Why is it that, unless you really press them, dealers won't speak up for themselves? It's little wonder so many vendors and distributors have problems meeting their needs. In my experience, just about every method in the book fails to get an intelligent or comprehensible response from the reseller community.
Invitations to write letters, join societies, take part in debates, or even to ask questions at the end of a serious debate fall on stony ground.Why?
Do dealers have no opinion on anything? That's not it - they have an opinion on almost everything. Or is it because they don't think?
It's time to start thinking, though. If you don't, you'll always be struggling to break out of the low-price, low-margin cycle. You'll always be firefighting instead of making good profits and enjoying life.
However, I have to say that most vendors and distributors are useless at listening to dealers and responding to their needs. They pay lip service to the idea but don't give resellers what they need.
One distributor told me the other day that he did not believe resellers really knew what they wanted. And perhaps he's right. At a recent discussion on smaller dealers, it was clear from the conversation that many resellers simply did not know about certain vendor programmes designed to help their types of businesses.
At recent organised speaking events on such important subjects as TCO, SME businesses and the year 2000 problem, many vendors did come along, but attendance could have been better. And did resellers have questions at the end of the debate, at a time when vendors were on the spot, unable to dodge questions? Of course not.
In the past, attempts to get resellers to write in with their points of view or air them publicly have mostly failed. In fact, reseller opinion is normally expressed only under duress. When smaller dealers do air their views, it becomes clear that vendors are still not doing enough and information flow is a major problem. Small resellers are so busy problem-solving that they have no time to concentrate on the information they receive.
Websites have helped tackle this problem, but there still needs to be more contact with a helpful and knowledgeable person from the supply side. Who should do this job? The obvious answer is distributors. But what are they doing about it? Installing electronic ordering systems.
That's not the answer, or at least it's only a small part of it. Dealers need more co-operative marketing support and strategic help. They are beginning to recognise this and it's time for distributors to start providing the service and for vendors to support them. It's time to stop worrying about quarterly unit volumes and price competition and start working together - without hang-ups about commitment.
Simon Meredith is a freelance IT journalist.
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