Top Gun 51 Profile: SolarWinds’ Mike Cullen Speaks to New Channel Velocity

Mike Cullen explains why putting a customer’s needs at the forefront is crucial as products and services evolve.

Allison Francis

August 1, 2019

3 Min Read
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There are many among today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success. But it’s a select few who soar above the rest, not only building these programs, but recognizing that provider and partner success go hand in hand.


SolarWinds MSP’s Mike Cullen

In this recognition of such exceptional executives, Channel Partners and Channel Futures turn the spotlight on Top Gun 51 winner Mike Cullen of SolarWinds MSP, who discussed with us the company’s partner program, the opportunity for the SMB/midmarket and automation as a potential market disruptor.

Channel Futures: What’s different about the SolarWinds partner program, and how does it reflect what’s currently going on in the industry?

Mike Cullen: SolarWinds invests heavily in the success of our MSP partners, recognizing that their success is also ours. A strong example of this is our MSP Institute, which we launched last year. The Institute offers on-demand and instructor-led courses on business, sales, marketing and technical topics. The curricula are developed based on the collective knowledge of the more than 22,000 MSPs we serve, and what we do every day to help them succeed.

CF: What’s the one thing that’s commonly misunderstood about the channel?

MC: There is a big misconception that the channel is an indirect sales force. The channel, or in this case our MSP customers, are the direct salesforce for the SMB/midmarket. MSPs are the ones who have been at the forefront of democratizing technology so that the “smaller guys” don’t get left behind and they are 100% direct partners.

Without MSPs, the math doesn’t work. The opportunity for the SMB/midmarket is too large to handle without the channel.

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.

CF: What do you think SolarWinds and other vendors should be doing that maybe you aren’t delivering as well as you should?

MC: Automation can be a potential market disruptor as it takes out the labor cost of delivering services. We want our channel to be in a position where they can dominate the market, which is why we’re focusing so heavily on automation at SolarWinds.

The way we’re approaching it is a bit different than some other vendors, though. Rather than giving them a palette to develop automation, we are actually delivering automation to them directly via our products with training to back it up. We will be unveiling some of our newer automation initiatives at Empower MSP in Atlanta in September, so stay tuned for more developments.

CF: If you could give one piece of advice to partners, what would it be?

MC: Be able to adapt and put your customer’s needs at the forefront as you evolve your offerings. We’re facing more change than we’ve ever seen before as things move to the cloud, security challenges grow and MSP customers are demanding more for less — and changing the way they buy. They no longer want to be sold to, but sold “with.” Advocacy of your customers has to be a big part of your sales motion in this era of constant change, or you’re going to leave money on the table.

CF: Any other thoughts on this award?

MC: When I first learned I was named as a Top Gun 51 award winner, I had visions of the F-14 fighter squadron — Maverick and Goose specifically. And while the award speaks to a new “velocity” in the move away from the way the channel has traditionally been managed, I also realized that it’s important to think about what happens before the plane takes off. Channel velocity is tied tightly to the broad ecosystem of trainers and mentors and peers that make it what it is; that’s what fuels the jets, and that’s what creates unparalleled execution. I’m honored to be a part of it.

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About the Author(s)

Allison Francis

Allison Francis is a writer, public relations and marketing communications professional with experience working with clients in industries such as business technology, telecommunications, health care, education, the trade show and meetings industry, travel/tourism, hospitality, consumer packaged goods and food/beverage. She specializes in working with B2B technology companies involved in hyperconverged infrastructure, managed IT services, business process outsourcing, cloud management and customer experience technologies. Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing from Drake University. An Iowa native, she resides in Denver, Colorado.

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