New Products + Service = Distribution Solution

Give the customer what they want. This motto holds true in any industry when talking about consumers or end users. They are free to choose products and services, along with any other support they might need, from a variety of manufacturers seeking their business.

This same scenario exists for security dealers, who purchase products and services from distributors. Like end users, dealers have limited budgets and, as a result, shop around to find a distributor that can provide them with the latest in products and services vital to them, such as inventory, technical expertise and support and customer service.

All of these aspects are especially important since many traditional security installers are beginning to offer everything from integrated systems to home automation.

Conversely, distributors small and large say they realize the importance of giving the dealer what they want. Distributors want to make sure that dealers have as many avenues as possible for their services when it’s time for them to order and install products.

Keeping Abreast of Digital Products, Pricing

In competing for dealers, distributors have to keep prices low to maintain their client base. And, with products evolving and systems integrating, distributors are keeping pace by offering the latest in products.

Although some of the products may still be considered too pricey for many dealers, distributors know that prices are always decreasing day by day. Once the costs seem reasonable to dealers, they will go to their distributors first.

Currently, the big buzzword is digital recording. Technology in general is always evolving and digital is the latest; but also, the prices have come way down on a lot of items, such as multiplexers and VCRs.

If a dealer is handling a complex system or a system with new technology, a distributor’s technical department is often available to help out. However, if the system is too difficult, distributors will get the dealer in touch with the product’s manufacturer. Many distributors claim they don’t end their interaction with the dealer at this point.

When it comes to home automation, a lot of dealers are becoming involved in at least some aspect of the market, whether it involves structured wiring or intercom systems. With the economy at a slower pace, some distributors are feeling a decline in product ordering for home automation.

While many distributors have been offering home automation for years, some are feeling a bit of a loss in sales because these systems are still considered more of a luxury item. That is why distributors have technical support staffs to provide dealers with a wide range of expertise to discuss details of a job with one person. This keeps dealers from having to speak with a fire systems specialist, a separate CCTV specialist or some other specialist with knowledge limited to one area.

Tech Support, Job Size Affect Dealer Choice

Whether it’s for one-stop shopping or technical support, dealers have their own reasons for choosing certain distribution companies.

Dan Nolan, president of Dodge Protective Services in Cleveland, purchases his products from a local, one-branch distributor and two national distributors, which have branch locations close to his business.

His choice for a distributor mostly depends on the product he needs for an installation, but he also emphasizes the importance of being able to receive technical support once a system is in place.

Although Nolan receives technical support from all of his distributors, he says he will go through one of the national distributors if he is installing a large system. For some of the products he purchases, such as DVRs, he’ll call the manufacturer directly because they know the specifications and applications of the product.

Douglas Horine, owner of Electronic Solutions Plus in Portland, Ore., says he prefers to go directly to his current distributor for technical support, something he says he could not get from his previous distributor.

Dealers truly value the services they receive from their distributors, but when it comes to certain installations, products or situations, they also have other options for assistance.

There are some dealers who would rather go directly to manufacturers because they believe they provide better support.

Distributors Value Their Dealer Relationships

As with manufacturers, distributors are keeping up with the evolution of technology in many ways. Large and small, distributors across the United States are offering technical support, training courses, educational seminars, even custom-designed systems, and are focusing on good customer service to retain dealers. They want their dealers to experience one-stop shopping with them, which keeps business relationships tight and benefits both the company and the dealer.

Again, with the current slow-paced economy, using distributors makes even more sense. Dealers don’t have to invest in having inventory on their shelves, which avoids having to see 400 different salespeople from 400 different manufacturers. After all, time is money. Plus, the need to diversify into other growing markets, like structured wiring, requires training that dealers might not necessarily know where to access.

In addition, many distributors now offer educational and training classes to keep dealers updated on the latest in product technology and installation. Some companies even offer product testing done at their own testing facilities to ensure their dealers are receiving a working product.

Distributors come in all shapes and sizes. There are national and independent distributors that specialize in one or all of the industry segments, and there are companies that have a nationwide chain of branch locations, while others operate and distribute from their headquarters.

On average, big distributors can provide a larger range of products from more manufacturers than small distributors. While the smaller companies can give more personalized attention, some dealers prefer large distributors with numerous branches because they know they can stop by a local branch to pick up last-minute products. This also avoids dealers from paying freight charges on products.

Other installers prefer dealing with small distributors that do not have regional branches because of lower product prices, since billing and product inventory is handled in-house. But, most importantly, dealers will do business with distributing companies that pay close attention to their needs.

Whether servicing a regional part of the United States or the entire country with numerous branch locations, distributors are transforming themselves into a one-stop shopping place.

Sometimes, Distributors Miss the Mark

Throughout a dealer’s lifetime, he or she will go through a number of distributors before finding one that suits his or her needs best. In that process, dealers have accumulated a war chest of good and bad experiences from distributors.

One of Nolan’s unpleasant experiences dealt with an alarm panel during Memorial Day weekend. It was a combination burg/fire panel that crashed in the night, but, through his personal resources (other installers in the area), he was able to fix the panel.

Nolan says that on-call weekend hours or 24-hour support, as far as he knows, hasn’t been available to him by distributors or manufacturers. That’s why small dealers like him rely on other dealers for technical support after-hours.

Distributors Keep Up With Evolving Technology

Through the years, distributors have come a long way, just like the products and services they offer. They are not viewed as just the middleman in the industry food chain.Dealers are searching for a company that can fully support them and, most importantly, can understand their niche market and other needs.

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