Tell us about your professional journey. What led you to Zift?

Heather Tenuto, Chief Revenue Officer for Zift: I started my career in technology but I was an English major in college and always wanted to be a teacher. After a few good years selling data center infrastructure, I joined a program that let you get your Master’s degree while teaching in a hard-to-staff public school. 

That program was crazy and awesome. I taught high school English in Manhattan and realized that I enjoyed teaching as much as sales. So when I got out of the program, I moved into sales consultation, where I found success with growth companies who were “too busy selling to change the way they sell.”  It became my tagline and I joined businesses where I could make an impact. 

In 2007, one of my clients, M5 Networks, convinced me to come on board full time. I made my way to the senior management team and we sold the company in 2012 to ShoreTel. With both M5 and ShoreTel, my role was to optimize revenue. Essentially, I was always asking the question: How do we sell more, faster? That led me to channels and I served as ShoreTel’s Channel Chief for 4 years. During this time, I learned that running a successful program was all about showing return on investment, not only to our business as a supplier, but to the partner community as well. When I learned about how ZiftONE could support these efforts, end to end, and create success for Channel Chiefs and the businesses they worked for, I had to become a part of it.


What do you like best about working with Zift thus far?

Without question, the people. Zift feels like home to me. The second thing is this: The channel ecosystem is evolving quickly. A solution that takes the complexity out of managing channel programs is game-changing for brands. For every second of overhead we save a partner or supplier, they get to invest more time with the customer, the end-user of the product or service, who has never been more powerful. Suppliers and partners should be spending their time on high-value activities like customer acquisition and customer experience, not fumbling with multiple portals, complicated MDF approval processes, or searching for content. ZiftONE is the first platform that offers that kind of shift for the partner/supplier relationship. 


What are you most excited about in terms of working with Zift, product-wise or culture-wise?

Unlike our competitors, Zift had the courage and insight to rebuild our platform from the ground-up. Everything a supplier needs to engage partners, drive revenue, and show return on channel investment is NATIVE. This happened because our culture thrives on helping channel companies have successful outcomes. This culture drives our marketing, sales, support and importantly, our product roadmap. When a supplier chooses us for what we are today,  they get to be part of the journey as we evolve with the channel ecosystem. 


With the new decade on us, where do you think the channel is headed in the next five years? 

  1. I mentioned before that buyers have never been more powerful than they are today.  In the next 5 years, we will see suppliers and partners will work more closely together to make sure that the customer sees the value in working with indirect channel partners and how 1+1 can equal 3. 
  2. There will be a lot of pressure on channel chiefs to show a faster return on their company’s channel investment and a huge dependence on tools that will help them get there. When a new channel chief asks me for advice, I tell them, “Whatever it takes, you must become your CFO’s BFF.” (That’s Best Friend Forever.) 
  3. There will be a palpable shift in how customer-facing partners choose suppliers. They will be driven more by successful outcomes for their customers and less by supplier incentives. 


Do you have any thoughts on women in the channel, progress over the last decade, and new opportunities for women to step up?

This advice could benefit anyone, but especially women: Have a more holistic view of your entire company. Really understand the metrics and the goals, and align your channel strategy with it. Understanding your business, and how it contributes to the overall success of the company is good. Being able to communicate that message early and often is better.  

The best piece of feedback I ever got from a boss was when I asked him what I would need to do in order to get his job one day. He was SVP of Sales at the time. I expected him to say that I needed to spend more time in the field. He didn’t. 

 “You need to understand the balance sheet better.” He said, “I think you’re lacking a little bit on the finance side.”

He was right and I knew it.  I went back to school to fix that. The result was a much better relationship with my CFO and more support for our channel efforts.  Like I said before, Channel Chiefs and CFOs = Best Friends Forever. 


Have any questions or thoughts for Heather? Leave a comment below — we’d love to hear from you.