In the final part of our discussion with three of Verizon’s channel leaders, we talk about how you can get the most out of your talent and promote diversity.
We talked previously about how today’s channel leaders need a broad set of skills—they can’t just be sales-driven. Is that true of your people too?
Joe: The channel still needs people with great sales skills, but what we’re looking for has moved on from the days of door-to-door selling. It’s not about one-off sales; we want people who can help us build lasting relationships.
Janet: Absolutely. And, for me, that means they need to be able to engage customers on a human level. What really matters is being able to hold meaningful conversations with people about their needs—not just delivering sound bites about products.
Lori: It comes back to what we discussed before about putting the customer at the heart of your business. We need people that put the effort into understanding what’s important to each customer because every one of them is different. It’s not enough just to be a talented sales person, we need to be all-rounders.
How can small firms compete for the people who have these skills?
Joe: Not everyone wants to work in corporate America. We’re getting to a point where it’s become less about who you work for and more about what you can accomplish, the experience and skills you can gain.
Janet: And that’s why the channel is a great place to be. Think about the best innovations of the last few years and many have come from partnerships—and were informed by customers. If you want to be involved in the most innovative and exciting new technologies, get into the channel.
So why isn’t the channel attracting more great talent?
Lori: My real worry isn’t about sourcing talent, it’s about diversity. I’d go as far as to say that that’s a crisis in the channel right now.
Janet: This is a topic that’s just so close to my heart. My grandfather was Lenape Indian. He grew up on the reservation. My family felt that we needed to hide that part of our history and that makes me so sad. That’s part of why I’m so set on promoting diversity and helping more diverse talent make it into leadership roles.
Why is diversity so important for the future of the channel?
Lori: A diverse team gives you a different perspective on a problem—and that breeds innovation. If everyone’s got the same life experience, you’re much more likely to stick with the same old methods.
Joe: I was having this exact conversation with my daughter the other night. She’s studying engineering at one of the best colleges in the country and she’s the only woman in her class. This is a systemic issue that we’ve got to tackle by nurturing upcoming talent.
How can channel leaders make a difference and help drive diversity?
Janet: First, you’ve got to understand what diversity is. It’s not about women having to think they need to act tougher than men to be successful. It’s about supporting people in being who they are and recognizing that doing that will make your business stronger.
Lori: That’s exactly what we’re looking to do here at Verizon. We’ve set up a range of mentoring and leadership schemes that are helping us promote diversity.
Joe: Verizon is also well aware of its responsibility to go out there and encourage people to get involved with technology.
Janet: That’s so important Joe. We’ve got to put ourselves out there and engage with high schools, colleges and even at the elementary level. There’s a long way to go. But if we can build a foundation of channel champions for diversity, we’ll get there. And remember, for diversity to win, no-one has to lose.
It’s been great talking to you. Is there one message each of you would like to emphasize to everybody out there in the channel?
Joe: The channel is a really exciting place to be. But don’t underestimate the change that’s happening right now. Companies that do could find themselves in trouble pretty quickly.
Lori: This is a team game. Whether it’s finding and developing the best staff or choosing the right partners, you’re only as strong as the team you build.
Janet: Both great points, that’s why I love working with these guys. But if there’s one thing I’d like everybody to take away from this it’s that we’ve all got a responsibility to leave the channel in a better state than we found it. For me that’s better trained, more diverse and more customer-centric. There are lots of challenges ahead, but I’m passionate about the channel’s ability to tackle those and come out stronger than ever.
Vote for Janet Schijns to win her bracket in CRN Channel Madness: Tournament of Chiefs!
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