Having partners' trust and respect is important for all channel leaders.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

September 3, 2020

6 Min Read
Top Gun 51 CP CF 2020 Main Colors

Three years ago, Jon Heaps took on the task of building the Talkdesk partner program after building programs for InContact and Corvisa.

Heaps focused on master agents when he built the company’s channel team and created a program that Talkdesk partners can trust. As a senior communications executive and channel sales leader, he has a record of success and expertise in creating a clear corporate vision and making changes at the highest levels of global business.


Talkdesk’s Jon Heaps

He is innovative and excels at rapidly building and motivating high-performance sales organizations. He also has a stellar reputation in cloud distribution. This allows him to leverage a wide range of business relationships and drive results.

Those are the things distributors, master agents and industry analysts are saying about him. We solicited input from these industry players to compile our Top Gun 51 for 2020. That’s because they know channel executives best.

Introduced last year, the Top Gun 51 recognizes premier leaders in the indirect IT and telecom channel. The criteria includes advocacy for the channel and commitment to partners’ business success. There’s also dedication to earning the channel’s trust.

In July, Talkdesk got $143 million in new Series C funding, raising its total valuation to more than $3 billion.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Heaps talks about his experience in the channel and his career goals. He also talks about building the Talkdesk partner program.

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

Jon Heaps: I got involved in the channel back in 1999 with Qwest Communications, and coming from a software background prior to that. I joined Qwest as a channel manager, and that was really my first exposure into the channel. Was that part of my overall goal? Yes, it really was. I took a software background and then I came to the telecommunications side and I saw the tremendous growth that was there. And I came in as a high-level channel manager. And I was that for about a year before I moved into further management. I was able to progress pretty quickly. So it was part of my overall strategy.

Talkdesk’s Jon Heaps is part of Channel Partners/Channel Futures’ 2020 Top Gun 51. This program recognizes today’s channel executives who build and execute channel programs that drive partner, customer and supplier success. See the full list.

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?

JH: Yes, I have. I’ve built a channel program three different times. The first time that I built one from the ground up would have been with InContact (later acquired by Nice). And that was back in 2003. It was more of a telecommunications company that was shifting into a cloud contact center company. We focused in on the channel … for these independent partners to become our sales force. That was my first exposure and my first chance to really build that. I built a very successful program there.

I was there for 12 years; then, I had the opportunity to go to Corvisa, where I built the channel program. Then we were acquired by ShoreTel. And then three years ago I was actually recruited by Talkdesk to come and build that channel program here. So I had a lot of success with that.

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

JH: What I’ve learned is that the partners really are a great source of where everything is going. And I have learned a great deal from them. I still put on partner advisory councils. I still have very personal advisory partners that I reach out to and consult with on a regular basis on what we’re trying to do and where we’re going. And I have found that they …

… have a great deal of knowledge and experience, and are willing to share that.

As we work together with that, I’ve been able to glean a lot from them on where they see things are going, and then how we can adapt to that and help build that program together. And the more that they feel a part of that, the more ownership they’ve been able to feel as well.

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

JH: I think the first thing that you have to do is really build out a strong team. That’s the one thing that I focused on right from the very beginning, building a strong and mature team. The No. 1 thing that I have found you really need in the channel program is people that have not only integrity, but also a trust with the partners. And when we have that, it just goes much more smoothly. And then also, of course, being responsive, being on top of everything, taking care of the small things. Much bigger opportunities come as a result of that.

The partners need to know that you have their back and you can fulfill what you’ve said you were going to do, and it’s going to help them achieve what they’re trying to accomplish. And when you have common goals like that, that’s really what makes it all work.

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

JH: I feel very fortunate working with a company like Talkdesk and what we’ve been able to do … starting the channel almost three years ago. This is exactly where we targeted to build the channel and work with the largest, most respected partners and build that beachhead. And we’ve had a great deal of success with that. So the greatest accomplishment I think … is that trust and respect that we’ve earned with our partners and being able to continue to move this thing forward.

CP: What are your career goals going forward?

JH: I’m a channel guy. I’m going to continue to build this. We will continue to expand and continue to grow by expanding our channel, and just continue to get wider and deeper in. So my aspiration is, I will always just continue to build the channel and go deeper, and to be the channel chief.

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

JH: It really comes down to a very simple thing. No. 1, it comes back to that trust and respect with their partners. You need to have a close advisory board. Really listen to what they’re sharing with you, because as they do that, as you continue to work on that, it continues to move you forward and helpd them so you get what you’re trying to accomplish. But more importantly, you have a trusted coach, if you will. But that coach is the partners you’re working with, and those that you have a great deal of trust and respect with, As you work closely with that, that’s what continues to help everything move forward. And I think that’s one of the things that’s been my biggest success.

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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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