Ever wonder what goes on inside the mind of a channel chief?

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

March 15, 2019

6 Min Read

Channel chiefs constantly face new challenges with continued M&A, changing technology and partner categories, and pressure to build and maintain effective partner programs.

A panel of channel chiefs will address all of the current issues facing them and their counterparts throughout the channel.

They will share advice in their presentation, “Channel Chief Roundtable” April 10, part of the marketing and technology conference track, sponsored by Nextiva, at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas.


Pax8’s Jennifer Bodell

Channel Partners spoke to Jennifer Bodell, Pax8‘s vice president of channel and member of the Channel Partners Editorial Advisory Board, who will monitor the session; and panelists Mario DeRiggi, Vonage Business‘ senior vice president of channel sales and business development, and Carl Katz, Nextiva’s vice president of channel sales for North America.

In a Q&A, the panelists gave a sneak peek of the information they plan to share during the session. The responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: What are some of the most pressing needs facing channel chiefs?

Jennifer Bodell: One of the most pressing needs facing channel chiefs today is understanding the importance of channel partnerships and developing a channel program tailored to meet and exceed the needs of their businesses. The program should be focused on enabling your channel partners to understand new innovations, how to apply it to their business and easily sell. It is just as important to continue listening to channel partners so you can modify the program as the needs of the channel partner grow and evolve.


Vonage’s Mario DeRiggi

Mario DeRiggi: As customers’ adoption of cloud-based business applications increases, we are focused on building the enablement structure required to support our partners’ need to address this growing demand. Similarly, we are focused on educating our partner community to ensure they understand and take full advantage of the benefits of the One Vonage platform and that they are able to deliver that same message to their customer base.

Carl Katz: Some of the most pressing needs facing channel chiefs include educating the partner on their company’s differentiators and value proposition. Partners have many choices when selling VoIP. Differentiating your company through education and consistent messaging is critical to the success of any organization. Another pressing need confronting channel chiefs is hiring great talent. In this “sellers market,” where everyone is recruiting the best talent, hiring can be a challenge. Having a great reputation, competitive compensation plan and excellent culture is important when recruiting and maintaining talent.

CP: How is increasing M&A and consolidation impacting the role of channel chief?

JB: Mergers and acquisition are inevitable in this industry — especially if you’re successful. Channel chiefs need to be aware of the current company’s key initiatives and goals. Getting stuck in the past of what might have worked 10 years ago in your company may not work today. The market is evolving fast. Look at M&A as a clean slate to try new things and take risks. Those who think they can change the world, do. Being stuck in the past or constantly looking at what others are doing could be harmful to yourself and the company’s growth potential.

MD: As a channel organization, we know we need to focus on educating our partners on the value of these acquisitions and the technology they bring, as well as the long-term benefits and how it will – or won’t – impact their customers.

CK: Since partners are looking for long-term income, it is more critical than ever to …

… choose the right providers. With the recent M&A and consolidation in our industry, partners are more practical when choosing their providers and a vendor’s name is not the only variable to consider. Financial position, consistent product enhancements, volatility and reputation are just a few items partners consider in today’s market. Channel chiefs must effectively work with all elements within their company to make sure that the messaging shows that their company is the most practical choice.


Nextiva’s Carl Katz

CP: What are some of the most critical mistakes channel chiefs make in dealing with partners?

JB: A critical mistake channel chiefs make is not listening to the channel partner, or listening but not acting.

MD: Consistency and responsiveness are so important to the provider/partner relationship. I am hyperfocused on providing a consistently differentiated offering to our partners, as well as providing ongoing support, meeting our commitments no matter what and acting as a consultant to help them meet the unique needs of their customers.

CK: Some of the most critical mistakes channel chiefs make when dealing with partners involve messaging. Messaging can make or break a program. The “why” and “how” makes all of the difference. Why is your company the best choice for the partner and their customers, and how we can work together effectively are important aspects of a solid partnership. When channel chiefs don’t understand their partner’s unique go-to-market strategy, they can’t adequately support their requirements in the field.

CP: What’s your definition of a successful and effective channel chief?

JB: A successful channel chief acts as a trusted advocate for channel partners. This person attends channel events, listens candidly to feedback about what’s working, what can be improved and how they can make a partner’s life easier. But most importantly, they are dedicated to enacting change where needed within their organization based on the channel partner’s need. The channel chief is committed to finding the channel partner new solutions and new ways to strengthen their business.

MD: When I joined Vonage, I set out with a very clear vision for our channel program and worked with the channel team to create the infrastructure and goals to help move our business – and our partners’ business – forward successfully. The support and expertise of our channel team is what sets us apart as a company and as a provider to our partners. A successful channel chief has an amazing team like this beside him or her — a team [that] shares and understands a common vision for the channel and that can work well together to execute on that vision.

CK: The definition of a successful and effective channel chief includes understanding their market, being nimble to make changes based on market requirements/conditions, hiring and maintaining the best talent, and creating long-term partner relationships based on trust.

CP: What do you hope attendees learn and can make use of from this session?

JB: Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much. I would love for everyone to understand that no executive can do it all alone. It takes a team of people working together, listening, taking risks and delivering change.

MD: The needs of the partner community are constantly evolving. I think this panel is a great opportunity to engage with a cross-section of the channel community to gain feedback on where partners see their needs and the needs of their customers heading.

CK: I hope that the attendees learn what is involved in maintaining a successful channel program. They should also gain a better understanding of the complexities of a fast-moving industry and how channel chiefs are always trying to change the paradigm to maintain an aggressive go-to-market strategy.

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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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