20 Tips On How To Be A Better Channel Chief

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The 2016 edition of the CRN's Channel Chiefs is highlighting over 300 top channel executives in North America. Combined, this year's Channel Chiefs have over 27,000 years of experience in the channel. To gain insight into this invaluable amount of experience, we asked each Channel Chief to provide tips for being as effective a channel leader as possible and to give some advice for anyone getting into the channel today.

For a look at the complete list of the top channel executives and what they've been doing to ready their channel programs for 2016, check out the 2016 Channel Chiefs database.

APC by Schneider Electric

Rob McKernan

SVP, Global IT Channels

Listen to your partners and view the partner community as an extension of your internal organization. Their feedback and involvement should be directly included in any internal development processes. By having partners as part of the process, the output is guaranteed to be stronger and more advantageous for both your business and the partner community.


Pete Peterson

VP, Worldwide Channel Sales

Build your skills through technical certifications. Developing an arsenal of capabilities and tools to differentiate yourself in the market will pay off in dividends. Partner with companies that share your vision and passion to grow and will support you in expanding your business and career at the pace of innovation.


Ryan Gruening

Director, Worldwide Channels

Focus on the reps NOT the partners. You'll never win the whole partner, but you can certainly win a percentage of the partner reps. Pick the right partners. You can't find the right reps if you have the wrong partner.

Understanding the partners your customers will buy from is critical to the velocity of growth for your program. Partnering with companies that sell similar technologies is critical. Make sure your sales reps are invested in the channel. Building a program without your sales reps buying in makes for a very slow start and will not scale in the long run.

Concerto Cloud Services

Steve Terp


Always balance your efforts between satisfying the end customer and serving the people in your channel. While the customer is critical, the ability to create trust and excitement, and change the growth and profit trajectory of one of your channel partners is even more fulfilling. This will ultimately make your job more fun and help your company thrive.

DataDirect Networks

Molly Rector

CMO, Executive VP, Product Management, Worldwide Marketing

The most important focus for anyone working with the channel is the drive and motivation to always research and understand how technology and the economy affect businesses. People successful in the channel must be able to understand how to use quickly evolving technology to address the constantly changing needs of business. Those who work with the channel must be able to understand these trends and apply the right solutions to meet customer needs in a very dynamic environment.


Jay Snyder

SVP, Global Alliances

Never lose sight of your end-users, their challenges, and their opportunities. Customers should always be your grounding force, and your mission is to enable their success. If you lose sight of the customer, you'll end up building things that aren't relevant to the market and you're not going to move the needle for you, your partners, or your customers.

I would also encourage people to keep an open mind about partners. It's not just about who's in your immediate ecosystem. Think creatively and strategically about who and what you need to deliver that game-changing solution for your customer.

Hitachi Data Systems

Chris White

VP Sales, Americas Partners, Alliances

I should put my mantra, 'never go it alone,' onto coffee mugs and hand them out to those working in the channel. As complexity grows and as the rate of change increases, each person and company is expected to add more value. When you truly partner and collaborate, you can add more value and drive more impactful business outcomes for customers. The partnership model ultimately drives customer and personal satisfaction.

Hostway Services

Jim Ciampaglio

VP, Channel Partners

The most important decision facing someone who is considering a reseller role is the selection of the right partner. It's critical to evaluate potential partners' offerings to make sure the solutions align with end-user demand and are a natural extension of the potential channel partner's service and product portfolio. It's also critical to choose a partner organization that provides robust support and invests in channel partner success through programs such as sales enablement.

Infinio Systems

Bob Skelley

VP, Global Channel

Channel partners have a lot on their plates, so make sure you spend the time to understand the business challenges each of your partners face and how they are mapping out growth for their companies. Develop strategies that help streamline the solution providers' engagement with your company, look for ways to make doing business friction and conflict free. Listen to feedback from your partners and look for ways to improve your program to address pain points and make their experiences working with you easier and more profitable.


Scott Markley

SVP, Sales

Education is the key to success, especially in an emerging product category. Educate the partner, empower them to educate the client, and reinforce your messaging.

Nautilus Data Technologies

Kirk Horton

SVP, Sales, Marketing

Continue to learn and understand the emerging trends and new technologies in the market. Look for innovation. Always be a trusted advisor to your customers. As that trusted advisor, it's also your job to understand the evolving needs of your customers and to cultivate successful vendor relationships that provide you with the expertise necessary to serve your customers and deliver the value they expect. Build meaningful relationships with vendors and providers that have made a commitment to the channel and to your mutual success.

Nimble Storage

Alvin DaCosta

Sr. Director, Field, Channel Marketing

The key to success in the channel is to network and talk with a lot of partners in order to gain a clear perspective of what motivates them to sell product. Channel experts should make it a point to interact with a diverse set of partners, including enterprise partners, commercial, and service providers. Additionally, when launching a new program, it's important to first run a pilot program, starting out with two or three partners and then implementing across a broader set. Experts should also focus on understanding their budgets in-depth and managing them well to set up strategic initiatives.


Judy Kent

Director, Channel Marketing

The channel presents many opportunities for individuals, new technologies, and ideas. As such, it is essential to be flexible with one's channel partners. Understand the go-to-market strategies of the market leaders and why they are successful. Know the business motivations of partners and how they have operationalized their processes so you can align your business value and sales approach toward an easy adoption of your solutions into their portfolio. Realize that the market is very competitive and you must create strategic leverage with a high frequency of communication and presence to gain entrance into a new market.

Sage North America

Paige Erickson

VP, Partner Strategy, Programs

Working with partners is incredibly interesting because you have the dual-dynamic of ensuring you have a great value proposition for both the customer and the partner. My advice to anyone getting into the channel is focus on the value proposition for partners (great products, ability to drive revenue while making a profit and commitment to partner's success with high value marketing and partner programs), and they will help drive the customer value proposition. Be true to who you are, develop your own personal brand and focus on building a high value network of relationships of peers, partners, and customers.


Mark A. Mercado

VP, Channel Sales

Educate yourself and listen to your customer. The channel has never had so many opportunities, yet the competition is greater than ever as convergence of the IT and Telephony channels continues, especially in cloud services. There is still so much misinformation out there around cloud & hosted services. Take the time to truly understand what the different offerings are and how they compare. There is no one size fits all. Listen to your customers, understand their pains, what they are trying to accomplish and then engage providers to solve those problems, Focus on solving problems, not selling.


Michael Richards

Director, Channels

Become a student of the industry. IT shifts and changes so frequently that any given strategy could become outdated within 6 months. Understand what your competitors and allies are doing in the market and look for ways to add value to your partners. Your partners are everything. If you view them as simply a source of leads, without providing value in return, you should reevaluate your definition of 'partnership.'


Bob Gagnon

VP, Channel Sales

Never burn a bridge! As a young Product Manager starting out in this business 22 years ago at PC Connection, and then Tech Data, I worked with hundreds of vendors. I often run into these vendors years later.

I've also noticed a shift in the channel from being revenue focused to more opportunity focused. It's about getting your partners excited to find new opportunities which in all cases are usually highly more qualified leads than inbound and outbound leads generated by your own company. If you fill the funnel, the revenue always follows.

Zebra Technologies

Thomas Sheahen

VP, North America Channel Sales

First and foremost, one must be certain that solutions are future-proofed and based upon a development platform that is flexible and agile. That means learning about the business models and economics of your channel community by segment and understanding how your partner impacts the business model of the channel. It's also important to look at things from the customer's perspective, while concentrating on the various things that the business can do to potentially increase the channel cash flow. Finally, keep an improved customer experience in mind, so that valuable solutions can be delivered within a sufficient timeframe.