The distribution sector is fiercely competitive and the key players in the market are always keen to win a Channel Award. Every year, the category is contested more strongly and every year the benefits of winning seem to multiply.
One familiar face on the podium in the past is Computer 2000 (C2000). Alice Smitheman, product marketing director, said that winning awards over a successive number of years has helped the company to build a strong reputation in the long-term.
“For C2000, winning at the Channel Awards means a good deal,” Smitheman said. “It is a powerful testimony to the fact that we deliver services that resellers genuinely value and helps us to maintain our visibility as the leading distribution services company in the UK IT market.
“The fact that we have now won the main distributor award for eight years in succession also underlines some of our core strengths – consistency, reliability, stability and our ability to constantly innovate in sales and marketing, and to drive business growth for our reseller and vendor partners alike. We’ve also won a range of category awards over the years and that’s a reflection of another C2000 strength; our ability to provide real focus in key markets.”
Similarly, Bell Microproducts felt that the recognition it received at the 2006 Awards was significant.
Alex Tatham, director of commercial products at Bell Micro, said: “Becoming Software Distributor of the Year when Microsoft is scrutinising its channel is a key benchmark to the company’s progress last year. A Channel Award is considered a critical success factor for our business. We will go all out to win further awards this year and show how we deliver real value to the channel.”
Clearly it is important for the major distributors to be seen to be competing for awards and C2000, Bell Micro and Ingram Micro are often on the short lists. But while they will always be among the favourites to claim mainstream awards, they cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
Last year’s winner of the Systems and Components distribution award, Entatech, shocked many in the channel – although not the firm’s commercial vice-president, Jon Atherton.
“For us it was a confirmation of our arrival in the big league,” he said. “I think many people had regarded Entatech as a second-stringer until then. Now we are definitely recognised – by both the vendors and resellers – as a serious player.”
Winning this award has made a real difference to the company over the past year, according to Atherton.
“It has undoubtedly helped us as a business and changed the attitude towards us in the industry. That said, we have stuck to our principles and we continue to treat everyone in the same way – with honesty, integrity and a personal touch. In fact, winning has made us do that even more because the award has shown everyone that it really does work.”
Entatech is perhaps one of only a dozen or so companies that last year competed with the big three for the more mainstream category awards: Systems Distributor of the Year; Software Distributor of the Year, which was won by Bell last year; and Networking Distributor of the Year, which was won by Azlan – part of the C2000 group. However, with Entatech winning last year perhaps more changes are on the way this year.
Competition is also very strong in the Security and Storage categories. This makes winning even more valuable, said Dave Ellis, director of e-security, professional services and training at Computerlinks, winner of the Security Distributor of the Year award last year and, as Unipalm, the two consecutive years previously.
“Getting an award once is great, but doing it again is a fantastic endorsement for our people and business model,” Ellis said. “The security market is a very dynamic, fast-moving and strong area and I think the calibre of the short-listed distributors showed that last year.”
James Ward, managing director of Hammer, which last year collected the Storage Distributor of the Year award, agreed. He said winning a Channel Award is very important in enhancing the company’s profile as a specialist distributor.
“A Channel Award is much more than just ‘nice to have’,” Ward said. “Its high industry profile has meant that customers and partners are aware of it, have remarked on it and, most satisfyingly, confirmed that our success was deserved. And because the Award was voted for by our customers, it proves that our proactive, independent approach is recognised as adding real value in the storage market.”
The Specialist category is one of the most keenly fought because all distributors that have an identifiable specialisation can enter. This means that audiovisual distributors are competing with companies that operate in the voice sector, in hand-held technology, in printers and peripherals and even in areas such as educational software or broadband services.
Nick Culley, managing director of Midwich, was delighted to pick up this award last year. “We are a competitive bunch at Midwich and truly passionate about our business,” he said. “Beating our targets and giving great service is rewarding, but there’s something special about gaining recognition ahead of your competitors.”
Two of the most valuable aspects of winning a Channel Award for a distribution company are the effects it has on perception among resellers and on staff morale – and the bigger the Channel Awards becomes, the more of an impact it has on the winners.
“We definitely seem to have had far more remarks and positive comments from customers over the past months after winning an award again,” Ellis said. “This must be due to the sheer size of the Channel Awards and how it has developed over the past few years. Many of our partners have also won awards or been short-listed and they have also acknowledged the value that they can get from being recognised in this way.”
Culley agreed. “We’ve had some very complimentary feedback from our existing customers and the award can help to win new business,” he said. “If anything it keeps us on our toes to continue to deliver a great service to all of our business partners.”
The positive effects are also felt inside the business. “We find that staff really do get inspired by winning and feel that it brings the team together,” Ellis said. “This is a company award and reflects the service that all staff give whether they are at the sales ‘coal face’ or involved in back-office functions such as operational or logistical roles.”
It also demonstrates that the company can deliver for partners and makes vendors more eager to open up discussions about new prospective business for distributors.
Ward said: “It not only encourages individual staff at a personal level, it is also very good for helping us to build stronger partnerships with vendors and resellers.”
One way or another, distributors feel that a Channel Award is something that is well worth winning.
CEO Graeme Watt admits the trading climate is becoming a little more uncertain as he and CFO Graham Charlton reflect on the reseller's £1bn year
Security vendor appoints Infinigate as part of strategy to grow channel business
As the trade war between the US and China ramps up, Marian McHugh investigates what impact this will have on UK prices and how partners are adapting to higher costs
CRN quizzes Avaya CEO Jim Chirico on the firm's progress after exiting Chapter 11 earlier this year, and listing on the stock exchange