Ingram Micro Doubles Down on SMB Partners

The distributor introduces its SMB 500 and offers a host of tools and resources to drive partner success. By Cecilia Galvin

Distributor events get partners pumped up and excited about new programs, new vendor offerings, educational sessions, and learning from other resellers. But when partners get back to work and the phone starts ringing, it's often back to business as usual. The messages from the event begin to fade. Resolve for change weakens.

To help get that energy flowing again, here's a conversation I had at Ingram Micro Inc.'s 2012 SMB Fall Invitational with Kirk Robinson, vice president and general manager, Commercial Markets Division, and Jamie Ferullo, director of sales, SMB Business Unit, about the new Ingram Micro SMB 500, the event in general, and some trends they're tracking for SMB resellers and MSPs.

ChannelPro-SMB: In the general session, Larry Walsh, president and CEO of market research firm The 2112 Group, provided a lot of information about your partnership with his company and the 500 Ingram Micro partners who attained a certain level of success to be counted among that SMB 500. How do these 500 resellers differ from their peers?

Robinson: I'm going to take it back a step further, which is the reason for the SMB 500. Jamie and I, Larry [Walsh], and a few others talked about creating the Ingram Micro SMB 500 for the sole purpose of [finding out] what are the dynamics in the SMB community that lead to stronger growth.

"We are in the forefront of looking at the differences between someone who has the SMB 500 on their badge and someone who doesn't." Kirk Robinson

We built the list over the past couple of months by looking at our accounts and coming up with the metrics that we wanted to hold true moving forward. The way I personally look at this Ingram Micro SMB 500 is every year it's going to become more powerful because of Larry's qualitative research, matched up with the quantitative data from our business intelligence center. We are in the forefront of looking at the differences between someone who has the SMB 500 on their badge and someone who doesn't.

But now the fun work begins - now we're diving in. We have a base of information from our business intelligence center that helps us understand products and solutions being sold into the end-user community. We have all the Dun & Bradstreet data so we can [for example] break vertical markets all the way down to the type of office under healthcare.

So that's the journey we're on - to be able to get this information and over time, like compound interest, we're going to be so smart around SMB because we're watching, we're interviewing, we're talking, we have that quantitative data, [and] we can talk to [partners] about the things they are doing as a company that wouldn't show up [in the quantitative data], to really be able to help our partners and the vendors.

I don't know that I can sit here today and say here's exactly why number 47 is different from number 501 other than the quantitative data that says their growth did not enable them into the top 500 and a couple of metrics we used. But we launched it and we're off to the races.

ChannelPro-SMB: What do your partners want to take away from the event so they can get on the SMB 500 list next time?

Ferullo: The partners realize the market opportunity that exists within the SMB space. However, a lot of these partners are very small businesses themselves, and it's clear that they wear multiple hats all the time. So I think they're looking to see how they can leverage our tools and resources along the way to give them some additional scale, reach - be an extension of their business. I think that's what they're trying to understand - what tools and programs we can offer them that are going to be the best fit to help them capture market opportunities.

ChannelPro-SMB: What are partners learning from the Ingram Micro breakout sessions?

Ferullo: As an example, we had a breakout session trying to articulate the value we can bring to the SMB channel. We walked them through the life of the sales cycle and the different elements we can help them with, whether that's creating expertise based on a technology or a vertical market or helping them build demand in the marketplace to fill up their sales funnel.

Then, once that sales funnel is full, how we support them on a pre-sales solution basis and then what we can do to support them after the sale - the partners as well as their end clients.

So from a very high level, we articulate that regardless of where partners are in the sales cycle, we have tools that can help them.

ChannelPro-SMB: How is that message being received?

Ferullo: I thought it was eye opening. It's exciting and I guess for lack of a better word, concerning at times, because we have all these great [programs and resources] and [partners are not aware of them]. So you see their eyes light up and they start taking notes and following up with you after the session asking additional questions: Who do I talk to, how do I get more information on that? How do I take advantage of that program? But I think that's the purpose of these events - to provide the education and [raise] awareness of what we can do for them.