Not all channel chiefs come through sales. Look for a skill set that includes business savvy, flexibility and ability to build relationships.

June 23, 2022

4 Min Read

By Joe Golemba


Joe Golemba

Prior to now, channel chiefs used to be plucked mainly from sales. In today’s world, especially as we have encountered major shifts in the labor market from recent years, heads of channel come from all walks of life. They should be today’s Jack or Jill of all trades. Yes, the expertise of selling is always important, but a one-track background isn’t going to cut it anymore, especially when the channel partners with big tech players like Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.

There is one constant in the channel landscape – industries keep changing and so do the channel’s challenges. The best channel chiefs have already expected these shifts and have a subsequent plan to execute based on their prior knowledge in various sectors.

The job description of the modern channel chief is now up for debate, but it’s the fluidity of our industry that shapes the expectations of a great head of the channel.

Channel Chief Strengths

These are the strengths and accomplishments of a world-class channel chief in 2022 and beyond. The best channel chiefs have backgrounds that can include consulting, product innovation and management, marketing, experience in the tenets of building a company, strengths in communications and more.

Cross functional collaboration. It’s an intricate web we weave. Channel leaders must have the finesse of working across multiple business functions, at the same time, to define, plan and create value both for and via the ecosystem. There’s an art to implementing mutual communication and workflow between all parties. These relationships give channel executives the ability to accomplish tasks and inform every decision made in the channel.

Sales savvy. The head of a channel will need to serve purposes that may seem in conflict with each other. A good channel chief will embrace how to serve both. They will serve the ecosystem by helping them achieve their revenue objectives while they protect the company’s growth prospects in the ecosystem.

How do you give a fair shot to every partner in the ecosystem, both large and small? These channel chiefs will need to strategize how to offer customer-focused incentives or alternatives to partners who may be a shoo-in, whether they’re more well-known names, deliver unique/customer differentiated solutions or have the most competitive pricing. To protect the fairness of your ecosystem and to keep more, strategic partners coming in, no matter where they are in their life cycle, offer alternatives to motivate deals to move faster for those that may not be getting first pick of the litter.

Channel chiefs will also need smart selling skillsets, one that has a traditional focus on selling through the multidimensional sales channel. They will need to pick apart and strategize each level of selling, whether it’s co-selling, partner assist, reselling and more.

Strategic consulting. Some of the best channel chiefs have had their fair share of time in a strategic consulting role. This is a great advantage because they have seen the ins and outs of selling via the channel through a different lens. Thus, understanding how to work with system integrators (SIs) is crucial as they manage the improvements to a client’s business value and process. I have yet to meet a client that isn’t looking to optimize its systems and workflows across departments; a good channel chief will know how to work with SIs that can create customer value that sees results quickly. They know how to leverage SIs agile delivery frameworks and own solutions-enablement tools.

Product management. Channel leaders today need product management knowledge as well as hands-on experience. They need to be able to work both internally and with SIs, ISVs and hyper accelerators to create joint solutions and associated go-to-market plans that deliver differentiated transformational value to customers. Though channel leaders may not need to fully create, build or even understand the complete technical solution, their being able to articulate the customer value, the internal value and potential investment will help to speed up both the decision and, when applicable, the time-to-value processes.

Marketing and communications expertise. It’s all about relationships in this field. A channel chief must be effective with their communications strategy to all parties. It’s about articulating, positioning, selling and motivating internal parties, such as senior management, functional leadership teams and account executives. At the same time, they need to do the same with external parties, to and with partners.

Business planning and execution. Finally, but not at all the least, there’s needing business savvy. Embracing business acumen could be a deal-breaker skill in today’s world. Remember the fluidity of the market mentioned earlier? Yes, you still must plan for the future, even as it is unknown. Channel leaders need to create strategic plans, with a supporting budget, that drive top-line revenue with associated margin. However, plans need to be flexible to adapt to the ever-changing market conditions. This isn’t an easy task.

Joe Golemba is vice president of ecosystem and partners at Pricefx. The Advantage Pricefx Partner Program provides strategy partners, systems integrators and independent software vendors with go-to market support, training, and resources to grow additional revenue streams with its pricing platform. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @Price_fx on Twitter.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like