Channel Influencer Spotlight: Forrester’s Jay McBain on the ‘Shadow Channel’ Threat


**Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series featuring the first-ever honorees of the Channel Partners/Channel Futures Channel Influencer Awards. Read our profile of Comcast Business’ Craig Schlagbaum here.**

It’s the 1980s, and the blockbuster action movie “Top Gun” lights up the silver screen. A cocky fighter pilot with the call sign “Maverick,” astride a Ninja 900 motorcycle, races an F-14 Tomcat jet while on his way to win the heart of a blonde bombshell.

A wide-eyed, 15-year-old Canadian boy watches in wonder.

Forrester's Jay McBain

Forrester’s Jay McBain

“I was at the height of my hormones,” says Jay McBain, now a Forrester analyst. “That was going to be me rolling into high school. I had to earn $4,000 to buy the bike when I turned 16. Since I tracked every penny I made on my paper route, I knew it would take me exactly six months.”

McBain bought the motorcycle and has been running full throttle ever since. At age 27, he rose to become a national sales manager at IBM. At 37, a channel chief at Lenovo. At 40, he held the CEO post at ChannelEyes, a global software company.

His fierce ambition is matched only by an obsession with data. Since his teenage years, McBain claims to keep a daily log of every pay stub, every receipt, every report, every picture. He says he can produce a pie chart of his entire financial life.

Apparently, high-flying ambition and data as a wingman make a heck of a team.

“Data propelled me past my peers,” McBain says.

Data, You Can Be My Wingman

After graduating from the University of Lethbridge with bachelor degrees in management information systems and public administration, McBain took a job as a server technical engineer and support agent at IBM. He became a sales rep shortly after, and that’s when his budding career nearly crashed and burned.

McBain says IBM sales reps in Winnipeg, Manitoba, forged relationships with clients during National Hockey League games and at bars. Deals were often struck on paper napkins near closing time. While McBain enjoys hockey – he still plays twice a week – he doesn’t drink and couldn’t build client relationships over booze. A senior sales manager sat the young McBain down and told him that he probably wasn’t going to make it.

Instead of picking up the bottle, McBain turned to data.

He began building a spreadsheet with 100 columns, stuffing it with 500 companies in Winnipeg. He recorded key contacts and decision makers. While on vacation, he drove around town, peering into windows of companies and writing down the number and makes of desktops, laptops and servers.

“Then I did a very transactional, data-driven sales approach by going after every cell of the spreadsheet every day,” McBain says. “It wasn’t about buying beers and going to hockey games. It was about all-out …

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