Over the years, the term added-value has been kicked about by the computer business like an unwanted football. Vendors pass it to distributors that pass it to resellers, but there are so many different angles on what added-value actually is, that the term is in danger of becoming meaningless.
It's now time for someone to take ownership of the phrase and attach a definitive, meaningful label to it.
Traditionally, identifying true added-value among a multitude of offerings has been something of a hit and miss operation, where neither side seems to knows the target. If a reseller is not able to identify what it is a distributor means by the term value-add, how can a true value be placed on it?
Similarly, if no one understands how added-value is to be applied to the sales and ordering process, why should anyone bother to ask for it?
From a distributor's point of view, added-value should have one aim - to enhance the profitability of the reseller. In other words, it should provide a series of business-driven - as opposed to marketing-driven - service and support offerings that enhance a reseller's ability to: win a sale, support its customers and make some money on the deal. Now, if that sounds simplistic, I make no apologies. The fact is, the subject really doesn't need to be more complex than it already is.
Resellers will buy from a distributor because they need product with which to fulfil an order. Resellers will buy from that same distributor a second time for a variety of reasons, such as price and delivery. But they will also look closely at the range of additional services the distributor can bring to the table - such as product expertise, consultancy, pre and post-sales support, installation, maintenance and training - all intangibles, until the time, that is, when they're needed to complete a deal.
So, if we now have some meanings to wrap around the phrase added-value, the next step is to deliver it. Too many distributors have attempted to introduce added-value programmes with no substance to them and have fallen at the first hurdle - which is that of practical use and effective delivery.
The delivery aspect is simple. Delivering a business-driven initiative is far easier than delivering a marketing-led one. But ensuring the offering is of practical use is another issue.
Historically, none of these offerings have enabled resellers to go out and win more business. Although many have been geared towards enabling the distributor itself to win reseller market share, few have played a material role in helping resellers hook and retain new customers. Surely that must be the primary focus of any distributor's added value service offering?
Ilion's view is that the term added-value has been left drifting unguided and unwanted through the channel for too long. It's time for someone to place a stake in the ground and specify what added-value means - not just for our own sake, but for vendors, resellers and other distributors.
Added-value must be seen as tangible, visible and beneficial to resellers at every stage of the sales process. It should be the process by which products and services are measured, and by which a distributor's performance and ability is judged.
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