The ‘Secret Sauce’ to Long-term Channel Relationships
As the pace of business continues to increase in today’s market, a new breed of partnership is emerging between traditional security product manufacturers and distributors.
End-user customers are much more educated about the products they purchase than ever before and security integrators are challenged with providing a broad spectrum of complete solutions at ever-decreasing margins. Successful distributors are doing much more than just providing credit and managing logistics.
During the past 10 years, channel relationships in the security industry have evolved, primarily influenced by the economy and the need to go the extra mile for seamless deployment and customer satisfaction. Historically, there was often an underlying concern that a distributor may sell direct and disrupt the channel model. Today, there are a small number of forward-thinking manufacturers and distributors that are working to change the traditional partnership approach.
Currently, many manufacturers view their distributors as strategic partners, helping to craft effective go-to-market strategies for specific solutions. Distributors are now providing value-added services such as custom packaging and pricing, which enables manufacturers to offer highly specialized marketing programs for their integrator partners.
3 Keys to Partnership Building
At VideoIQ, we have seen firsthand the importance of working closely with our distribution partners to drive new business. What are the key elements to a successful partnership? Trust, communication and programs.
Trust is paramount in any relationship. Without it no plan, no matter how artfully designed, will succeed. Manufacturers need to trust that a distributor will protect the channel sales model by not selling direct to end users, and distributors need to trust that information shared with a manufacturer will not be used to cut them out of the mix.
As channel relationships evolve, more and more focus will be on developing strategic partnerships and building relationships that can deliver custom solutions, demand creation and customer satisfaction. For manufacturers and distributors to achieve this, trust is the first element and the most crucial step. There is no middle ground here. You either have it or you don’t, and without it you cannot move forward together.
Communication is the second most powerful element in these relationships. The old adage “communicate early and often” definitely applies here. Partnership managers need to have a strong enough relationship with each other that no issue is allowed to fester for too long and no idea is abandoned simply because it has not been attempted before. Both sales and support teams must understand the nature of the relationship and be able to communicate the value of that relationship to the integrator base as a whole.
We have learned it’s important to reassure the integrator channel that working with a distributor does not mean forsaking interaction with the manufacturer. The partnership should provide more value to the integrator, not less, because as the customer continues to expect easy-to-install end-to-end solutions, manufacturers and distributors working together will have a much greater impact on meeting that need than either will in isolation. In the end, the goal is to provide the customer with the right security solution with the best experience possible.
Programs are what ties everything together and are critical to the success of both the channel relationship and customer satisfaction. As mentioned earlier, distributors are already providing value-added services such as custom packaging, network services and premier pricing to integrators. The manufacturer needs to connect the distributor to both the integrator and end user with targeted marketing collateral, custom solution kits and joint account management services for larger integrators.
Well executed programs build the bridge between the integrator and the distributor, and ensure the customer receives all the benefits of the solution and the best possible customer experience. This year, watch for more integrated programs to be developed between distributors, manufacturers and integrators.
In closing, success in this new paradigm is neither easy nor a given; it requires a lot of hard work and a commitment to building relationships throughout the ecosystem. The recipe for the secret sauce can be elusive, but if you figure it out the benefits to everyone in the supply chain are obvious. Happy and satisfied customers — whether they are channel partners or end users — will be the main driver of growth in the future. Everyone benefits in this new paradigm.
Christie Walters is Senior Director of North American Sales for VideoIQ.
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