Dell EMC's Cheryl Cook knows, that like any relationship, being a channel leader means being a good listener.

Lynn Haber

August 29, 2019

5 Min Read
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In the dynamic IT industry, experience can work for you or against you. For Cheryl Cook, senior vice president of global channels for Dell EMC, it has definitely been the former. This Top Gun 51 award winner has spent much of her career working in the channel and has the formula for evolving in her role and having what it takes to be a next-gen channel chief.

In a conversation with Channel Futures, Cook talks about relationship and partnership, three-dimensional thinking, and creating a win-win-win outcome.

Channel Futures: You talk about being an outside-in thinker and how that lends itself to being a next-gen channel leader. Please explain.


Dell’s Cheryl Cook

Cheryl Cook: I’m a big believer in being an outside-in thinker, meaning I always try to respect, understand and learn the partner’s perspective: How are they running their business? What challenges do they have running their business? One of the things that I find stimulating – and I love working in the channel side of the business – is that it requires three-dimensional thinking. You’ve always got to strike a balance for a win-win-win — that’s for the customer, the partner and, obviously, Dell. That takes work. You must understand all objectives.

CF: Not everyone taking a leadership channel role has all the requisite experience to draw on. Share some of your leadership wisdom.

CC: I think for anybody stepping into this, you must be motivated and stimulated to want to think three-dimensionally, you must be creative and innovative on trying to insure you get to that win-win-win. So for me, it’s listen, make sure you’re open-minded, and you innovate, evolve and adapt your practices and processes. The industry we’re in is, by definition, dynamic, and it’s always moving and changing, and our partners have to evolve and adapt as well, as do we.

We recently unveiled our “Top Gun 51,” a list of today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.

You also want to be as consistent as possible and highly relevant and stay in tune with the business, both theirs and ours. The more relevant you are and the more consistent we behave when we show up, I think that earns us, over time, the trust, credibility and reputation with partners that strikes a balance — that’s how we all win. It’s not about achieving success at the other’s expense.

CF: One aspect of being a channel leader is being a channel advocate inside the organization. How do you get and maintain the attention of other corporate leaders?

CC: There’s a recognition and acknowledgement on the part of leadership on just how big the market opportunity is, and so, I find myself – and I try to develop my team, that leadership is – being the evangelist for partners internally. I’m always trying to elevate the channel IQ inside the company. Not everybody, depending on the part of the business they function in, does or doesn’t understand the dynamics, nuances or complexities of the channel.

So, I’m a big advocate, and we do a lot of internal intern rotations where we’ll bring different functions into my organization. They may spend a year or two, and then we rotate them back into the business. We’re a very credible, good-reputation team and organization inside the company, and you get an amazing education.

When you come into our team and you operate the global partner marketing facet, you touch and see every aspect of the business, whether its order entry, quoting and pricing, distribution or field marketing in the region, or campaign development with our product business units or product launches — it’s a fantastic education for people. I’m a big believer in …

… exporting talent into other parts of the company that elevates our channel IQ in the business overall.

We’re very serious about field readiness; well, there’s a huge dimension of partner channel readiness and our go-to-market that we want to insure we’re executing and optimizing on all cylinders when we launch. That’s a big part of our value proposition.

CF: Challenges go with the job. What challenges have you had in your role?

CC: We’re all living with change and we talk about it at every event. I think one of the biggest challenges is the pace of change and how you drive consistency and predictability, because partners are building and running a business. With the pace of change keeping a degree of continuity and consistency while innovating, evolving and adapting — it’s striking that balance so you’re not changing so fast and frequently that it creates havoc and disruption for the partner and their business.

The opportunity is striking that pace of evolution and innovation — you never want to be caught behind and flat-footed, but you need to be really sensitive to doing it in a thoughtful way with the partner community so that you clearly articulate the vision and destination, and you have to make those evolutionary changes at a pace and materiality that the partner can absorb and it’s not disruptive to their business.

Skill set is another challenge and opportunity we’re all working through. How do you keep evolving, developing and nurturing the talent that you have in your company and attract new talent for new trends and new business models so you can stay relevant? I think some of that is organic and some of it is going to find its way into alliances and partnerships in the partner community. Increasingly, we’re going to see different types of relationships with companies that have one core strength and core subject-matter expertise, and that’s not something another company is going to want to build, or they can’t build it fast enough, so they’ll partner.

So if you’re a channel leader and you’re stepping in, it’s going to be keeping a good strategic lens of exactly what the ecosystem and community needs and represents. I’m a big believer in always innovating, but I’m a pragmatic person – 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. We don’t have to go from 1.0 to 4.0 overnight and lose people along the way. You’ve got to state a clear vision and have methodical process for everyone on how to get there.

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About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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