This week we chatted with Colin McLean, senior vice president and head of Sales for North America at Unify, a company that specializes in unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solutions. McLean has spent the past 15 years working in the telecommunications industry, and began his career at Siemens in 2001, where he held a number of executive-level roles, including regional operations director for the company. He transferred to Unify in 2013 and was recently tasked with leading the company’s channel and direct sales in a new unified model that, in the past year, has doubled to over 2,000 partners in 50 countries, along with 13 new distributors. 

TVG: As someone who has been heavily involved in both direct and indirect selling, what are the big differences between the two sales philosophies?

McLean: There's a lot of constituencies that one has to be aware of in regard to indirect sales, while with direct sales the path is a little bit clearer in terms of how you're operating and who you’re operating with. In the indirect world, obviously, you have to be interested in multiple different relationships and factors, including what makes the most sense for the partner. One has to consider how they can support and serve their partner as well as the end customer.

Today we're overwhelmingly direct in percentage of business sold. We're looking to flip that number on its head. Whereas today we may be 75 or 80 percent direct, we're looking to move that number on its head. We recognize some customers are going to demand and desire for us to work with them directly as a manufacturer, but the overwhelmingly large number of customers we want to capture are going to be very much driven via partner. It's a hybrid model.

TVG: Do you find that there are any tension or conflicts between your internal sales team and your channel partners?

McLean: That's a great question in terms of the evolution. I think whenever you go through a change of this magnitude, there's always going to be some level of skepticism, both within your house and outside it. From a channel point of view, I think that there's a level of skepticism about how serious Unify is about its indirect strategy. I don't necessarily say there's tension in the sense that they don't like the model, because I think from what I've overwhelmingly heard from our channel partners is that they like the concept. They love the idea that we're going to combine some of our best assets, that being our channel account team and our high-touch team, and that we're going to market with them. It's a very positive response.

TVG: What is the strategy that you're pursuing whenever it comes to sharing leads?

Listen to McLean’s answer below.

TVG: When you are talking to your channel partners and soliciting feedback to guide the direction of your budding program, what are the conversations that you’re having with partners?

Listen to McLean’s answer below.

TVG: If you could wave a magic wand and implement any change in your program seamlessly tomorrow, what would it be?

McLean: That's pretty easy for me. I think speed to market within the indirect model is all the more important, even more so than in a direct selling model, and I think the absolute biggest difference is as a channel partner, you have three or four or five options that you can go with, and while you want to pick the best solution, probably at the best price, oftentimes you're interested in dealing with an organization that works at the speed at which you need to operate.

You have to as a manufacturer work with the appropriate levels of agility to get them what they need, whether that's in the form of information or quoting or solutioning, your whole paradigm has to change. And so I think that goes into everything that we're considering doing. From informing programs, or tooling, or resources, you have to work with the appropriate levels of agility in order for them to feel like you're really partnering with them.

TVG: What are the emerging opportunities in the channel that get you the most excited?

Listen to McLean’s answer below.