Margaret Clair has been a Zifter since 2010 and has seen her fair share of change since Zift Solutions’ beginnings. When a company goes from a start-up with a handful of employees to a global organization with over 150 team members working for the top channel chiefs, there’s bound to be at least a few. Margaret currently serves as the Director of Channel Engagement, a department that works closely with partners to train, troubleshoot and guide them to success in the Zift platform. Read on to learn how she and Channel Engagement contribute to Zift’s vision — and channel partner and supplier success.  


How does Channel Engagement contribute to Zift’s overall vision?

The Channel Engagement team are the folks who work directly with partners — we’re hands on with them. When you consider a successful channel program, the key component of success is whether partners are using it. It’s essential. By enabling and training the partners, or in some cases, actually acting as a concierge service on behalf of the partners, Channel Engagement brings that component into action for suppliers.  


How did you find your way to Zift Solutions?

I was working part-time from my home for a GSA Consultancy and volunteering in my community — things like the local theater and community center and the PTA and the school board. I was really working more than full time as it was! My husband said, “If you are going to work all the time, why don’t you do it and make money?” Naturally, I said, “Well, that’s an interesting idea.”

I was job hunting around the time Zift was launching Channel Engagement (or what we then called Partner Development) as part of Sales. I live in Virginia, close to Chief Revenue Officer Bryan Ferren, and he hired me as one of the first two Partner Development Representatives.


How did you become Director of Channel Engagement?

My role at Zift has changed over time as has some aspects of the Channel Engagement Manager position, but Channel Engagement has always been the partner advocate at Zift. We try to provide the voice of the partner to the overall company and to each of the suppliers who provide our services to their partners. That advocacy role — that aspect of the job and the chance to work with this great group of people has kept me at Zift and, happily, I have been rewarded with increased responsibility as well. As the company has grown, the opportunities have continued to grow for me as well, which is great.


What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Good question! The Channel Engagement team works with thousands of partners across the globe, not only helping them use the Zift platform, but also helping them understand the value of these tools for building their sales pipeline. We need to be an expert resource for the partner on the software, the suppliers, and channel marketing in general to bring value to our partners.

From day to day, this could mean meeting with a customer to help them define their partner onboarding process, or it could be holding a training session with my team on CRM integrations or troubleshooting a new campaign or feature release on the software. Essentially, I try to facilitate the work of my team.


Any tips to share with readers on marketing?

One tip I have for suppliers: understand that partners market pretty much the same way you do,  except maybe they aren’t as effective. Maybe they lack expertise or financial resources to support a full-on marketing program. They work really hard to create business for themselves selling your products and services, so they send revenue your way as well.

I would also say to be patient with your partners. It’s good to have expectations and guidelines for them to follow, but they can’t always do everything you want them to do in the timeframe you’d like. They may not have the resources, knowledge or expertise to follow through with specific activities. If you cut partners off too early or say, “You absolutely have to do this task in a certain timeframe,” both partners and suppliers can suffer — neither gets the revenue they’re seeking. Partners require flexibility from suppliers. Flexibility is key to long-term, successful channel relationships.

Oh, and keep promoting your program to partners!


What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I like to run, both for fitness and fun. It helps me stay sane. I’ll sign up for races every now and then, but I’m a firm believer that slow-mo is better than no-mo. I also spend a lot of time with my family.


What’s your favorite charity?

The International Rescue Committee, or IRC, is one of my favorite organizations. They help refugees worldwide, from getting them to safety to helping fund education and financial independence. They do a lot to support women, in particular, sending girls to school and helping mothers and that’s important to me. I also am passionate about safeguarding the environment, especially locally. I support Wild Virginia, which is a local, environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of wild forested areas.

Want to find out more about our Channel Engagement team? Contact us here to find out how they can help energize your channel program — or leave a comment telling us about your own experience with the team.