The role of the distributor has morphed over time beyond its logistical roots. Instead of just an order fulfillment warehouse, today’s value-added distributor has become a strategic partner to the solutions providers it serves by not only supporting traditional hardware and software businesses but also their migration to newer managed and cloud services business models.
“We still need to be able to execute on the core distribution fundamentals our partners depend on us for every day, but now we need to incorporate new offerings to help our partners adapt their businesses to accommodate the new market opportunities that exist today," said Brian Cuppett, vice president of sales for distributor ScanSource Communications.
Rick Boone, president of NETXUSA Inc., a distributor of VoIP products, agreed. “The role of the VAD is currently going through a change. I personally shy away from the term VAD today because every distributor that can put a label on a box correctly calls this a value and deems themselves a ‘VAD.’ The role of the VAD is far more."
So what is the role of the VAD? Channel Partners spoke to several leading VADs and found that they are supporting their VARs not only with more comprehensive post-sales functions incorporating auto configuration, installation and tech support, but also increasingly in pre-sales functions like training, sales and marketing, and even business planning.
Pre-sales Support. “To help our partners sustain long-term business growth, we believe a VAD must be able to help its partners on the business planning side and execution of those plans as well," said Cuppett. ScanSource Communications, for example, has instituted Business Development and Partner Services teams through which it helps VARs build marketing programs to achieve business goals. ScanSource also can aid in the execution of those plans or outsource the program all together.
Robert Messer, president of IP telephony distributor ABP International Inc. (dba ABP Tech), also said that VADs must help resellers with more marketing and lead generation than in the past. “We are actively involved in growing our resellers’ market shares through lead generation, training and presales support," he said.
ScanSource also has created a training series called Planning4Profit to help VARs improve their own business development skills. The program walks partners through each step of the sales process — prospecting and qualifying, selling on value and closing the deal. “Through programs like this we believe we can positively help our partners improve their business practices, which helps them toward long-term business growth," Cuppett said.