The recent death of Pat Ripepi, vice president of indirect sales at NetLedger, was a sad one. She was 51. But it was also a sad day for channel partners and the vendors that serve them. There aren't many people like Pat. Working a channel takes an uncommon set of skills.
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Pat had them. She helped develop the reselling channel at Accpac before moving on to the Web-based NetLedger.
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A channel executive must be a good sales person. It takes a lot of salesmanship to convince skeptical resellers to risk their money, their business' future, and their own personal success on a vendor's product. Such a sales approach requires the drive to be successful, coupled with a winning personality, the ability to work with others, and faith in one's message. But those attributes have to be rooted in an understanding of the partner's business. Here's where many channel workers fail.
The executive must believe in the channel partners and be committed to their success as much as they are committed to their employer's success. It's not enough just to sell. Channel mentors must educate their broods, protect them from harm, and fight for their interests.
Years ago, I covered MicroAge, in what was then called computer store franchising, a format which has been altered beyond recognition. But the relationship between the parent and the local stores, independent businesses who carried the MicroAge name, was pretty much like the relationship between VARs and the vendors whose products they carry. The two executives who founded and ran the company, Alan Hald and Jeff McKeever, understood the political nature of the relationship. They never told me this, but I always considered the key to their good relations with store owners was the understanding that MicroAge needed to view its partners' profit as being more important than corporate MicroAge's earnings.
Whether Pat Ripepi or any other people working channel development have this particular philosophy, I don't know. I've not discussed this with them. But I believe the successful channel recruiters do. The companies that show they care more about others' success than about their own success are the companies that become more successful. The companies that sacrifice channel partners' interests for their own bottom lines often suffer from poorer than expected performance on that bottom line. And they get angry with their partners, blaming them for the poor results. The companies that have channel managers who think they know it all and don't learn about their partners suffer more.
A good channel executive sells and learns, promotes the company, but promotes the partners more. That's why people like Pat are hard to replace.
Robert Scott — Editor