Gary started his career in computer science coding weapon systems, but quickly discovered his passion lay outside a lab. For 30+ years, Gary ping ponged between sales and building alliances because he loves working on different sides of the same coin. He’s led sales, business development and M&A at companies from HP, Oracle, and Sun to Amberpoint and Appirio, and is now an advisor to organizations looking to scale their businesses, and build effective partner and go-to-market strategies.
Why are you so passionate about helping people-based businesses?
The most promising technology in the world can’t be brought to life without smart people behind it. They are the ones who create the real value, and that’s what excites me. I also love being more closely aligned with the customer’s business objectives. I’ve worked for hardware, software and services companies over the years, and the conversations in services companies are completely different. In hardware, conversations revolve around how fast are your chips, when will you ship it, install it, get it up and running. In software, they revolve around features and functions. In services, the conversations steer more towards “why are we doing this and how can we make customers happier?” They compete on the value they provide, not the bits and bytes.
You’ve helped guide more than a dozen technology and services companies on their business development, alliances, and channel strategy. Why are these elements such a critical part of any company’s growth strategy?
Partnerships and alliances are the fuel that drives company growth. Partnerships and alliances can help in so many areas, whether that’s growing revenue by attracting new customers or broadening a company’s offerings, or expanding brand awareness and market presence, or rounding out areas of perceived weakness. Partnering is also a good way to speed your time to market if you choose to go that path rather than build on your own. Your channel strategy should consider each of these areas, and depending on what stage you’re in or your end goal, you turn the dials in different areas.
What is the biggest mistake companies make when building their channel strategy?
Going for quantity, not quality, when forming alliances. Too many organizations use partnerships to look larger or more established, or to convey a sense of momentum, when in fact they are typically lightweight with no strategic value. This is dangerous because it creates disillusion with employees about the value of partners, and confusion about which partners should be prioritized or invested in. When it comes to alliances, aim for quality over quantity, and take the time to understand and communicate how they integrate into the business, whether that’s with the sales team, product teams or shared marketing.
When is the right time in a company’s journey to hire an alliance lead?
It depends on what your go-to-market strategy is. For example, do you want to broaden distribution? Do you want to acquire capabilities or expand internationally, or even get acquired yourself? If your strategy is to say OEM your technology through channel partners, you’ll likely want to hire an alliance executive early. If you’re going to market tightly aligned with your partners’ sales channel, you’ll want a senior person to manage those relationships. However, if it’s more about expanding your brand presence or handling partner events and requests, someone more junior might be able to handle those things.