Not knowing a potential client's technology is a big mistake.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

November 2, 2023

4 Min Read
Carnival Cruise Line's Sean Kenny talks channel relationships
Carnival Cruise Line CIO Sean Kenny on stage at Channel Futures Leadership Summit, Nov. 1, 2023.

CHANNEL FUTURES LEADERSHIP SUMMIT — Carnival Cruise Line's chief information officer (pictured above) has a long history as both a buyer and seller, and has plenty of advice for developing channel relationships with key clients and key client people.

Sean Kenny's keynote during Channel Futures Leadership Summit focused on "open." His extensive resume includes global client services partner at EY, worldwide applications leader for HP, outsourcing services leader for EDS Group and Americas sales leader for Capgemini.

"I want to open doors," he said. "I want to open your mind. I want to open their wallets, and I want to keep their relationship open. When we talk about opening the door, it's so important that people recognize that that first interaction with a customer is so critically important. It is something that we have to value and treasure. How we open that door, how we got in to meet this person is so incredibly valuable to us. One of the lessons that we used to teach our up-and-coming partner account executives at EY is do your research, look at their 10-K, get every piece of background you can about the company and their competitors. What are the key issues going on in their industry? Try to become as conversant as you can."

Take the time and effort to write your first two minutes of conversation, Kenny said.

"What are you going to say?" he said. "What are you going to talk about specifically? Write it all out. The first couple of minutes of interacting with somebody is generally the one that is the most fraught with high nerves and energy, and trying not to forget your notes and forget what you want to talk about. You'll alleviate some of that if you've taken the time to write this out. I'm not suggesting you script the whole half-hour that you're going to spend for the first time with a new client prospect. But I am suggesting you write out the first few paragraphs that captures how it is you're going to interact with them. In that first meeting with them, try to be as specific as you can that you understand their problems. I've read in your 10-K that sustainability is a big issue for you. In our company we take sustainability so seriously. We have done X, Y and Z. We understand that this is a turnaround year for you. It's a great opportunity for us to chat because we've got some special approaches to helping increase productivity."

Opening Channel Relationships

If possible, having that first meeting in person makes a big difference, Kenny said. It's then important to have a next step.

"You want them now to start thinking about your product or your services, why you," he said. "So follow up with whatever you said you were going to do, that sustainability report, thoughts on productivity, our CEO's comments on the future of technology."

It's also important to understand a potential client's technology, Kenny said.

"If I had a cup of coffee for every person who's come into my office and said you need to move more aggressively all of your technology to the cloud, which we say OK, well, what do you think you do with those 100 ships up there?" he said. "You have no idea. We don't have ubiquitous connectivity to the internet. That's a way to destroy your relationship very quickly. That person didn't even take the time to understand the core of our business."

In addition, a sure way to hit a wall is not knowing a potential client's buying patterns, Kenny said.

"You'd be surprised how many people come into our organization and have no idea how we buy," he said. "We have a sourcing department. You need to have a master services agreement. We have requirements around your commitment, your diversity and inclusiveness commitment. We have requirements that are legal reviews. We have our own payment terms. Know all of those things before you walk in the door."

Constructing a Small, Specific Project

Try to construct a small, specific project the potential client can say yes to easily, "and if you don't like what I do, you don't pay for it," Kenny said.

"There should be some price tag attached to the effort that you're putting in, and you yourself should play an active role in what it is you're proposing and what that solution looks like," he said.

Offer to bring in your technical expertise to work with a potential client's team, Kenny said.

"Please do not ignore or work around my team," he said. "And if you hear from one of my team that they're not interested in something, don't think that I'm going to overrule them because I'm not. They work for me. They're my team. They're my blood, so to speak."

Try to expand your relationship by meeting as many team members and stakeholders in other parts of the company, "so that you're going to be even more relevant to what it is you're bringing forward," Kenny said.

About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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