Office Depot’s Tenuto: ‘Move Up the Stack!’
“Channel Partners who have been riding the wave of low-hanging fruit are going to be in trouble if they aren’t already,” warns Heather Tenuto, vice president of sales for SMB services at Office Depot.
Her advice: Channel partners should move the technology stack and think in terms of providing services not only to IT departments but to line-of-business owners as well.
If you didn’t know, Office Depot offers a wide variety of services to partners. Think of them as an opportunity to offload the low-level work that is no longer core to your business, allowing you to focus instead on far more sophisticated, high-margin services that embed you far more deeply into your customers’ business strategies.
“Technology decisions are being made by heads of sales and marketing,” Tenuto says. “You have to get up the stack where you’re helping those business owners make technology decisions which tend to be more complicated and require more integration and a little bit more support. Find your place there.”
Acknowledging that the transition to cloud computing has all but ended infrastructure technology sales, Tenuto suggests that there is more opportunity in helping customers select applications and platforms for higher-level business needs.
“Basic desktop support and security [aren’t] going to be your bread and butter for too much longer,” she adds.
Another challenge? Dealing with the growing number of small customers who have multilocation needs. They require far more sophisticated networks than what MSPs are accustomed to. But there is money to be made in handling their needs, Tenuto says.
Find Your Niche
“The way to survive in the channel is to find your niche,” Tenuto says.
That’s a familiar refrain to Channel Futures’ regular readers. We’ve all heard it said that you can’t be all things to all people, but the real point is that you don’t want to be. Much like the medical, legal and finance professions, the day of the generalist is fading. Specialists are on the rise.
“Pick your place where you can be the expert and own all the applications,” advises Tenuto. “By own, I mean be knowledgeable about them. MSPs who focus on legal startups or manufacturing come to know that space and can provide extraordinary support throughout the business.”
Tenuto goes further to suggest that your area of focus should be narrow. She also acknowledges that this is no easy task.
“You can’t throw a wide net and provide managed services to everything you catch,” she intones. The further challenge is that focusing on a specific niche or vertical market requires marketing, demand generation and sales resources that many smaller MSPs and VARs have never had to have before. Generating demand within a narrow niche requires far more sophisticated resources.
What to Throw Overboard
Another important step is to determine what commodity services can no longer be provided profitably. Too many partners hold on to these services, perhaps not realizing that they’re losing money on them. Instead of doubling down on these services, they should redirect resources to the higher-revenue, higher-profitability services further up the technology stack.
Tenuto, for one, points out that “overboard” doesn’t necessarily mean …