As more manufacturers jump on the accreditation bandwagon, it raises the questions: Have I aligned myself to the right manufacturer?
Is it right to align yourself to one manufacturer? Am I benefiting from the time and financial commitment I have made to this manufacturer?
Let me go back five years. Integrated Options had been trading for a year, selling anything to anybody just to get a small foothold in the market. The first year's results confirmed we were doing the right thing, so we sat down to decide whose products we were to focus on, how strong their channel was and how it was going to benefit us.
Decision number one - hardware, servers, desktops and notebooks. Do we align ourselves with one manufacturer for each, or one for all products?
Do we choose a market leader with a strong brand, good channel, not much focus, but with sales opportunity through its market position? Or do we choose someone focused, but with little chance of winning the race?
We decided to join the Compaq associate programme - now known as the system reseller programme.
We went about evangelising the Compaq name, retaining good margin, and the brand accounted for about 70 per cent of our Intel-based hardware business.
We grew to a strong position, selling effectively against other brands, training many sales, technical and customer service staff, and fighting off attempts from direct manufacturers. We moved into Compaq's top 10 in the middle of last year, and the brand accounted for 80 per cent of Intel-based hardware sales.
But then Compaq announced a direct sales centre in Glasgow to combat direct manufacturers.
What now? Had we made an awful decision five years ago, which we were about to pay for? All that time and money, and now it was going to sell direct? We were called to Richmond and asked to pilot with the connect centre.
Six months later and it is time to reflect on the effectiveness of the direct sales centre and what it has meant to Integrated Options.
It has made a huge difference in focus from the manufacturer. From a company that has been famous for its market arrogance, we now have a number of people focused on growing Compaq business, even to the extent of having someone to represent us in front of the user.
We are receiving qualified sales leads over the internet, leading to sales opportunities of a reasonable size, and are being protected on a database which has our name as the incumbent reseller. It is evident that Compaq is genuinely interested in selling its products to people that have a requirement for less than 500 machines.
So it works at the moment, but what does the future hold? Is this the first step towards selling it directly? My belief is unchanged. The market is going to remain competitive over the next five years, users are looking for systems, not just boxes, and the only way to deliver these is locally through an indirect partner.
Direct sales don't understand the requirements for a system, and don't have the breadth of products to provide one effectively. We need to understand that market leaders are in their position, not just through products, but through effective marketing and brand recognition.
It's time for us to take advantage of these marketing machines and start to make them work with us and for us. It looks like the decision we made was the right one. It is helping our business grow profitably and with the close attention of one of the biggest players in the market.
Andy Travers is managing director of Integrated Options.
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