Channel Chiefs Address ‘Chasm Between VARs and MSPs,’ Revenue Challenges

Business Network and Communication

Four channel leaders are leading their teams through a “wave of disruption.”

A roundtable of channel chiefs at Channel Partners Evolution in Philadelphia will feature Heather Tenuto, Office Depot‘s senior vice president of sales for SMB Services; Tina Gravel, Cyxtera‘s senior vice president, global channels and alliances; and Eric Martorano, Intermedia‘s chief revenue officer. Richardson Communications president and founder Rachel Thornton will moderate the session, part of the revenue and supplier conference track, sponsored by Cyxtera, Thursday, Oct. 11.

The four experts answered a few questions from Channel Partners about the trends they’re observing in their industry.

Office Depot's Heather Tenuto

Office Depot’s Heather Tenuto

We have edited the transcript for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: How have you witnessed partners evolving in the last year?

Heather Tenuto: From my vantage point, I’ve seen channel partners take a long hard look at their role in the customer’s buying journey. In an “as-a-service world,” where more IT buying decisions are being made by line-of-business executives, many channel partners are realizing they can’t be everything to everyone. This manifests in a few ways. Some channel partners are going deep on targeted products and services, providing a complete solution where they are client-facing along most of the buyer’s journey. Other partners are expanding the breadth of services they represent, which requires them to partner with and trust suppliers in new ways.

Tina Gravel: Fortunately we are seeing more partners embracing our more innovative technologies around hybrid cloud.

Cyxtera's Tina Gravel

Cyxtera’s Tina Gravel

Eric Martorano: Partners are, more than ever, looking to identify ways to differentiate themselves in an ever-changing, and increasingly competitive, market. And this is all happening, in large part, to increase customer value and share of wallet, deliver profits to the business and grow market share.

Rachel Thornton: I still see a chasm between the VARs and MSPs trying to figure out how to sell the as-a-service model, [and] traditional agents still struggling with moving away from traditional telco products to cloud and security products. I believe the industry as a whole is evolving and the providers are collapsing their product portfolio into a simpler offering, which makes it simpler to sell advanced or new products.

Intermedia's Eric Martorano

Intermedia’s Eric Martorano

CP: What’s a major obstacle that your partners face in today’s industry?

HT: The opportunity for channel partners today is found when they can find and deliver their unique value to the buyer. The channel partner needs his or her own sustainable competitive advantage that rises above the ones touted by their suppliers. The customer has many buying options. Why buy from you today? Tomorrow? And in three years when I am up for renewal? For some partners, the answer could be found in the verticals they service or in the complexity created by the sheer number of cloud solutions being offered, and then how they can potentially work together. Simply put, differentiate or die.

Richardson Communications' Rachel Thornton

Richardson Communications’ Rachel Thornton

EM: Deteriorating profits. Many vendors promise high margins, but at the end of the day, by the time partners are done selling these products, marketing these products, handling billing, support and service, these “high” margins quickly deteriorate. Partners are looking for vendors who are committed and invested in their success, allowing them to keep their margins and maximize their profits.

RT: Staying relevant. Creating and maintaining value within existing customer base.

TG: Just about every company I know is facing …

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