The stronger the partner relationships, the better the results for their customers.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

July 28, 2020

6 Min Read
Channel Partners Top Gun 51 logo

Vonage partners have long benefited from Aqeel Shahid‘s extensive sales leadership experience in unified communications.

Shahid is Vonage’s vice president of global strategic partners. He has more than 20 years of sales leadership experience in the software and communications field.


Vonage’s Aqeel Shahid

His peers consider him a natural born leader providing excellence to both customers and his sales team. Prior to joining Vonage, Aqeel served in a variety of sales leadership roles at companies such as Eschelon Telecom, Integra Telecom and Sprint.

Shahid is part of our Top Gun 51 for 2020. Introduced last year, the Top Gun 51 recognizes premier leaders in the indirect IT and telecom channel. We got input from those who know channel executives best — distributors, master agents and industry analysts. There were three criteria considered in selecting this year’s group: advocacy for the channel; commitment to partners’ business success; and dedication to earning the channel’s trust.

Channel-Focused From the Start

In this Q&A, Shahid talks about his sales leadership experience in the channel and what has fueled his success.

Vonage’s Aqeel Shahid is part of Channel Partners/Channel Futures’ 2020 Top Gun 51. The Top Gun 51 recognizes channel executives who build and execute programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. See the full list.

Channel Partners: How did you first become involved in the channel? Was it part of your overall career plan?

Aqeel Shahid: Ever since I started in the technology industry and began my career as a sales professional, I have been focusing on the sales channel, revenue generation and developing a go-to-market strategy. The channel community as a whole has always been of great interest to me. I value the business owners, consultants and professionals that make up the channel; also, the work that they do for customers day in and out.

CP: Have you been responsible for building channel programs from the ground up? If so, how did your experience come into play in these processes?

AS: In my previous sales leadership roles, as well as here at Vonage, I have helped build channel programs and have worked closely with partners to build a go-to-market strategy that leverages and augments the strength of the partner’s business and ensures the success of their customers. Building a channel-friendly organization not only requires the experience of working with channel partners, but also an understanding of the various challenges and opportunities that exist in their organizations and enabling them to be a trusted adviser for their customers.

I believe my experience in building and running a national sales organization, understanding the sales processes and the customer journey, while keeping the customer as the center of attention, has been instrumental in the growth of the Vonage Partner Network for the channel. The Vonage Partner Network is purpose-built to enable Vonage channel partners to solve their customers’ communication needs by leveraging Vonage‘s role as a trusted adviser and the unified, flexible integrated Vonage communications services platform that offers a unique combination of UC solutions, contact center and communications APIs.

CP: What have you learned most from your experience with the channel and partners?

AS: It’s all about partner relationships. The stronger the relationship with our partners, the better the results for their customers. Our commitment to the success of our partners and their customers is unwavering.

Customers look to their partners as trusted advisers and as guides to help them navigate in today’s ever-changing environment. It’s important for us to be flexible and to engage with our vast partner network regularly and consistently to keep a pulse on the marketplace, provide them with ongoing consultative support and ensure our business, product, and process decisions continue to help them drive …

… success for their customers.

CP: What are the components of a successful channel program? Are there things that used to work, but now don’t?

AS: We recognized the need for a program that enables our partners to help their customers transform how they communicate and operate from the office or anywhere, providing enormous flexibility and ensuring business continuity, remote work and engaging customer experiences through the remote delivery of services. A strong channel program allows channel partners to not only offer their customers innovative ways to collaborate and engage with their own customers in memorable and meaningful ways, but to provide the ongoing service and support partners need to be a trusted advisor as their customers’ needs evolve and grow.

Channel partners are looking for providers that are agile, involved and a true visionaries in the space. This allows them to be the technology experts and advisors to their customers.

Today, when innovation and digital transformation are happening at an unprecedented pace, a successful channel program will have the following key ingredients:

  • Easy to engage with and enable partners to do business by giving them the tools and training needed to create a strong customer experience.

  • Agile and adaptable to an ever-changing market and increased customer demands.

  • Trust and loyalty. Establishing trust requires having a clear vision for the program. It also means supporting channel partners at all stages of the customer journey, while supporting each partner’s strategy.

  • Active thought leadership and ability to serve as a guide for partners and customers. This guidance also must include enabling, engaging with, coaching and motivating partners and their businesses at all levels.

CP: What do you consider your biggest accomplishments in working with the channel?

AS: My biggest accomplishments would definitely include understanding the partners and their businesses, and helping them to find long-term solutions for their customers to be more successful. This is what our channel team does on a daily basis. Leading such a great team, working with partners to uncover customer needs and provide them with the depth of product knowledge necessary to recommend software solutions designed to meet those needs — this makes me incredibly proud of the consistently superb work that we do together.

CP: What are your career goals going forward?

AS: My ongoing goal is to continue to educate our partners to think of Vonage as they look to accelerate their digital transformation journeys, helping them to drive the type of business continuity, remote work and remote delivery of services that is so critical in today’s environment.

CP: What sort of advice would you give someone who is just starting out in channel leadership?

AS: Be a good listener; be engaged and agile. Most importantly, build a culture that supports a memorable and seamless experience for partners and customers alike.

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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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