Value added distributors make their mark

Market dynamics are changing. Networking has become much more complex, as have convergence, IP communications and security. Vertical markets are requiring tailored technology and industry expertise, as opposed to generic horizontal solutions. If you want to sell into the forestry sector, for example,

you have to know a lot more than just routers and switches.

To win over customers in these areas, resellers need to offer advanced technology and industry expertise – breaking down the technology and helping customers understand what it can do for their business.

Vendor-sponsored educational seminars generally focus on their own product lines and don’t necessarily provide the most objective view of the total solution. This is where a value-added distributor can step in: to bring together knowledge about multiple vendors and tie it into a total solution.

Westcon Group, for example, is a distributor of networking and communications products from the likes of Cisco, Nortel and Avaya. It started offering specialized “sales engagement training” for resellers in its Voda One, Westcon and Comstor divisions to help resellers seal the deal in specific areas of expertise.

Voda One’s seminar is designed to help resellers sell integrated Avaya solutions to vertical markets, such as insurance, retail and health-care sectors. Within Voda One is a dedicated group that focuses on the SMB market to help VARs who have little experience with convergence.

Westcon’s seminar focuses on Nortel IP telephony products, while Comstor’s seminar focuses on Cisco’s SMB IPT technology. While the seminars offer product education, they also provide sales training where participants practice sales presentations and deal with customer resistance.

Distributors can also help VARs by offering products and services through specialized divisions. Ingram Micro, for example, offers data capture, point of sale, wireless and enterprise mobility solutions through its Nimax division. It’s aimed at helping resellers move into new markets, such as supply chain logistics and manufacturing.

Ingram recently started offering a wireless switch and access ports from Symbol Technology through Nimax. Symbol sees opportunities for the channel in the area of wireless infrastructure, particularly in the SMB space, and its products are used in a number of verticals, like retail, transportation, warehousing and health care.

This is where educational seminars and specialized divisions can help resellers learn about new markets or advanced technology, and how to approach customers with a total solution. Selling convergence solutions to SMBs, for example, requires a different skill set than selling to large enterprises. And government has much different requirements than the private sector. The health-care sector, in particular, needs partners who understand the particular requirements of that environment. The key to success is focusing on solutions, rather than just trying to push product to resellers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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