourself over and over and over and over it's okay to say, ‘Here's

what I accomplished.’ This whole concept of positive affirmations or perception are techniques we need to start using as women to say it's okay to do that. It's okay to do that. It's okay to do that.”

Ireland’s father was a college coach, so she grew up with the team spirit, and that’s reflected in how she runs her company.

“Even though my father was the head coach, he was not successful without the team, and that’s the way I approach it,” she said. “With me, I don't like taking credit for things. It's not just me, it’s everybody else. Probably my proudest moments is when my employees call me a leader, not a boss. I want to be with them, marching out there working I don't want to be at the head going command and control. It's all about collaboration, and that's all about the team.”


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