2012 Channel Chiefs: Advice For Channel Newbies

A Helping Hand

CRN asked the 270 channel executives on the 2012 channel Chiefs list to tell us what advice they would offer to someone just starting a channel career today.

Sandra Butler Buchanon

National Sales Director
ACC Business, Member of AT&T Alliance Channel

If serving customers and loving technology and people are key motivators for a professional, this is the place to be. With an external focus, an indirect channel professional is rewarded by bringing tremendous value to a customer, a business, because the customer's business needs can be addressed by customized solutions to benefit the customer technically and financially. Competition is alive and well in the channel, allowing for an exciting environment where one needs to know the key differentiators of the carriers and key players in the channel. In summary, be determined to work hard and smart, be focused on profit. Never waiver on matters of integrity, love the company you work for and appreciate the people you work with.

Gregg Prendergast

VP, Commercial Sales
Acer America

Always have high ethics and solid follow-through, which leads to great relationships with channel partners that can last an entire career.

Izzy Azeri

General Manager, Americas

View your network as your most important asset. Never take a relationship for granted or ignore someone who may not seem important right now - this is a small industry, you never know when you might meet again.

Robert Bruce

Vice President, Channels
Aruba Networks

Make sure that you are a student of history, that is, study what has worked with vendors in the past and what has not...introduce channels into the process at the appropriate time (growth of the company): If too early, it's evangelism (very tough road), if too late, it's a commodity (price is then the differentiator). Never rest on past accomplishments....technology changes too quickly.

Alejandro Musgrove

President of the Americas

The channel is not a sprint it's a marathon. You must think long term.

Paige Erickson

Vice President, Partners and Alliances, North America
CA Technologies

Take the time to learn the best practices in the industry. Embrace the foundation of a three way value proposition as the core to building a solid partner business: Value to the partner, value to the customer and value to your company.

James Sivis

Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Get executive sponsorship, get buy-in from both the sales and technical side, incent down to the line sales level, think in terms of the interests of your partners, integrate as much as practicable, be active in publicizing and promoting your partnerships externally and work very, very hard.

Edison Peres

Senior Vice President, Worldwide Channels
Cisco Systems

Be clear about your value differentiation. Make choices that get at the heart of what your targeted customers care about. Implement a business model that can deliver on the evolving market dynamics to differentiate from incumbents.

Josh Leslie

Vice President North American Sales

Start by thinking about why channel partners need you, not why you need them. Build a program and recruitment strategy around that. There is no one size fits all in the channel, so you’ll need to review and revise what you are doing all the time.

Eric Webster

Chief Revenue Officer

The one thing that I would advise someone who is getting into the channel today is to go all in and don't undercut your partners as they are the lifeline to your business.

Leonard Iventosch

Vice President of Americas Channel Sales

Check your ego at the door. Your job is to make the direct sales team look good. And although you will likely be measured on a revenue goal, the true measure of channel success is not an increase in the channel contribution (although that is an indicator), but an increase in sales representative productivity and an increase in market share.

Dean Darwin

VP, WW Partner Organization
F5 Networks

Focus on building a single transparent unified channel program that is easy to use and clear in its goals instead of trying to cobble together many different programs for different needs and then enforce the program uniformly. You need to create a very solid "base" in order to layer on future initiatives and programs. Always look at your programs and offerings through the eyes of the partners you are serving.

Ken Archer

VP, Americas Channels, Alliances, Technology Services

Constantly reinvent your company and your value proposition to differentiate yourself to customers/prospects and the manufacturer you represent in the marketplace. In addition, as you succeed, hire the best CFO you can find to manage your cash and your banking/financial relationships.

Mike Walkey

Senior Vice President, Global Partners and Alliances
Hitachi Data Systems

Be ready to innovate. Stay quick on your feet and ahead of the curve. The open-minded will persevere.

Melissa Dougherty

Director, North America Channels

Persistence pays off. Be open to constructive advice given to you by your peers and management. Focus on true relationships with your customers and always be providing value.

Michael Ross

VP, Channel Sales

Keep your partner program, engagement model and strategy predictable and consistent both for the partners and your internal sales, SE and marketing teams.

Mike Cullen

VP of Sales
N-able Technologies

Be sure to understand how your partners like to transact and what their sales and service models look like. Then, align your strategies with how they prefer to do business.

Mike Ascher

Director of Global Channel Sales
Network Executive Software (NetEx)

If you’re more interested in sales than in nurturing your relationships, consider doing something else for a living. The best way to create an enduring relationship is to offer your channel partners the highest margins against your competitors plus all possible tools to help them succeed. What you may lose in short-term revenue you will make up in complete loyalty. You want your partners to grow along with you and benefit from each others' success.

Ted Bereswill

Senior Vice President
North America Sales Alliances & Channels Oracle

Choose a product or solution that you believe in. A product that is differentiated in the marketplace. Fully understand the value proposition that product brings to your partners and their customers. Be involved in the solution and value selling with your partners.

Sheila O'Neil

Vice President, Channel Sales
Panasonic Solutions

I think the advice I would give to someone just getting into the channel today is to not be afraid to just dig into whatever is needed and get it done. Everyone is focused on moving up the ladder but one must know that everyone starts at a base and learns the ropes. From there they’ll ascend the career ladder quickly.

Gary Marks

Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing

Don’t try to go broad at first. Focus on finding the subset of the channel that can be the most effective with your products. Train and support the heck out of them, and learn from there.

Ron Gill

Director, North American Sales
Ruckus Wireless

The channel continues to evolve and requires newcomers to be highly adaptive, and be able to roll with the punches. Stay open-minded, because there’s always something to learn, and other people have good ideas to contribute. If you treat people the way you want to be treated and empower people to make decisions and solve problems, you can create an environment where everyone wins.

Tom Hamilton

Sr. Director WW Channel Marketing

Listen to your partner community and don’t be afraid to do what it takes to promote partner interests in your company.

Bob Stegner

Senior Vice President, Marketing North America

Partnering intelligently is the single most important thing you can do. Secondly, don’t add a vertical market or solution that doesn’t make sense for your company just because the competition does. Do what is best for your company.

Brandon Sweeney

Vice President, Americas Partner Sales

Pick the area where you see the most complexity and demonstrate how you can provide a solution to that problem for the end customer.