Channel Partners’ Top Gun 51 recognizes a new generation of channel executives.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

August 23, 2019

7 Min Read
Channel Partners Top Gun 51 logo

Mitel‘s John Lindsley has transformed the attitudes of hardware-centric people at his company and showed them that the channel can be a revolutionary place for cloud-based sales.

Since becoming vice president and channel chief eight months ago, Lindsley has doubled his sales team and put the right people in place, from operations and marketing to sales, to improve the master, partner and customer experience.


Mitel’s John Lindsley

Improving the organizational structure, where masters now have dedicated account management, has enhanced everything from quoting to support for channel managers, all of which greatly helps the partner and ultimately the end customer.

That’s why Lindsley is part of Channel Partners’ Top Gun 51, which recognizes a new generation of channel executives, those who build and execute programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.

The #TopGun51 are recognized at Channel Partners Evolution, and three special award winners – Channel Innovator (thought leadership, innovation), Lifetime Achievement and Rising Star – have the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the keynote stage.

Before joining Mitel in 2017, Lindsley held channel and sales roles with Verizon and XO Communications.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Lindsley talks about his experience and accomplishments in the channel, and shares advice for successful channel leadership.

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

John Lindsley: My career in the channel began in February 2009 when I joined what was then known as the Verizon Solution Providers Program (VSPP) as a recruitment and onboarding manager. At that time, the channel wasn’t a part of my overall career plan, but it did represent a new side of the company and industry that I was eager to learn, as I had been on the direct side of the business for the previous 12 years. The spring 2009 Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas coincided with my first week in the new role, and I remember walking into the expo hall and being in awe at the size and influence of the technology channel that continues 10 years later.

We recently unveiled our “Top Gun 51,” a list of today’s channel executives who deserve recognition for building and executing programs in a way that drives partner, customer and supplier success.

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?

JL: For five years, I was fortunate to have worked directly on, or adjacent to, the leadership team of legendary channel visionary Janet Schijns. Anyone who knows Janet knows that she’s bold, fearless and driven, and she is hands-down one of the smartest and forward-looking leaders I’ve ever worked for. During that time, I led a portion of Janet’s channel programs team where we dismantled the then-VSPP, and also built, launched and grew what is now known as the Verizon Partner Program (VPP.)  From the initial business plan and coverage model, to rules of engagement, tiers and benefits, contract and compensation strategy, training and enablement, spiffs and incentives, systems and tools, all under Janet’s leadership, I was fully immersed with a broader team, in building and then managing the new VPP end to end. 

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

JL: I’ve learned countless business and life lessons as a result of my 10-plus years in the channel. One of the most important is to envision what a successful and sustainable program looks like when it’s working, to always strive for best-in-class, and not to be shy about course-correcting along the way when it’s necessary to do so. End users prefer to buy technology through the channel because channel partners are stable, consistent, vendor-agnostic trusted advisers with their customers. Accordingly, the channel is a close-knit and loyal community filled with strong, deep and often long-term relationships. As a technology vendor or supplier, I’ve witnessed the channel bringing rapid scale, extended reach and go-to-market speed, and partners will freely share what …

… they like about your program and what they’d like to see improve. Remember the 2009 Channel Partners Expo that I initially found overwhelming? I now anticipate those shows every six months as I would a family reunion.

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

JL: Channel partners value program consistency and trust, continuous investment and ease of commerce. A successful program also documents the partner journey horizontally, with all of the partner-to-program touch points, and strives for an exceptional partner experience with every interaction. Clear and relevant communication is paramount, as is enablement and end-to-end partner support. Just in the 18 months I’ve been at Mitel, I’ve witnessed partners also valuing senior executive involvement, where Mitel’s C-suite is invested in the channel and is highly active in partner and industry events, and with partners’ leadership teams. Fading are the days of inflexible take-it-or-leave-it vendor programs; today’s channel and crowded technology markets require joint investment, shared priorities and a mutual commitment to profitably grow each other’s businesses where the supplier and partner both win, not just one or the other.

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

JL: I lead Mitel’s UCaaS and CCaaS channel, and one really proud moment was when we doubled the agent channel sales from 2017 to 2018 — and we’re on a similar course again in 2019. With Mitel being No. 2 in UCaaS with over 1.4 million seats, doubling agent channel sales was not off of a small base. Mitel is partner-first, channel-only; there’s no direct sales team here, no channel conflict, no risk of a partner losing a deal to a direct rep [and so on]. We sought ongoing partner counsel throughout 2018 as we grew and began to scale. With quick and easy Fast Track deal registration, and while simultaneously tripling the size of the channel sales team and heavily investing in the post-sale experience, we made a significant impact in putting Mitel UCaaS and CCaaS at the top of the line card for hundreds of channel partners. 

CP: What are your career goals going forward?

JL: As a channel-only company, my primary goal at Mitel is to keep partners first and to build the best and most well-respected UCaaS channel in the industry. My team and I are committed to building an efficient, scalable and profitable business, creating value and also leading every day with gratitude, joy and humility. I enjoy an improved work-life balance these days, surrounded by an amazing team and strong, engaged senior leadership. Personally speaking, as the father of three daughters, I’d love to see any or all of them pursue their love of technology in the future with tech careers that they love as well.

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

JL: Whether it’s a channel icon like Janet, or other respected channel execs within the master agent or IT vendor community, align with a few mentors. Mentors have so much knowledge and experience, they can point out your blind spots, and they’re always willing to pay it forward for the betterment of the channel and the leaders within it. Listen more than you speak and do what you say you’re going to do. Be visible — your name is your reputation; always lead with passion, commitment, authenticity, transparency and fire in your belly.

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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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