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The Doyle Report: What Are the Qualities That Make a Great Channel Chief?The Doyle Report: What Are the Qualities That Make a Great Channel Chief?

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March 7, 2017

The men and women who manage partner programs and sales for information and communications (ICT) vendors—aka “channel chiefs”—are expected to possess a multitude of talents. They have to be unfailingly loyal amid uncertainty and internal dissention. They must demonstrate operational efficiency and infectious optimism at every turn. They must also possess business acumen and personal integrity above and beyond the call of duty. And that’s just for starters.

In my time in the channel, I’ve thought a great deal about what makes one channel chief better than another and identified the attributes that most of good ones have in abundance. You may nit-pick my choices, but they pass the all important McKinsey “MECE” test.

To bring them to you, I’ve teamed up with Impartner, which underwrote a new eBook I wrote on the “9 Attributes of a World-Class Channel Chief.”

In this video, Impartner marketing director Kerry Desberg turns the table on me to ask how I chose the nine attributes, and what makes each so important.

We start by discussing organizational influence, which I consider to be critical. Why?

Because organizational influence is one of the most important qualities of a successful channel chief in the information technology industry today. Being a channel chief requires securing a seat at the table wherever big decisions are made. If you don’t have a relationship with your CEO, you’re unlikely to occupy a spot in that all important place. Without a seat at the table, you’re likely to find yourself living in the shadows of your chief of marketing or head of worldwide sales.

To succeed as a channel chief, you’ll need what Hollywood calls “juice” to get your job done. That’s because you’ll need the help of others inside your company to coordinate go-to-market activities, plan for product rollouts and provide sufficient support to partners. There’s more: Being a channel chief requires more than just getting along with others; it sometimes requires compelling them to work on your behalf. This includes powerful leaders within an organization that have different if not competing agendas. Think executives who represent engineering, legal, finance and more. Without organizational influence, you’ll never get their cooperation when it comes to revenue sharing, customer satisfaction, partner reward or support. To be a successful channel chief, you have to thrive amid ambiguity, change and conflict.

Is that coded into your DNA? If not, then you’ll not likely thrive as a channel chief.

What are some of the other qualities we write about?

Intellectual curiosity is one.

Ask yourself the following: What’s the hottest trend in fashion? Believe it or not, The Wall Street Journal says it might be weather, which is dictating fabric weight, color selection and garment design as much as artistic imagination or cultural approbation.

So what could an information technology channel chief learn from today’s sartorial influences? Plenty. Today’s world class fashion designers are students of the world around them. They study everything from weather to macro economic indicators to fabric technology. They do so to gain an edge on their competition. One small bit of information can change their world view or design direction.

The same is true for channel chiefs. Which begs the question: What are you reading? Do you read The New Yorker, Wired or the Harvard Business Review? Do you listen to technology and business podcasts when you exercise, pore over the latest blog posts on LinkedIn on weekends or watch more TED Talks than reruns of The Walking Dead? If so, then congratulations, you have the innate curiosity of a channel chief. Let’s be honest, the job is as much social as financial and organizational.

Watch Kerry and I dissect some of the other qualities that matter.

As always, I welcome your feedback.And don't forget to download your free copy of the eBook.


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