Distributor Update: The quest for quality

Vendors are looking for quality over quantity when it comes to recruiting reseller partners – and now distributors are catching on to the trend.

Ingram Micro has launched an alliance program in an effort to target specific vertical markets. It’s not looking for large numbers — just

a few focused partners for each vertical segment.

This follows a general trend we’re seeing in the vendor community of providing more value to a smaller number of partners, while in turn looking for more specific requirements of those partners.

The distributor’s SMB Alliance program is focused on eight vertical markets, including education, manufacturing, legal, graphics, medical, resources, accounting and financial.

As part of this targeted approach, the distributor plans to recruit 300 VARs, although the core group will consist of only 120 VARs — with each vertical segment having 10 to 15 dedicated partners.

This is, obviously, good news for smaller, more specialized resellers, who will be provided with the tools and support they need to go after specific business opportunities. It’s not such good news for resellers who haven’t caught on to the “”quality over quantity”” trend and are still trying to make a living off product margins.

Many resellers have complained about the high costs of acquiring and maintaining product certifications from vendors. But this program provides training at no extra cost to the reseller. Finally, a program that rewards resellers for taking on additional training to become more specialized — by not making them pay for it.

The SMB Alliance program goes above and beyond traditional distribution programs by focusing on specific solutions for end-user customers. Instead of looking at ways of appealing specifically to resellers (such as product rebates), Ingram is looking at the bigger picture by appealing to vendors, resellers and end-user customers.

As part of the program, Ingram has partnered with 21 vendors including HP, Microsoft, Cisco and Symantec, among others.

This is a benefit to both vendors and resellers. Vendors can go after specific verticals without the cost and hassle of doing it themselves; Ingram will take care of recruiting and training VARs.

And resellers get the benefit of wide support from 21 vendors, with free training from Ingram, allowing them to pursue specific business opportunities.

This is where quality counts, not quantity. With all players in the channel working together to provide specific solutions, it could be a blow for direct sales models.

What does this mean down the road? Perhaps this type of program will be imitated by other distributors, as they move toward a “”quality over quantity”” approach.

We might see more comprehensive programs for resellers not just from vendors, but also from distributors – bringing players together across the channel.

In other news, Tech Data is enhancing its Licensing Online (LION) tool, a Web-based configuration and ordering tool, to improve its end-user quoting capabilities.

This is another example of making life easier for resellers, while providing a direct benefit to the end-user customer — at no extra cost.

LION allows resellers to research and place orders from multiple vendors, receive automatic warranty authorization and generate quotes immediately from one location.

This should make it easier for VARs to research products and access information related to orders – something both resellers and their customers will appreciate.

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