What to Look for in a Distribution PartnerWhat to Look for in a Distribution Partner
Perhaps the most important relationship a solution provider has is with its distribution partner. The right distribution partner will not only deliver the right products at the right price, but also be able to offer other critical services to help accelerate business.
December 11, 2013
Perhaps the most important relationship a solution provider has is with its distribution partner. The right distribution partner not only will deliver the right products at the right price, but also be able to offer other critical services to help accelerate business.
There was a time when distributors were measured primarily by their ability to pick, pack and ship. Getting the right product and the least expensive price to the right destination was the value. And this needed to be done on a massive scale, covering thousands and thousands of SKUs.
But times have changed, and solution providers now look to their distribution partners as just that—partners. The ability to accurately pick, pack and ship is still a necessity, but it now is considered a given; it’s the other services and intangibles that separate one IT distributor from another. The key is to find the right distribution business partner that meets your needs.
No two solution providers are the same. Their skill sets, customer base, technology focus, scale and services all vary to a degree. As a result, solution providers have different needs when it comes to their distribution partner. Because of this uniqueness, product depth is critical. Your distributor must have the vendor relationships to carry the specific products needed. Price isn’t always the deciding factor here, but the confidence to be able to get the unique product out the door.
The distributor’s current channel customer base also should be taken into consideration. Are there like companies in its network that gives you the confidence the distributor understands your business and customer needs? Does it have special programs or sub groups that align these similar businesses so you can leverage each other’s buying, knowledge and services if needed?
Also, is there diversity in the distributor's channel network? In other words, does it have solution provider partners that offer services that you don’t, thus creating partnership opportunities? For instance, if your expertise is more on mobile integration and device management, does the distributor also have telecommunications-specific solution providers that can offer carrier relationship services to your customers? Your distribution partner should be a conduit to more business and an avenue for you to align with other solution providers.
There are few other services where distributors differentiate themselves and can add a lot of value. What training and education does your distribution partner offer around new technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, mobility, managed services and so on? Solution providers are notoriously poor marketers, so how can your chosen distribution partner help with business development services, marketing and pre- and post-sales support?
Today’s IT distributor no longer can rely just on its supply chain efficiencies. Solution providers need to evaluate the other services offered that meet their specific business needs.
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