When any of your executives travel, do they make a point of visiting Channel Partners?

Follow me as I blog my way through my book: 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Partner Channel Brain.

99Questions_standard_Page_034Somewhere along the line I learned this truism: More is caught than taught.

While there’s no substitute for textbooks and classroom instruction and the discipline of good study habits, I’m pretty sure I’ve learned a lot more useful stuff by just being observant.

One of my best “instructors” was my first boss, Bill Roach. In the four years I worked for him at Intel I can’t recall a moment when he went to the whiteboard to sketch out some principle or got out a pad of paper to outline his thoughts. In fact, I don’t remember him ever taking a note (must have had a photographic memory…really!).

Rather, Bill was one of those people who calmly told you (once) what to do and expected your ears to be listening. He also said a lot of important stuff in passing like, “Oh, by the way, when you meet Dan Flynn at MCI today remember to …”

Something I picked up from Bill was his sense of territory. He believed a sales rep was responsible for what happened within the geographic boundaries of their sales territory. Good or bad, it was on you. He expected us to know the companies, the competitors and distributors who did business in our little corner of the earth.

He was also protective of sales territories. There was a time when I had a potential sale that crossed into another sales rep’s territory. I was calling on the engineering group (which was in my territory), but manufacturing was someplace else.

Even though I was just in the early stages, and the likely sale small (like $5k), Bill brought me into his office and the two of us made a call to the other sales rep just to let him know what we were doing and that if a deal did come through, he could expect to receive a commission split.

MCI-logoAnother time I had to hop on a plane to Washington DC to visit MCI’s headquarters. I was working with Dan Flynn, an exceptionally forward-thinking vice-president in Chicago. Dan set up a meet-and-greet for me with Bert Roberts Jr., the COO (which was a real hoot given I was just 24 years-old). And just like the previous time, Bill and I hopped on the phone with the DC sales rep to clue him in.

Lesson caught: Honor the other guy’s turf.

To complete the story, I was pitching Intel’s 2920 Digital Signal Processor to MCI. The project is captured in internal MCI memoranda, now public, see: http://cdm15017.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p268001coll28/id/1798.

My meeting in Washington led to a full dog-and-pony with Roberts, Bill McGowan (MCI CEO) and Intel’s Craig Barrett, who ran our telecom group at the time. Craig later went onto become Intel’s president/CEO/Chairman. It was a whole lot of fun for young kid fresh out of engineering school learning the ropes of sales.

And yes, it did net a big win!

Virtual Push Pins

I’ve applied Bill’s principle throughout my career.

Before I hopped on a plane to a conference or tradeshow I reached out to our territory sales reps and made myself available for meetings with customers or Channel Partners. If my schedule was tight, I offered to have a meal or coffee with them, provided they could meet me at the convention hotel. And if I was really, really short on time, I just asked the rep to extend the invitation to attend the show or my presentation.

Some of these meetings were as brief as 15 minutes, but hugely powerful. Plus, I found that I was the main beneficiary by way of the street-intelligence.

That led me to create a simple push-pin map for my travel. My staff could visually monitor where I was going to be and notify local reps on my whereabouts.

Of course, that was a time before Tripit, which makes it a cinch now. Given that you can have your itinerary automatically posted within your LinkedIn profile (like a virtual push pin), there really isn’t any excuse for missing these opportunities now.

The only challenge I still see is the difficulty capturing the notes from the meetings and passing them along to the territory rep if they weren’t in attendance.

Just for you business travelers who remember the trusty 727 (with its own collapsible aft staircase) and DC-10, which despite its ultimate fate, was one heck of a powerful bird. At full-throttle, takeoff was, well…, like a real takeoff.

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John Fox

John Fox

CEO - Founder at Venture Marketing
I’m an experienced, revenue-focused, B2B marketing leader especially devoted to the success of the direct and channel sales rep. After all, at the pivotal moment of truth—when reps meet one-on-one with qualified decision-makers—everything the company has put in place to make this meeting happen will be measured.
John Fox


BD/CMO leader for disruptive B2B innovators. Proud dad of 5 entrepreneurs. Known for SEO, channel strategy, buyer personas & building geo distributed teams
"A lot of people get stuck negotiating with themselves. A little voice in their head says, “I don’t feel like doing… https://t.co/MU9X18wjFn - 1 year ago
John Fox