Channel Chiefs 2017: What's Your Advice For Channel Newbies?

Lend Me Your Ear

Given that the executives on the 2017 Channel Chiefs list are a who's who of the channel executive ranks, it only makes sense to squeeze some advice out of them for those new to the channel.

Here, members of the 2017 Channel Chiefs list lean on their vast experience and offer up some words of wisdom for finding success in the channel.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company

Donna Grothjan

VP, Worldwide Channels

Find a mentor that can help guide you through the different, exciting scenarios that you will face throughout your career. The channel is not something you can just read a single a textbook on and become an expert. It is so multi-faceted and ever-changing that you have to experience it first-hand to develop the skills, tools and know-how for success. A knowledgeable mentor can help you to navigate the myriad of personal or business challenges that will arise and help keep you up to speed on the technology, marketing and business trends that are impacting you, your partners and your customers.


Ezra Hookano

VP, Channels

Treat every channel interaction with someone as a potential 50-year relationship. Your company, product or service might change, but there's a decent chance that if you work in technology you will end up dealing with the same partners, who deal with the same end-users. They can be your biggest asset if you establish trust, and your biggest hurdle if you deal in bad faith.


Aaron Courdy

VP, Channel Services

My best advice for someone new to channel is to work on building positive connections as soon as possible, while focusing on the longevity of the relationship. People want to partner with someone who is personable, easy to work with, and relatable. The strong relationships you build will ultimately differentiate you from your competitors. Trust and authenticity between you and the people you partner with will build business loyalty and sales will naturally follow.


Nathan Adams

Director of Global Channels

Always focus on positioning your product in a way that provides true value to a partner's business model and organizational strategy. It's not just about your wonderful product and that they should be selling it. It's about how the partner can effectively sell it, how it complements their current offerings and how they can use your technology to differentiate themselves from their competitors. With that in mind; partner enablement, lead generation, business planning and execution will drive partner success. Also, everyone at the vendor should support channel activities including all sales/technical/leadership teams, not just the channel managers.

Cirrus Data Solutions

Ron Croce

VP, Worldwide Sales and Marketing

My advice to someone getting into the channel today would be to align yourself with up-and-coming OEMs that have the latest technology. Each VAR or service provider is looking for opportunities to differentiate themselves. Whether you are on the vendor side or in the channel, you need to follow the latest trends in the industry and be ready to make investments in the right partnerships and technologies to drive the success for your company in the future.


Nirav Sheth

Senior Director, Partner Solutions, Architectures and Engineering

Understand that the channel is just a microcosm of the larger business as a whole, and you can add value by playing as broad of a role as you choose. Leaders with backgrounds in the channel are often asked to play large roles for their company as they understand the dynamics and complexity of managing short-term business results with longer term strategic objectives. Beyond that, understand that to be successful in the channel, you have to look at what you need in any successful relationship - it's about trust, transparency and,mutual value exchange.


Scott Brown

SVP, Global Virtual Sales and Customer Success

The digital economy has created a new breed of technology buyer - one that is more educated and empowered than ever, and with higher expectations, too. They want value realization, outcomes and ROI. Line-of-business leaders are also playing a larger role in the decisions about the tools they're using, which means building relationships with them is essential. These shifts demonstrate that today's customer is in the driver's seat, and that's why my advice is to be customer centric: listen to the customer, understand their desired outcomes and help them achieve those outcomes by gaining full value out of their technology investments.


Arnie Bellini


Pick just a few technology partners that you can really focus on to offer an end-to-end solution, and become an expert. Also, ensure that you have an efficient and successful path for onboarding new employees. It is important that they understand from day one both your business culture and your business goals.

Dell EMC

Jim DeFoe

SVP, Global Distribution

1. Define your market segment, then focus on delivering an unmatched level of customer support to your customers.

2. Build a bench of seasoned professionals mixed in with less experienced team members that can be groomed for larger roles through collaboration and mentoring.

3. Do not over-distribute your portfolio.


Wendell Black

VP, Channels

Embrace change. The channel is a constantly changing go-to-market model because business demands are constantly evolving. If you like change, this is the place to be.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Dangvy Keller

VP, WW Distribution, Enterprise Group

In short, know the resources available to your business, as they will help you to succeed. Distributors, for example, are an incredibly valuable resource - get to know them, how they work and where their expertise falls [short] so that you can use them as a resource to drive growth and profitability.


Paul Lefebvre

Director, North American Channel Sales

Two words to live by in the channel are transparency and predictability. You have to be able to look into the eyes of your channel community after a decision is made knowing that you were honest and transparent in your execution. Once you lose the trust of the channel you will never gain it back. I would much prefer to lose a deal as opposed to losing a channel partner. When decisions are made they should be predicable and there should not be any surprises.

HP Inc.

Vincent Brissot

VP, Head of Channel Marketing & Operations

Go big in social selling. About 70 percent of the B2B buyer's journey is now done digitally. What does it mean for the channel? Websites and social profiles speak to prospects before a sales person does! 78 percent of sales people who use social media outperform their peers.

Nautilus Data Tecnologies

Kirk Horton

SVP, Sales & Marketing

Be a student of innovation and learning. Continue to learn and understand the growing trends and technologies in the market that will help your customers address the new business challenges they face. Always be a trusted advisor to your customers. As that trusted advisor, it's your job to understand the growing needs of your customers and to cultivate successful vendor relationships that provide you with the expertise 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.


Michael Gough

Channel Chief

Focus on your brand and find vendors and partners who share the same goals of protecting it at all costs! Go slow but maintain a positive direction. Your brand is all that matters in this industry long-term.

Red Hat

Steven Mungall

VP, Partner Sales & Strategy

Listen first. Partners have great ideas. Listen to what they say before reacting. Also, be consistent and predictable in how you do things with partners. This allows them to then build their business with you without being concerned that you might change strategy or act in ways that would or could hurt their business.


Brooke Cunningham

AVP, Global Partner Programs & Operations

Get close to your partners' businesses and learn about their challenges, how they earn gross profit and how their cash flow works. If you understand these business drivers for your partners, you will be able to drive much more fruitful partnerships.

TelePacific Communications

Ken Bisnoff

Co-Founding SVP, Strategic Opportunities

Avoid the trap of being a transactional salesperson seeking short-term bandwidth and price opportunities. Instead, invest your energies in becoming an expert in emerging managed service and managed IT solutions that will help you win greater and stickier revenue opportunities for long-term growth. Proactively seek knowledge by leveraging vendor partner's and master agent resources so you are viewed as a true consultant in these areas for your customers. Additionally, leverage social media to help broadcast your expertise and raise your profile within your chosen target markets.


Barry Beckner

Director of Sales - Worldwide

My advice is to leverage your core vendors as much as possible. They have everything you need to be successful, but you need to engage and be proactive. Make sure you know all about the sales and marketing enablement, collateral and promotions they put in place to help you succeed. Also, leverage your distributor. They have the experience and expertise you need to accelerate your growth and expand your own capabilities.