Distributors Push Past Margins
The wholesale distribution channel essentially serves as a frontline in the dynamic electronic security industry. Executives from leading distributors discuss market conditions and their role in providing value-add services to their integrator partne
[IMAGE]12045[/IMAGE]“Dealers are offering complete solutions for security, temperature controls, lighting controls, home automation, whole-house audio and more,” he says. “Remote control and access from smartphones or mobile devices are making this technology more desirable.”
Although installed A/V product sales have been flat, Flink reports, rising consumer confidence is expected to fuel new growth. “New media and technology, such as streaming video and music, will open up opportunity for dealers to call on their previous customers to offer these solutions,” he says.
A Recipe for Partnership
Educational offerings and value-add services comprise the foundation on which distributors build and maintain a relationship with reseller clients. The underpinnings an integrator can expect from a distribution partnership can include prompt delivery, same-day or next-day shipping, systems design consultation, warehousing, flexible credit financing, affinity programs and more.
“Installers and resellers can get the most out of their relationship by leveraging all of the value-added services provided through their distributor partner,” says James Rothstein, executive vice president of sales and marketing, Tri-Ed/Northern Video Distribution. Training offerings that help keep integrators ahead of the technology curve are key, he says.
To help its clientele keep pace with networking applications, for example, Tri-Ed/Northern Video Distribution is once again hosting its North American IP Video Technology Tour. This year the series will feature a Level II, Electronic Security Association [ESA]-certified training class. Here, dealers and integrators can learn about the Open System Interconnect (OSI) reference model, IP naming structure, network design best practices and switch basics. Level I classes, which focus more on networking basics, are being offered upon request.
ADI also offers numerous educational opportunities at its branches across North America with a focus on helping its clients discover new growth opportunities. The company’s Expo Training Series and other education initiatives at the branch level trained more than 16,000 dealers in 2010, Flink says.
“As a free event, the ADI Expo provides dealers with the opportunity to see and test the latest products, participate in interactive displays and training seminars, receive hands-on experience and spend time with leading manufacturers,” he says.
ADI also teams up with vendors and industry associations to host a variety of educational opportunities each week at its more than 100 branch locations, all of which include a dedicated training room.
Among its assorted value-added se
rvices, ADI provides a Systems Sales & Support Team to help design installations and quote projects. A project registration program allows dealers to gain exclusive discounts from more than 50 industry-leading suppliers.
A noteworthy benefit dealers can receive through a distributor is improved cash flow. Because some dealers often operate from project to project, a distributor may allow dealers same-day pick-up or next-day shipping.
“If you couple that with credit terms, partnering with a distributor can help dealers better invest in their long-term growth strategy,” Flink says.
The assumption may be that most dealers and integrators take full advantage of what all training and other value-add service opportunities exist through their distribution partner. Not so, according to Bozeman.
“In many cases, for instance, the integrator does not take the time or make the effort to get properly trained. This is a huge mistake that the good integrators do not make,” he says.
PSA supports its more than 200 systems integrator members with assorted educational opportunities, including occasional Webinars and other online coursework, vendor product training, and its annual PSA-TEC weeklong conference. All of these offerings are open to nonmember systems integrators as well and cover everything from manufacturer certifications and general IT to managed services and financials.
Further emphasizing a team-minded philosophy, Sorrentino suggests integrators should look to foster a distributor relationship in areas of their business they may have not considered prior.
“Resellers should allow their distributor to handle the back-office functions so they can focus on what makes them money, which is finding new business,” he says. “By sharing as much information upfront about their business, a value-added distributor is able to fully understand the reseller’s unique needs and provide the value-added services and support that are the best fit, such as custom configuration, design support, networks assessments, marketing assistance and training, among others.”
As an example of its touring educational curriculum, ScanSource’s training workshops and events focus on the benefits of selling IP and the technology in general. The company continues to bring new custom configuration and network assessment offerings to its customers based on end-user customer needs, including services such as configuration, labeling, video assessment, site surveys and more.
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