Channel Champions Part II: What does it take to be a channel leader?
In the second part of our conversation with Verizon’s Channel leaders, we talked about what makes a great channel leader. See the first part, about what makes a great partner, here.
We’ve already discussed how having what it takes to be a great Channel partner is changing. What makes a great channel leader? And is that changing too?
Joe: There’s still a long way to go, but it’s already changed a lot. Good channel leaders know that they can’t achieve their goals alone. They have to rely on the people around them for help and support. And that’s why, for me, a great channel leader is someone who puts their people first and helps everyone on their team develop to their full potential.
Lori: Absolutely. But it’s also about getting the right people on your team in the first place. I strongly believe that to be successful, organizations need teams that are representative of their customer base. People from different backgrounds bring different perspectives to the challenges you face—they stop your approach from turning stale.
Janet: As anybody that knows me or follows me on Twitter will know, this is something I’m really passionate about. We’re currently facing a diversity crisis in the channel and it’s the job of leaders to challenge it. It’s not just the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. First, you need the best people. Period. Second, diverse teams have been shown to solve problems more quickly and creatively. And this isn’t just about gender and race. My father survived polio, but spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He was an inspiration to me and instilled in me how important it is to listen to and value different perspectives.
How does that fit with the image of the channel being quite cutthroat? Where what matters is making a sale. Is that image out-of-date?
Janet: Channel leaders can’t just be salespeople anymore. They need to be all-rounders, and they need to build teams that support them in that. Sales are still hugely important, but it’s just as important to have a thorough understanding of the latest technologies and be a marketer. Future leaders won’t be having meetings about their funnel—they’ll be looking at the best technology to build that funnel and the best way to go to market. Lori’s a great example of this—she’s a marketer first and foremost, but she also has a great understanding of tech.
Lori: Thanks, Janet. I agree, channel leaders can’t just focus on making the next sale. The great channel leaders are the ones looking forward and thinking about how they can get their team, and their business, to the next level. I was taught early in my career to constantly focus my people on where they wanted to be and how they could accomplish that. That’s something that drives me every day.
Let’s move on to relationships outside your own business. What’s the key to creating a successful network and being recognized as a great leader externally?
Janet: Lots of people in the channel will still say “I know everybody.” I hear it all the time and they think that means that they are made for life. Wake up. Millennials already make up half the workforce and are quickly becoming key decision makers and they communicate in entirely different ways. The leaders that aren’t engaging with people using social channels will quickly become obsolete.
Joe: I totally agree. To be successful today, channel leaders need to create a visible and engaging social brand. Who today doesn’t check out someone’s LinkedIn profile before they meet them for the first time? This is a relationship business. Your personal brand shows who you are, what you stand for and whether they’d want to do business with you.
Lori: Absolutely. It’s not enough to broadcast. You need to engage with people and listen to them. You have to say things in your own voice too. That’s how you can build a strong personal and corporate brand, and build relationships.
Joe: Authenticity is really important. Your online persona should be an honest reflection of who you are. You’ll get found out pretty quickly if the reality doesn’t match what people see on social media. It’s about living what you say and taking a genuine interest in the conversations that you have.
Janet: That’s so true, and I’ve got a great example. Through talking with people online about our services and what they meant to them, I met Cris Colaluca. He has spina bifida and uses Verizon connectivity and a VGo robot to attend school virtually. He’s a fantastic inspiration, and we’ve helped with his fundraising efforts to give more kids the same chance. For me that’s a great reminder that what we do isn’t just technology, it can change peoples’ lives and as a channel leader I want to share that with everybody.
Vote for Janet Schijns to win her bracket in CRN Channel Madness: Tournament of Chiefs!
Watch this space for the conclusion of our Channel Champions roundtable, when Janet, Joe and Lori will be discussing how you can get the most from your talent and champion diversity.