20 Tips On How To Be A Better Channel Exec

From The Trenches

Twenty executives from this year's Channel Chiefs list offer their best tips and tricks on what it takes to successfully work with solution providers and build a top-notch channel partner program.

Don Trimble

Vice President North American Sales

My advice is to spend time learning how solution providers do business and how they make money so that the most effective sales and support processes can be developed. At the end of the day a channel partner needs to be able to make money with your channel program. Moreover, the channel program cannot be budensome. It should be a warm and pleasant experience full of new but effective approaches and tools.

Kevin Colgate

Director, Strategic Alliances
Adaptive Planning

For someone entering the channel today, you must possess a high capability of dealing with the ambiguity of selling and nurturing. Clearly understanding the context of the people you are selling to and the indirect model you have to adapt to is very beneficial. Learn to look through the eyes of the partner, not just through your own organization's lens, and always understand that joint success is a mutual goal.

David Kenyon

Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Business Management and Channel Marketing

I have two pieces of advice for someone entering the channel today: engage and listen. Go out and meet with as many partners as possible. Engaging directly with your partners builds lasting relationships and gives you the opportunity to listen and learn from them. When you are meeting with partners, listen more than you talk; don't be so quick to push your views of the industry on your partners. By listening to them, you will get a better understanding of the industry from their perspective, how hard it can be to sell a product and how you can help them.

Regan McGrath

Vice President, Worldwide Channel Sales and Marketing

Never think you know it all, and keep learning. The channel is a dynamic and exciting business and is perfect for those who thrive in fast-paced environments. New ideas and change can only come to light when leaders continue to push the boundaries and explore different approaches to solving a problem. The partner ecosystem can be a complex and ever-changing environment; your competitor one day may be your partner the next, so it's important to maintain your professionalism and always treat others with respect.

John Gaillard

Vice President of Sales
Catalyst Telecom

Understand that just knowing the product and solutions isn't sufficient. You must know the drivers behind your partners' business and how to deliver value to them in a meaningful fashion.

Raja Sundaram

Vice President, World Wide Services Partner Organization

Market transitions are all around us. Seek to understand your partners' business models, aspirations and "care abouts." Be the trusted advisor to your partners to help them accelerate through the change.

Scott Skidmore

Vice President, Americas Channel Sales

Embrace the channel as an extension of your sales team. The channel should be viewed as an employee of the company and integrated in the field go-to-market strategy. Choose channel partners as part of your program that have business structures/objectives that align to yours, not all channel partners will be able to provide a mutual benefit. Channel partners in your company’s portfolio should be committed to building a business around your organization/solution and you should be committed to maximizing their profitability. Never ever burn one of your partners: you will never get that trust back.

Shannon Kohn

Director of Marketing and Channel Relations

Listen hard. The channel has a great community where ideas are freely exchanged between vendors, solution providers, media outlets and thought-leaders. There is much to learn from listening to all the different voices out there.

Greg Davis

Vice President and General Manager, Global Commercial Channel

Invest in training and certification -- work to gain depth and width in your salesforce's knowledge base because it will bring returns.

Kendra Krause

Vice President, Channels Sales and Operations

There are a lot more resources around you than you probably realize. The channel is an incredible network of integrators, manufacturers and distributors, and all of them want to see the channel grow and succeed. Utilize those resources to grow your knowledge and learn from their vast experiences.

Allison Ash

Vice President of Worldwide Channel Sales
Guidance Software

"Just do it!" There is no doubt the channel is growing and will continue to grow as technology markets advance and innovate. Markets are quickly moving to a value-based, services-oriented sale. Business customers value the services and expertise surrounding product purchases -- the channel offers all this and more.

Sharon Alt

Director, North American Channels and Distribution, Americas

1. Follow your passion; look to solve problems that matter.
2. Stay close to your customer base and adapt as their needs change.
3. Build a strong network of peers and vendors that can provide the support you need to create new opportunities and grow.

Emilio Umeoka

Senior Vice President, Worldwide Partners

Focus on two areas: understand how a company (partner) is run, how they run their business, cash flow, profitability, marketing/sales assets, etc. and understand and be very tuned into the big technology shifts and how you can provide direction for future partner investments.

Chris Frey

Vice President, North America Commercial Channel Sales

Differentiation, Innovation and Specialization. To earn your customers' business, your value proposition must be clear. Ensure your organization understands the financials of the channel and that all business partners are not alike. Just as critically -- keep your commitments.

Craig West

Vice President of Channel Sales

My advice would be to focus and embrace change. The marketplace is so ripe with innovation and opportunity -- largely driven by the move to the cloud -- that it's tempting to want to do everything for everyone, and that's too much. The cloud frees channel partners from the encumbrances of traditional VAR business models while providing high-margin and high services-attached offerings to those who choose wisely. Services plus recurring revenue are the key levers to growth and success in today's channel businesses, and my opinion is that a cloud-focused business applications practice is a great place to start.

Kimberly King

Vice President
Progress Software

One word: Innovate. Don't settle for the status quo. As the demand for partners increases and the supply of qualified partners decreases, you need to focus on the pillars of loyalty and be innovative in the way you structure your program and go to market with your partners. Be a thought leader and true business partner as well as a technology partner. This will differentiate you and your company from the masses.

Randy Schirman

Senior Vice President, Channel Sales

The most important piece of advice I would offer is to remain flexible. The speed and evolution of today's marketplace warrants that you have to think quickly on your feet and be rapid in your response. New partner segments, solutions and engagement models are rapidly evolving, and someone who can remain flexible as they look at their organization's go-to-market strategy will continue to thrive and build channel programs that drive mutually beneficial vendor/manufacturer relationships.

William Taylor

Vice President of Worldwide Channels and Alliances
RSA, the Security Division of EMC

The channel is a small world -- your reputation is everything. To anyone entering the channel, ensure that you always stay true to your word. If people can't trust you, it will be very hard to make a career here.

Carmen Sorice

Senior Vice President, Channels
SunGard Availability Services

My advice is to first understand two fundamental forces that partners are facing today. One is the traditional hardware resale business model that is well understood well by partners. The other force is generically called "cloud" -- the "as-a-service offerings" that customers are considering as alternatives. Next, I would advise a channel newcomer to figure out what their "business proposition" is to the partners -- not the product value proposition, but rather the business value that the partner will derive from the partnership. Help partners move to this monthly recurring revenue model.

Shane McNamara

Vice President, Partner Channel
XO Communications

Getting into the channel is a great career choice. There is no better place to develop solutions to real business challenges. If you are considering a channel career, join a company with a strong channel program that is keenly focused on customers and business partners, ensuring that you learn best practices that you can build on.