Top 15 Channel Managers of 2011: Goals and Challenges

The channel is filled with responsive, knowledgeable channel managers, so the competition for the Top 15 Channel Managers each year makes for a tight contest. This year was no different, with 80 channel managers who were nominated by their partners vying for one of 15 slots. But as so often happens in telecom, there was an unexpected change when it came to total ballot submissions. For the second year in a row, Channel Partners readers votes resulted in a tie, so, once again, we are honoring the Top 16 channel managers of the year. These telecom professionals were nominated by master agents, subagents and independent agents and selected by a poll of Channel Partners readers and supporters July 5-22. More than 750 votes were received.

And to learn more about winners lighter sides, check out our gallery here.

Nickie Beckstead

Integra Telecom
Title: Senior Channel Manager
Years in position: 3
Years in channel: 4
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager wins: 2010
Revenue responsibility: $336,000 in monthly recurring revenue

Main channel goal: To make selling Integra services as easy as possible, working to provide an overall solution for the agent and their customers that will provide excellent service and support for a long-term relationship. I strive to put us in a position that when agents think about Integra, they know we will be responsive, reliable and a great solution for their customer.

Biggest channel challenge: Finding enough time to support everything agent relationships require and continuing to sell new revenue. A large part of being an agent manager is assisting with implementation and general account support. Much of what an agent looks for is your overall support of their accounts and not just the initial sell.

Top channel manager traits: A top channel manager needs to be an advocate for the agent. Relationships with agents definitely perform better if agents feel you are part of their team and want them to personally succeed. Be reliable and responsive!


Steven D. Cawley

Integra Telecom
Title: Senior Manager, Indirect Sales
Years in position: 8
Years in channel: 8
Revenue responsibility: $336,000 in monthly recurring revenue
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager win: 2010

Main channel goal: To create and develop long-term business partners.

Biggest channel challenge: Keeping the agents trained on the ever-changing world of telecom/data communications.

Top channel manager traits: While watching the health of my companys goals, I also work hard to help the agents manage their businesses and to fight for them basically standing up for what is right, fair and good for everyone.

Vin Garofano

Windstream Communications

Title: District Dealer Manager
Years in position: 8
Years in channel: 8
Annual revenue responsibility: $150,000

Main channel goal: We must continue to provide our dealers with competitive pricing, aggressive incentives, unlimited earning potential, a strong product portfolio, innovative product development, outstanding customer support and unparalleled dealer support. Each of these items allows us to build on our current relationships, as well as form new partnerships, ultimately growing top-line revenue.

Biggest channel challenge: Not only is technology changing, but through mergers and acquisitions, Windstream has seen a lot of change. It is a challenge for me to keep my partners trained and up to date on new products, processes and systems. It is my goal to provide my partners with superior support to ensure they feel confident in Windstream and the products and services we offer.

Top channel manager traits: I feel my biggest strengths are my organization, passion for the job, relationships with my dealers, intuitiveness and willingness to exceed expectations. My dealers success is my passion.

Michael Gottwalt


Title: Channel Manager
Years in position: 4
Years in channel: 8
Annual revenue responsibility: $600,000
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager win: 2010

Main channel goal: To provide the best service and training to my agents as possible. Educating agents on our tools allows them to be more successful, which makes me successful a pretty simple formula!

Biggest channel challenge: Helping agents make the transition from transactional products to a more technical level in consultation.

Top channel manager traits: Understanding the products available to the channel, knowing where to go for answers and getting all of this done quickly is what every agent wants. Nobody wants to wait for answers!

Pierre Gustat


Title: Master Agent Manager
Years in position: 5
Years in channel: 15
Annual revenue responsibility: $9 million

Main channel goal: To get the best deal possible for my agents and capture as much revenue for TNCI each month. To continue to build personal relationships within the channel to learn, succeed and advance my career.

Biggest channel challenge: Consolidation of competition. Its hard to keep track of who is in the market and how TNCI competes with each carrier.

Top channel manager traits: I am so not politically correct, it is amazing. I hate PC. Good or bad, I am always blunt. Neither my agents nor I have time to waste. Dont beat around the bush. Tell me what you need and what I have to do to help win the business and Ill walk over the bush. TNCI is a great company, and I fight hard for every deal with which I become engaged. I also fight hard for my agents, and I know thats why I have enjoyed and benefitted from so many long-term relationships. Our philosophy at TNCI is simple: If it makes good business sense, we WILL find a way to get the deal done.

Robert R. Harrison Jr.

Freedom Voice Systems Inc.

Title: Southwestern Channel Manager
Years in position: 2.5
Years in channel: 20+
Annual revenue responsibility: $5 million
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager win: 2010

Main channel goal: My No. 1 goal is to help my dealers achieve their goals, both in business and personally, and to have a great time doing it.

Biggest channel challenge: Staying on the leading edge in both the channel programs and the technology.

Top channel manager traits: If its important to my dealer, then its important to me, day or night. I also have a relentless work ethic! Plus they tell me that Im a lot of fun to be around!

Amir Hojjatnia


Title: Regional Agent Manager
Years in position: 7
Years in channel: 11
Annual revenue responsibility: $1.755 million
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager wins: 2009, 2007

Main channel goal: My main channel goal is to continue working hand-in-hand with my channel partners to ensure that, together, we create win/win/win relationships for each agent, for TelePacific and, most importantly, for our joint customers. To this end, I strive to make myself available to my agents 24/7, providing them with the most accurate and current information available. By demonstrating my unrivaled dedication to their individual needs, I hope to have all my agents think of me first and foremost when they have a customer opportunity not just because I am highly reliable, but also because TelePacific provides premium local and nationwide network services in the marketplace.

Biggest channel challenge: TelePacific’s product and service offerings, as well as our footprint, have grown substantially over the past 12 months. My biggest challenge is ensuring the agent community I work with is armed with the knowledge that TelePacific is truly the best option for a variety of network services. With this in mind, I task myself daily with communicating TelePacifics value as a growing network services and solutions provider throughout my agent community. Sometimes, I think agents may view TelePacific as part of a certain segment or niche, based on our past business model, and it is my goal to educate my agents on our total solution capabilities.

Top channel manager traits: I am available 24/7/365. I also know our offerings inside and out.

Bryan Lawson

Cbeyond Inc.

Title: Channel Manager IV
Years in position: 4
Years in channel: 8
Revenue responsibility: $120,000 monthly recurring revenue

Main channel goal: To strengthen each of my channel partners business by adding value through exceptional sales support. I accomplish this by differentiating myself from other channel managers in the industry and making sure every one of my channel partners knows that I will go the extra mile to help train and support their team. In addition, I am very goal oriented and therefore like to set goals with each individual channel partner. Setting goals with clear expectations of how I will assist in sales and supporting them is key. I achieve results by earning respect and trust, and then delivering and exceeding on expectations. My ultimate goal is to get a channel partner selling proficiently on their own.

Biggest channel challenge: My biggest challenge as a channel manager is training channel partners who are new to the industry or have less sales experience on how to sell.” At times it can be a challenge to articulate the steps to get a sale because most channel partners have created their own way to close a sale that can be different from the way I was trained. Some strategies work better for some than others. My channel partners or subagents manage their teams in different ways to complement their products and services with voice, data and applications that Cbeyond can provide, which makes each channel partner unique in their own way of selling. I enjoy this challenge because it offers me the opportunity to learn from my successful channel partners on what works to close a sale.

Top channel manager traits: My positive, enthusiastic behavior helps me achieve a forward-thinking approach that my channel partners can appreciate. My entire channel trusts me and knows I am going to give an honest answer versus an answer that may lead to a quick sale. Integrity in the channel is earned over time by setting expectations, being dependable and delivering on the expectations set. I also carry a sense of urgency for everything, a personality trait that most great channel managers have. Some examples are creating proposals, returning phone calls, resolving a problem and returning emails. Some may say these are simple or a given, but speed is critical. Creating a proposal with a quick turnaround time is probably the No. 1 thing that one could do to pick up sales in the channel. Doing business in todays market is fast-paced and customers want to make decisions quickly. Lastly, I would say my engineering degree from Colorado School of Mines and my ability to want to clearly understand technology has helped me articulate technical details that allows me to help my channel partner close a sale. I have always enjoyed understanding how things work and it has helped me greatly in the channel.

Maureen McAneny


Title: Channel Partner Manager
Years in position: 4
Years in channel: 4
Annual revenue responsibility: $250,000

Main channel goal: My main goal is to ensure my partners find that working with NetCarrier is a pleasurable experience. Our partners have many options to choose from when it comes to carrier services, and I want NetCarrier at the forefront of their mind at all times.

Biggest channel challenge: The biggest challenge that I face is showing our partners the value of dealing with a smaller regional CLEC versus dealing with the national providers that we compete with on a daily basis.

Top channel manager traits: A top channel manager is someone who can multitask, prioritize their work and, most importantly, be responsive to their partners needs and requests.

Kurt Nelson

PAETEC Communications

Title: Channel Manager
Years in position: 3
Years in channel: 25
Annual revenue responsibility: N/A

Main channel goal: My main channel goal is to make PAETEC Communications my agents’ preferred choice as a carrier and to expand my agents’ [portfolios] to actively include the full range of voice and data, hardware and network services that PAETEC offers.

Biggest channel challenge: Time.

Top channel manager traits: The traits required of any successful channel manager be it me or anyone else are a firm understanding of the company’s products and services; the ability to listen to and understand the agent’s and customer’s individual needs and problems; and the ability to then address those needs through the integration of the agent’s and the carrier’s products and services. I would add to that a good working knowledge of the provisioning process, a base of good relationships with the people who are doing the work, and a commitment to quality delivery.

Tyler Price

World Telecom Group

/ Energent
Title: Agent Sales Manager
Years in position: 2.5
Years in channel: 3
Annual revenue responsibility: N/A

Main channel goal: Ensuring the indirect channel is represented in the most favorable light. I want my partners to realize value in all engagements they experience with me and to view me as an asset to providing the best solution to their customers.

Biggest channel challenge: There are only so many hours in the day. It seems we have been made with this little requirement called sleep, although we never seem to get enough of it! I would say an even field of play is a challenge with many carriers, and it is especially tough with those vendors who still favor direct sales involvement.

Top channel manager traits: Honesty is always important in everything you go about. If you don’t have your word, you have nothing. Also, I think possessing a sense of humor is vital. Taking your self too seriously can come across as insecurity.

Gene Sehl

Integra Telecom

Title: Senior Manager, Colorado Channel
Years in position: 1
Years in channel: 1.5
Annual revenue responsibility: $300,000

Main channel goal: Manage new product rollouts and provide sufficient partner training to ensure effective market penetration. At a higher level, we need to ensure that Integra is the easiest carrier to do business with. This can encompass everything from quick quote responses, accurate address validations, timely pricing requests and superior sales engineering support. Lastly, we need to continue to leverage our unique local support team model.

Biggest channel challenge: Spending enough time in the field, in front of partners and prospective customers, yet maintaining very quick response to quote requests, special pricing considerations and escalations. An effective balance of time spent in and out of the office is critical to channel success.

Top channel manager traits: Integra as a whole strives to be the easiest carrier to work with. I think it is helpful if your personality matches that motto, which I know that many of our channel managers at Integra share. It also serves us well to have a rock-solid support team behind the channel managers. Its a team effort at Integra that, above all else, is the reason for our success.

Eric Solomon

PAETEC Communications

Title: Senior Channel Sales Manager
Years in position: Just under 5
Years in channel: About 8
Annual revenue responsibility: $2 million
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager wins: 2010, 2008

Main channel goal: My goal is to make the entrepreneurs and sales professionals that I work with the most profitable in the industry. Using PAETEC products and resources, I help my partners design and sell business that is challenging, exciting and profitable.

Biggest channel challenge: A large and rewarding challenge this year is keeping up with all of the education that is needed to stay on top. With the growing popularity of cloud and data center services and the various other types of hosted services, we have a whole new section of the menu to add to the solution sale. All the while, I need to stay fresh with information on my partners, competitors and customers.

Top channel manager traits: I approach my position as a channel manager as my business rather than my job. PAETEC is the structure around that business but at the end of the day, I see myself as a business owner. As a business owner, I am concerned about helping my partners and myself make money, helping our customers receive a superior product and creating a reputation that I can be proud of.

Michael Starbeck


Title: Channel Sales Manager
Years in position: 9
Years in channel: 9
Annual revenue responsibility: $49.5 million

Main channel goal: I try to keep things pretty simple and focus on a few main goals. My number one priority is to help my Alliance Members strategically grow their business. Acting as a liaison between my members and CenturyLink, I work to provide whatever training and resources necessary to help them sell. I try to make it as easy and convenient as possible for them to do business with CenturyLink.

Biggest channel challenge: My biggest challenge seems to be trying to personally solve all issues for all of my members. CenturyLink brings a wealth of resources to its Channel Alliance program and I need to better utilize these resources, leaving the work to the professionals in each situation. I catch myself trying to fix issues on my own and getting caught up in the details. Keeping focused on my members business strategies helps me to prioritize better and make sure my discussions with them are targeted on growing business.

Top channel manager traits: I am more than willing to roll up my sleeves and get the job done I do whatever it takes. Being a channel manager is definitely a challenging job! I enjoy working through those challenges together with my peers and my members. Also, I spend a large part of my time face-to-face with my partners. I think that its critical to keep in touch with all my Alliance Members, in person, on a consistent basis.

Donna Turner


Title: Sales Manager
Years in position: 2
Years in channel: 13
Annual revenue responsibility: $5 million
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager win: 2010

Main channel goal: To help my partners be the most successful they can be. My goal is to be as responsive as possible and to find creative ways to add more value than my competitors. I want my partners to think of me as an extension of their sales force, and know that I work for them and will do what it takes to close business.

Biggest channel challenge: My biggest challenge in the channel is balancing the workload and prioritizing my partners needs. I want to respond to each as fast as possible but the high demand can be overwhelming at times, requiring a slower response. I dont like to be the bottleneck in the sales process so I challenge myself every day to be as responsive as possible.

Top channel manager traits: I am known as someone who can make it happen. I listen to the requirements and fight to get my partners what they need. Whether the sale requires a fast install or aggressive price points, I am always willing to rise to the challenge and make the deal happen for my partners. A top channel manager never stops fighting for the partner and wont take no for an answer.

Jeni Weinstein

ACC Business

Title: Agent Manager
Years in position: 5
Years in channel: 12
Annual revenue responsibility: N/A
Previous Top 15 Channel Manager wins: 2010, 2009

Main channel goal: I find success in aligning my goals with the overall ACC Business goals and those of my agents to drive mutual success and deliver with excellence to our customers. My goal is to be a personal representative to my agents of ACCessibilty, ACCountability, and ACComplishment.

Biggest channel challenge: It is an engaging and exciting challenge to keep pace with technology and all the options available to customers to design the ideal solution.

Top channel manager traits: I believe top channel managers need to be available and engaged with each of their agents to understand and leverage their strengths, and to gain that competitive advantage.

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