Distribution continues to be a tough business. But it is also vital to the day-to-day operation of the channel. Quite simply, resellers could not function without the stock-holding and credit services that this tier of the channel provides.
By encouraging excellence in the delivery of these services and the many others that the distributors provide, the Channel Awards provide a tangible recognition of that contribution.
The Awards also encourage distributors to deliver an even better service. For the winners, they certainly seem to be a guard against complacency distributors are renowned for their competitiveness and every year we see the same names appearing on the shortlists Azlan, Bell Micro, CMS Peripherals, Computer 2000, Computerlinks, Entatech, e92plus, Hammer, Ingram Micro, Micro Peripherals, Midwich, and Westcon/ Comstor all feature on a regular basis and can be expected to be in the mix again this year.
Once they have a taste for winning, they always want more, and that drives individuals and the company as a whole to work harder.
“Our staff enjoy the competition and thrill of the Awards,” said Nick Culley, managing director of the winner of last year’s Specialist Distributor of the Year category, Midwich. “In the face of intense price competition from broadline distributors we want to demonstrate a place in the market for privately owned customer-centric value-added distributors and the best way is to stand up and be counted on your quality of service and overall proposition.”
Andrew Shepperd, director of Azlan UK, which won the Networking award in 2007, agreed. “It is a market and customer endorsement,” he said. “It says ‘well done and thanks’ to our people and confirms our pedigree to the market. That means it supports internal morale and gives new customers the confidence to work with us.”
The motivational impact of winning a Channel Award for a distributor cannot be over-stated, Culley added. “There is an immediate and very positive reaction and everyone appreciates the award recognition. A CRN award is widely recognised as a significant achievement and it is marvellous for team morale.”
There are other spin-off benefits that come as a result of the boost that an awards triumph brings, noted John Toal, European director of Enterprise at Bell Micro, last year’s winner of the Storage Distributor of the Year award. “It is a recognition from the industry peers, associates, colleagues that reinforces the message that Bell Micro is a key player. For our people, it is motivational to be part of a winning team and for our resellers it is an endorsement that our approach to business is the right one.”
While it is impossible to pinpoint the exact value that winning in the Channel Awards delivers to the business, David Ellis, director of e-Security, Professional Services and Training at holder of the Security Distributor of the Year award, Computerlinks, has no doubts about their value.
“Experience has shown that an award gives massive credence to our business, particularly when talking to new customers and vendors that have not dealt directly with us in the past. With existing partners, it reinforces the fact they have made the right choice to work with us. If I equated the benefits of winning an award to other forms of channel marketing, we would probably have to spend tens of thousands of pounds to get similar levels of impact.”
Making any kind of impression on what is now a more mature channel community and one in which operating margins are thin, is not easy. Distributors must offer good competitive pricing and virtually faultless order management and delivery now and provide services that deliver real value to resellers.
Listening and responding to resellers is important, said Alice Smitherman, product marketing director at Computer 2000 (C2000), which claimed the Distributor of the Year award last year. “We have always tried to listen to our customers and adapt our services to meet their needs. We run frequent, in-depth customer satisfaction surveys and work hard to keep partners informed of what we offer. It is important that we clearly communicate the true value of C2000, the only specialist broadliner, and this willingness to listen and respond to the changing needs of the market is what ensures our continued success.”
Making a difference in distribution is now as much about the attitude and approach that a business takes to doing business, as it is about the efficiency and effectiveness of its processes. Simply entering for the Channel Awards makes an important statement about your business, said Shepperd: “It is not just about effort to win the award, it is about sincerity of valuing the interaction and resulting business with our customers. It is about meaningful engagement over the long term.”
Winning is something you cannot take as a given any more than you can take any customer’s business as being assured at any time, Smitherman concluded. “We are extremely proud of our award wins, but, you cannot win anything unless you have the support of resellers and industry partners and that is something we never take for granted.”
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