Ten Lessons From Trump For Channel Managers

On the 20th January 2017, Donald J. Trump, an American businessman and television personality with no prior government experience, became the 45th President of the United States, in what many consider to be one of the biggest upsets in American political history. Since then, he has gone on to lead what many consider to be the most tumultuous first 30 days of any new administration.

While I am far from being a Trump fan, and disagree with many of his policies, his spectacular win and subsequent turbulent first month in office provide 10 valuable lessons (5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts) for all Channel Managers and vendors.

5 things every Channel Manager should do

Do what you said you’d do

Despite what I may think of Trump, there’s one argument that I find difficult to counteract, and that is “he’s doing what he promised”. I may personally think it’s crazy to build a wall between Mexico and the US, but he was elected on that platform, and despite what people think, he seems intent on building it. If Channel Managers and vendors had that same resolve when it came to adhering to their policies (eg. not selling direct or upholding deal registration) against opposition from those that want an easy win, there would be far less channel conflict and far more channel loyalty.

Capture your audience’s heart, not just their minds

Trump created a vision… “Make America Great Again”. He focussed on an outcome, and gave people a goal to aspire to, with some tangible examples (more jobs, greater security, less bureaucracy). Whether or not you believe he can, or whether or not you agree with his approach, the point is that his followers believed in him. Similarly our partners don’t get excited by a new product or a new program… they get excited by the thought of how a relationship with you can enrich their lives, whether it’s an income stream that enables them to have more holidays or more time with their family or early retirement.

Challenge the status quo

It’s interesting to hear Channel Managers make the comment that their programs are the same as everyone else’s. Or that their technology is largely undifferentiated. Or that they are sick of PowerPoint presentations. And yet they present the same lacklustre PowerPoint presentations about their programs and products to partners in exactly the same way as everyone else. Trump took a stand that said “the current model doesn’t work, we’re going to change it”. You might think his ideas are courageous or you might think they’re crazy… the point is, they got the audience’s attention.

Deliver simple clear messages

Trump speaks in short, simple sentences. He uses declarative phrases such as “I am going to…”. Regardless of whether you agree with the content, one thing is for sure… people remember them. Contrast that with your average vendor presentation that typically consists of 40+ slides, packed with detailed information about the product. If more channel managers could focus on the core message and the outcome, rather than the detail surrounding the features, we would dramatically increase the process of partner enablement.

Leverage social media

Trump used Twitter to build his political profile on a scale not seen before in a US presidential election. He used Twitter to drum up support, attack his opponents and get his messages out to his followers. His supporters then retweeted the message, spreading it even further. So despite an election campaign budget that was much smaller than his opponents, it is estimated that he garnered $3.4B in free media coverage in 12 months. Effective use of social media is about consistency, delivering interesting messages, and resonating with your audience. How many vendors can say they do those three things well?

5 things every Channel Manager should avoid

Over-promise and under-deliver

“Build a wall and make Mexicans pay for it”, “Put Hilary in prison”, “Ban Muslims from entering our country”. Huge promises, but as Trump is finding out, there are other factors (Government, Judicial process, Constitution) that may prevent that. As a vendor, you don’t necessarily need to have the best program, you just have to execute on it consistently. Your partners need to know that you will deliver on your promises, if they are going to bet their business on yours.

Alienate your partners

Trump likes to make himself look good by making others look bad. Whether it’s his political opponents, or heads of state from other countries, Trump’s tendency is to adopt a combative style and bully his adversaries into seeing his point of view. That may work in a one-off negotiation, but managing a channel is about the long-term and, as channel managers who have been around a while know, partners have long memories. If you do something that alienates your partners, they will remember, and they will look for a way to retaliate.

Rely on past success as a guarantee of future success

Trump was a successful businessman. He ran a brilliant election campaign. Now he’s president. As he is very quickly discovering, those three things are very different. The tactics that worked for one don’t necessarily work for others. Similarly, vendors need to understand that the tactics that worked to recruit, enable and manage partners in and on-prem world may not necessarily be valid for MSPs in a recurring revenue world.

Roll out half-baked plans

Trump’s hastily put-together “Muslim Ban” was rolled out without proper due diligence, or serious consideration of the consequences. As a result, it was quickly scuttled by the judicial system that deemed it unconstitutional. While it is unlikely that any vendor would roll out something with such far-reaching ramifications, we see a lot of vendor programs that are rolled out without enough consideration of the unintended consequences. In channels, getting it right is more effective that getting in first.


This has been an interesting first month, with claims of a record crowd size at his inauguration, that he won the popular vote, 3 million illegal voters, record murder rates, 42% unemployment, biggest electoral college win since Reagan, Bowling Green Massacre, and the list goes on. After a while, you get to the stage where you wonder whether he knows he’s lying or if (like some vendors) he just believes his own PR. Just remember… when you present “alternative facts” to your partners, you’re not creating an environment where partners are going to be honest with you.


Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is certainly unlike any politician I have seen in recent history. He has polarised people’s opinions and earned himself the title of President of the DIVIDED States of America on the cover of Times Person of the Year magazine.

But if you avoid his pitfalls, his ability to capture his audience’s attention and inspire them, challenge the status quo, and do what he said he’d do are admirable characteristics that every channel manager should aspire to. And like Trump, the question is… will you be remembered for your “DOs” or the “DON’Ts”.