Several years ago, people sounded the death knell of IT distribution. But instead of reading its obituary we have seen its rebirth, founded on new levels of value provided to resellers and end user customers.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of storage where the conversation has moved on from storage capacity to business issues such as continuity and compliance.
The shift from vendor-push to customer-pull has been the major catalyst for change. Many end-users have become savvy and specialist, demanding that technology helps them achieve business efficiency and competitive advantage.
Consequently, more resellers are specialising in niche technologies and vertical markets, adapting their business models from pure reselling to solutions provision. As their world has changed, so has the conversation, from “part numbers” to delivering “consultancy” and “business value”.
The demands made on the distributor by this new breed of solution-based reseller is for comprehensive portfolios of multi-vendor hardware, software and services, supported by product knowledge and expertise.
If a distributor provides training and accreditation services, that’s even better, and we have seen a new breed of distributor evolve – the consultative distributor.
At Magirus, we believe that profitable, long lasting reseller relationships are forged best by equipping partners for new market needs.
This is vital. Increasingly, customers demand solutions that integrate virtualisation, storage and security technologies.
Virtualisation, for example, will often dictate dramatic changes to an organisation’s storage strategy.
The role of the consultative distributor is to help enable resellers maximise their existing strengths while extending their skills to capitalise on new opportunities.
Distributors therefore must engage resellers at a business level, providing support.
The Magirus vision for consultative distribution aims at achieving a best-of-breed portfolio of established and emerging hardware, software and services.
A consultative approach is vital. This is about listening and asking questions; developing an in-depth understanding of each partner’s strategy, then offering the combination of technical, market and business development knowledge that helps them realise their objectives.
Strategic business planning is always important, particularly when a business is undergoing transformation. Taking time to work through market plans, impart knowledge and, at times, just being a sounding board can pay dividends.
One must not overlook partner enablement. Proactive skills transfer, mentoring and pre- and post-sales support are crucial for nurturing businesses and important for those entering new segments for the first time. When entering areas such as storage and virtualisation, the learning curve can be steep.
Finally, partner marketing is important. Whether promoting a new bundled solution or assisting a partner to develop case studies and marketing campaigns, good marketing support builds strong links between the distributor and reseller and can improve sales.
Determining a distributor’s value proposition is important. The goalposts may have moved but that is only because the rules of the game are different. It is still distribution, but not as we knew it.
Andrew Binding is vice-president for northern Europe at Magirus
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