Software Sales ‘Legend’ Mike Valentine Is Looking Forward To His Next ‘Channel Adventure’

‘I’m looking to join a company that has a Software-as-a-Service business with a managed service provider model,” says Mike Valentine , a perennial channel sales standout who recently stepped down as CRO of Sophos. ‘I’m looking at doing a CEO role for a smaller company or going back into a president of field operations role for an up-and-coming security software provider.’


Security software channel sales legend Mike Valentine, who recently stepped aside as Sophos’ CRO, said he is already in discussions with several security software providers and is looking forward to his next “channel adventure.”

“I’m looking to join a company that has a Software-as-a-Service business with a managed service provider model,” he said. “I’m looking at doing a CEO role for a smaller company or going back into a president of field operations role for an up-and- coming security software provider. I’m already in discussions with several security software companies.

[RELATED: Channel Sales Superstar Mike Valentine Is Out As Sophos CRO]

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Valentine led the channel charge that helped drive Sophos revenue over the last 10 years from $300 million in total contract value in 2013 when he took the helm as senior vice president of sales to more than $1 billion when he left as CRO.

Valentine, a 26-year channel veteran who has also put his channel stamp on security software providers Fortinet, SonicWall and WatchGuard, said he made the decision to step aside because of a change in direction at Sophos. “The new direction of the company and the priorities were not my strong suit or what I was good at doing or what I wanted to do,” he told CRN. “Sophos was good to me and I have been good to them. We had a good relationship and we made a smart business decision to part ways.”

Valentine’s departure comes with the appointment six weeks ago of Bill Robbins, previously Mandiant’s CRO and executive vice president, as Sophos’ president of worldwide field operations.

“Bill is well positioned to drive Sophos’ next chapter of growth and success,” said a Sophos spokesperson. “Our vision and strategy as a worldwide cybersecurity leader are stronger than ever, and we’re looking to accelerate our cybersecurity-as-a-service delivery to ensure all organizations, regardless of size, have the solutions they need to defeat persistent attackers. Bill’s expertise will help us do this.”

Valentine said his plan is to spend time with family, take a vacation break with a trip to Hawaii for the month of August and then return to the industry in a new position in September. “On Sept. 1, I’m coming back hard,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my next channel adventure.”

Valentine, a staunch channel advocate who won CRN’s Channel Madness competition in 2015 as one of the industry’s most popular channel executives, said the role of partners as “trusted advisers” has never been more critical.

“Everyone is saying it is all buy direct, it is just order through the marketplace, just call the manufacturer, ‘don’t worry about it,’” he said. “In the small to medium enterprise down, that is just not the case. Customers have got to have a trusted partner. They have to have somebody that understands the technology and implements it.”

Even with some security software vendors moving to a full-fledged cloud-based security as a service model, the role of partners is vital, said Valentine.

“Customers don’t want to do that security themselves,” he said. “That is where the partners come in. They can be that expert and understand what the service is and be that extra arm for the customer. If you are a smaller end user, you need to have a relationship with someone that is known and trusted. Why? Because it is security. You have to trust the people that are messing around with your security.”

Eric Kohl, vice president, advanced solutions, security and networking for distribution behemoth Ingram Micro, called Valentine a channel “legend” who has time and time again invested in the channel and delivered for partners.

“I have had the privilege of working with Mr. Valentine and his [channel] teams for over 20 years with a few companies that have had a really a major impact on our security practice and some of the deep partnerships we have in the channel,” he said. “Simply put and you probably have heard this before: Mike is a channel legend. He is fiercely committed to the channel and to the impact that companies like Ingram Micro can have on the channel and how we work together in that ecosystem to drive the most important channel initiatives that Mike and his team lay down.”

Kohl said he is “super excited” to see what’s next for Valentine, but at the same time is looking forward to continuing to working with Robbins and new Sophos Senior Vice President of Americas Sales Pat Sheridan.

Kohl said one of Valentine’s greatest strengths is his ability to drive deep relationships. “You have to have great technology but it is a relationship business,” he said. “Mike really understands the power of what an in-person relationship means with an OEM or a vendor and the channel partners. … Sophos is a leader in the MSP market. That is really about building the right programs that are effective for the MSPs. Mike is a growth-minded guy. He gets it. It has just been a lot of fun working with Mike and his team over the years.”

Hillel Sackstein, chief strategy officer for BlueAlly, a 12-year-old fast-growing MSP standout that earned CRN’s prestigious Triple Crown award last year, said Valentine is simply the “best in the business” at building channel relationships.

“Mike’s approach to the business has always been to put the channel partners first,” said Sackstein, who has known Valentine for more than two decades. “We have had tremendous success and seen huge growth every time we have worked with Mike. That is a testament to Mike and his team.”

Sackstein said he is looking forward to working with Valentine when he lands at another company. “Mike is a very dynamic guy,” said Sackstein. “He is a true leader.”