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Partnering for Success: 4 Tips to Get the Most from Your Distributor Relationship

22 Oct, 2007 By: Robert Duchess imageSource

Partnering for Success: 4 Tips to Get the Most from Your Distributor Relationship

Are you getting the most from your distributor relationship? While business
partnerships between small resellers and distributors have traditionally focused
on the moving, managing and monitoring of products, distributors are now
beginning to take on an expanded role by serving as full-service solutions
providers to even the smallest independent. At the same time, they are offering
more ways to remove costs from traditional distribution practices - all while
increasing efficiency.

Distributors are uniquely positioned to help bridge the gap between document
solutions manufacturers and small resellers who typically fall off the
manufacturers' radar. This comes not a moment too soon as expensive, complex
product inventory, lean margins and increasing customer demands have
collectively placed small resellers at a significant disadvantage, especially
against much larger competitors such as national chain stores.

Consider the fact that many large document solutions manufacturers choose to
maintain direct relationships with only the top 10-20% of their highest
producing reseller accounts, and it becomes readily apparent that small
resellers can be shortchanged on the deal, ultimately lacking the
manufacturer-given benefits and resources needed to help compete on even

Distributors are stepping up to the plate to fill the void, increasing their
offerings to help small resellers take their business to the next level. Through
proven processes, vast product knowledge and established support systems,
distributors can quickly help small resellers establish footing and become
competitive with Goliath competitors - driving margins, increasing revenues and
bolstering customer satisfaction in the process. Here are four ways distributors
can make a positive impact on your business:

1) Extending bulk purchasing discounts

For small resellers, buying in bulk to obtain volume discounts has been a
challenge to date. Orders are typically fulfilled as they are taken, and housing
a large inventory of expensive devices such as $6,000 network printers is not
only uneconomical, but often proves logistically impossible. Forming buying
groups with other small resellers is an option, but it’s often a complex process
that can be difficult to navigate and maintain.

Because distributors purchase products in bulk on behalf of many resellers,
they often have the ability to pass on savings to every customer regardless of
size or sales volume, typically driven through a short application and
certification process. Out West, Southern California-based OA Supply
International serves as a great example of a small reseller fully leveraging the
bulk pricing opportunities extended by their distributor. For them, working with
a distributor (such as New Age Electronics and Sharp products) has saved them
thousands of dollars annually on document solutions while enjoying fast access
to readily available inventory. Consider putting this type of benefit to use.

2) Improving logistics management

A number of distributors maintain strategically located warehouses or
distribution centers and can ensure product delivery in the matter of just a few
short days, even directly to your customer’s office complete with white glove
delivery and installation services included. Looking to your distributor to
provide safe, timely transport and installation services can lessen the burden
on your organization, providing piece of mind and freeing up time to let you
focus on other more important areas of business operations such as sales and
customer support.

3)Providing product education and training programs

Digital office devices
have become increasingly complex and are now commonly installed as a standard
part of the office network. A pressing need exists for resellers to become more
than just an extended sales function on behalf of a specific brand. Post-sales
product support represents an opportunity to open up significant new revenue
streams through extended service offerings to customers.

Through their relationships with manufacturers, which often include product
training direct from the OEM, distributors are uniquely positioned to provide
small resellers with the training and education needed - not only in terms of
general device maintenance and repair, but also in respect to networking devices
into the office place. Leverage these types of online or on-premise training
programs to create strategic advantage for your business.

4) Expanding device offerings and product support

The drive toward solution
selling can be difficult for small resellers to navigate. With so many device
options available today, it's  critical that resellers  are armed with 
information needed to help customers understand how different products address
their unique business needs.  

Distributors maintain the product knowledge and inventory required to help
resellers remove uncertainty from the end-user purchasing experience, and often
provide a dedicated account team to your business along with 24/7 access to help
answer product-related questions.  Customers should be encouraged to check 
contracts  thoroughly  before signing any product-related agreement with a
specific brand, especially if it involves a monthly or annual sales quota.

In the case of smaller document solutions resellers needing to obtain
significant product pricing discounts that they were unable to achieve on their
own, along with the needed product support and education in light of growing
customer requests, establishing a good  relationship with a top distributor can
help them fill a growing opportunity to provide extended service offerings to
meet their unique customers' needs, particularly in the area of networking
devices into the office place. In the case of California company, Arista, the
product education and training they received from New Age helped them to open
new doors by way of post-sale services and support programs, helping to further
increasing revenues while bolstering their customers' satisfaction.

“Arista has enjoyed tremendous success by focusing first and foremost on
customer service over the span of three decades,” said Gene Brooks, Arista sales
executive. “As solutions have become increasingly expensive and complex, it
became apparent that we needed a reliable partner who could help us keep our
costs manageable & service offerings ahead of the curve. For us, New Age filled
that role, becoming an important extension of our business. It's good to know
that we can count on our distribution partner to achieve continued success.”
This is apparent in the sales help Arista is benefiting from 24/7- certainly a
win-win proposition for all.

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