Office Depot’s Tenuto: ‘Move Up the Stack!’
… firing customers. Her advice is to find resources with the economies of scale to continue delivering commodity services at a profit. Let others pay you a commission for those referrals. Most important, says Tenuto: “Find a partner for commoditized services that is committed to working with the channel.”
Partnering with Suppliers
Tenuto’s “chicken-and-egg” advice is to determine where your niche lies, then find applications and tools to help you win it. Don’t build your niche around a specific supplier or you may end up finding yourself unable to disentangle from them should you need to.
“You want to have more than one partner in your chosen space,” says Tenuto.
This also means that you’ll probably be addressing multiple needs in your niche, which expands your revenue opportunity.
“You want a supplier,” says Tenuto, “that has channel account managers (CAMs) that are invested and knowledgeable on how to help you run your business.”
This brings a deeper, more robust meaning to the word “partner.”
“That person is very different from a person who’s going to help you close a deal,” she is quick to point out. “As a supplier, it’s very expensive for me to provide both. Lots of overhead.
“You have to be very specific about what you need from those resources,” she adds, offering advice to channel partners when working with suppliers. “You always know what your business needs better than your CAM does. You should be empowered to ask for very specific help. Content. Identifying ideal profiles. Partners should be empowered to ask for that kind of help, but you have to prioritize because resources are slim. We can’t be everything to everyone but we can help partners who know where they need our assistance.”
On Being a Better Partner
Office Depot, Tenuto says, needs healthy partners, especially partners that are diversified.
Given that resources are scarce, it’s important to develop a strategy that emphasizes that your company is worthy of greater allocations. Tenuto values communication, feedback and transparency.
“We want to know that partners are not just being opportunistic, but are engaged with us — partners that really understand the solution,” she says.
Tenuto also prefers partners that match her financial investments with investments of their time and energy.
“We spend a lot of money on training; show me that you care,” she says. “Make investments of your time and effort. We like to see artifacts of engagement — regular meetings with your CAM, doing the training, asking for specific help.”