Analyst firm Canalys recently outlined its predictions for the channel this coming year. I would like to comment further on several points.
Canalys says resellers need to specialise
If resellers are to specialise, they will inevitably need to make some up-front investment. After all, they will want to differentiate themselves from their competition. This could prove costly if they attempt it on their own. Getting the right skills in place to have specialist expertise is also time-consuming.
These days resellers should be able to look to their distribution partner to provide the commercial and technical training to give their staff the necessary skills. It is in everyone's interest to have well-qualified pre-sales support staff to ensure that the client is advised correctly before investing in a particular technology or solution.
If they choose to specialise by partnering with a specialist distributor, they should look for one with high levels of market experience that will help position them in what could be an already established market.
A distributor should be able to help with new business development and branding activities to create awareness and start to feed leads into the sales cycle. If they can brand a set of established whitelabel services from their distributor as their own, there is less up-front cost and risk as they enter a new area.
They must ensure, however, that the services come complete with terms and conditions and service level agreements (SLAs), full documentation and marketing collateral to keep the up-front costs to a minimum.
While a partner is coming up to speed, its staff will inevitably need extra help and advice. Where a distributor can really add value is by providing specialist staff to shadow the reseller during sales visits, product installations and suchlike.
Once products and solutions have been implemented, resellers should make sure they have a reliable service and support infrastructure (including managed services, 24x7 help desk and so on). Again, it is unlikely the reseller will be able to afford to carry the cost of this, so it should look to partner with a distributor.
If they are to become specialists, resellers need to feel comfortable and assured that their distribution partners understand their business and their specialism. This only comes from a partner who is prepared to take the time to understand the reseller's business and goals, and who specialises in the desired area and therefore can offer the right level of support and guidance.
Canalys says media tablet devices on the rise – tipping them for 64 per cent growth by volume
I say that smart pads, like other mobile devices, need to be secure and this emerging market is a good opportunity for the channel. Many of these devices are now being used in earnest in the business world, often without the knowledge of the IT department.
The channel can provide real value by helping customers understand related security threats and how they can be mitigated. This may be through the use of security products, consultative advice, and through offering help on rolling out policies and procedures governing the use of such devices.
Canalys notes that budget cuts will be a key customer concern
Although some customers may be facing cuts, this can actually present some good opportunities if the channel is flexible in its approach. Resellers should think about how they can prove a strong return on investment (RoI) for new technology purchases.
If they can demonstrate RoI, customers will continue to buy. Also, if the partner can provide offerings through opex budgets, this may appeal to many customers in the current climate, perhaps by providing managed or cloud services or flexible leasing programmes.
Resellers shouldn’t forget the importance of maintaining a strong relationship with their customers and being regarded as a trusted advisor.
Customers want their suppliers to bring them new initiatives and technologies as the customers often do not have the time themselves. Help customers to consolidate and use technology as a business enabler.
Canalys says that resellers will have business concerns linked to globalisation
These can include issues such as managing local cultural and legal rules and expectations, as well as unpredictable environmental and travel disturbances, making spend and budget unpredictable.
Although there are various things to bear in mind when partners are looking at global customer business, I believe the resellers that can handle it will be in a strong position.
There has been a definite trend towards globalisation of the supply chain over the past few years as customers seek to collapse their supply chain and the number of partners with whom they work.
So I believe that resellers should work with a distributor with both local coverage and understanding of the global market. A true VAD with well-integrated offices in different locations can help with everything from marketing to logistics and post-sales support, reducing the risk in going abroad or even global.
Dave Ellis is director of new technology and services at Computerlinks
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