CEOs: Don’t Make this Mistake when Launching Your Channel

In the last six years I’ve been running Channeltivity, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to or doing business with hundreds of channel professionals.

Through those conversations, I’ve heard stories of success and stories of failure in the channel. The CEOs that hire a channel leader based on the same criteria that they use for direct sales often have it backfire, resulting in an unsuccessful channel program.

How do experienced business leaders with good instincts make this mistake? They miss the unique characteristics the channel needs in its leader. There are common attributes and a handful of habits that separate out what I call channel rock stars from the rest.

How to Identify a Channel Rock Star

Channel rock stars are not just the people you will see getting celebrated in the annual CRN Channel Chiefs. They often do not work for big brand name companies. They are channel builders, and they do it over and over. Their results are the reason why we have big brand name companies.

They are the difference between a successful channel launch and a failed initiative. If you are the CEO of a company and want someone to hold the course or improve channel sales by 5%, just poach any Channel Chief. But if you want to build a channel or double channel sales, you need to find yourself a Rock Star.

They Have the Right Experience

A Rock Star has already made it happen. They have a proven track record of launching or turning around channel programs. They know how to sell, how to be strategic with partners and how to build an organization that will generate sales.woman_halfsize

Unless you’re already a big brand, you need someone capable of doubling, tripling or quadrupling the channel. It’s a unique breed who can enable that kind of growth. On the most basic level, they know how to set and meet realistic expectations. They understand how to create the map for what progress looks like and how to fight for what they need to get there.

Where CEOs Stumble in Hiring a Channel Leader


  1. They hire someone based on the brands on their resume. The guy that worked in channel at Cisco, Microsoft, etc. will not necessarily be successful in launching or turning around a channel. This fails for several reasons.

First, these people usually talk a really good game. They can describe to you everything that needs to be done to build the channel. I was in the Navy. I could tell you everything about every system on a submarine – just don’t expect me to build you one.

The second reason this focus on brand history fails is because, contrary to expectation, having someone from one these big companies on your payroll isn’t likely to get you in there. There’s probably a reason they are “from” the big company, and it wasn’t their powers of influence.


  1. They “promote” (fail someone laterally) out of the sales organization. I know what you’re thinking: “But he’s a really good guy, and he knows the product inside and out, and he’s good at demonstrating the product…”

I’m not saying fire someone like this. You can always create a position for someone who is passionate about your company and product. They can be a valuable asset—just don’t expect them to build your channel.

If they didn’t work in sales, it’s probably because they lack closing skills. Channel Rock Stars know how to close. First they close partners, then they close business.

For more on the habits of Channel Rockstars, read our ebook: 5 Habits of Channel Manager Rock Stars