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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.

Location

333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States

WWW: acer.com

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November 16, 2021 |

Making the Most of the New Distribution

From preintegrated solutions to professional services, distributors offer way more than shrink-wrapped products these days.

WORKING WITH A DISTRIBUTOR used to be pretty cut and dried, recalls Benjamin Pearce. “”You knew what SKU you wanted, so you went and ordered it,”” he says, adding that you may have arranged financing along the way too.

These days, however, a typical distributor isn’t just, per the old saying, “”a warehouse and a bank.”” Instead, “”You’re kind of getting the full implementation of everything IT can do, from the sales cycle to them assisting and implementing it for you if you don’t have that expertise,”” says Pearce, president and CEO of ACP Technologies, an integrator and MSP with offices in New York and Texas.

Benjamin Pearce

Indeed, in a strategic shift that has unfolded across the last half decade or more, established distributors and newcomers to the field alike have expanded well beyond shipping and financing shrink-wrapped products to orchestrating software- and infrastructure-as-a-service rollouts, designing Internet of Things solutions, and installing audiovisual systems.

The challenge for channel pros, in fact, is keeping up with everything distributors are providing these days, a task that’s well worth the time required, according to Todd Crystal, president of Spencomp Solutions, an SMB solution provider in St-Laurent, Quebec. “”Knowledge is power,”” he says. “”If you don’t know what they have, then you can’t sell it and you can’t use it.””

Here are some of the most significant and potentially valuable resources distributors have added or expanded in recent years.

Cloud Computing

The most visible change in what distributors do these days is the addition of cloud vendors to their line card. Traditional broadline distis like D&H, Ingram Micro, and TD SYNNEX, and “”born-in-the-cloud”” newcomers like Pax8, all now offer rich catalogs of SaaS and IaaS solutions from big names like Microsoft and Google as well as lesser known and up-and-coming vendors.

“”I can go to one place and get all of my cloud resources, instead of having to go to many different vendors,”” says David Vu, an account executive at MESHD MSP, of Knoxville, Tenn.

Better yet, most distributors now provide sophisticated, multitenant marketplaces that channel pros can use to bundle multiple cloud products together, roll in their own services, and invoice the client for everything at once.

“”It’s been a big value add for us,”” says John White, managing member at TechBundle, a solution provider in College Station, Texas. “”We can handle all the back end with the distributor and all the client sees on their side is the bill.””

Everything as a Service

Cloud solutions, it turns out, aren’t the only thing businesses like paying for in monthly installments. The predictable, OpEx-based procurement model that makes SaaS applications so appealing is driving increased demand for subscription-priced hardware and on-premises software too.

“”It makes it easier for them to budget and balance out finances per month, instead of paying one giant lump sum,”” Vu notes.

D&H, Ingram Micro, TD SYNNEX, and others all now offer as-a-service purchasing options alongside more traditional leasing programs as a result.

Solutions

Perhaps the biggest, most strategic shift all of the broadline distributors have made in recent years is from shipping products to building solutions. Indeed, several distributors no longer even call themselves distributors anymore. “”We’re much more what I consider a solution aggregator,”” says D&H Co-President Dan Schwab, invoking a label that premerger Tech Data embraced years ago.

Todd Crystal

The difference, Schwab and others say, is that rather than simply sell you a collection of hardware and software, distributors can now preintegrate those components for you and provide detailed deployment instructions and associated sales and marketing materials as well. The “”ready-to-deploy”” security, Internet of Things, and other solutions Tech Data began rolling out earlier this year, which were in turn inspired by the “”click-to-run”” cloud and IoT solutions the company has been issuing since 2019, are examples, as is the storage/BDR solution Ingram Micro released in partnership with Veeam and Zadara this March.

Channel pros like Vu appreciate the convenience. “”It’s all essentially one SKU coming from them,”” he says. “”I push a button, it works.””

Explaining preassembled solutions to customers is simpler than handing them a lengthy bill of materials too, Vu notes. “”It makes buying easier for them and selling easier for me.””

Distributors can make buying and selling easier for partners even when they don’t have a ready-made solution in stock, notes Crystal. TD SYNNEX’s “”Solv”” groups, like the COLLABSolv unit for collaboration and VISUALSolv team for digital signage and Pro AV, provide guidance that channel pros can draw on when designing and delivering customized solutions.

“”There are all these different areas where they have experts,”” Crystal observes.

Services

The professional services that leading distributors now offer make delivering solutions easier for channel pros as well. Crystal, for instance, often calls in service professionals from TD SYNNEX for cost-effective assistance with tasks like wireless network surveys that he only performs occasionally.

“”You don’t need to hire a guy who does wireless surveys if you’re only going to do it three times a year,”” he says, noting that’s especially true at a time when qualified employees of all kinds are scarce.

Bringing in outside experts can impress clients too. “”My customer looks at me and says, ‘Wow, you’re only two guys at your company, but you have all these resources,'”” Crystal says. “”It gives me credibility.””

So does associating his company with the TD SYNNEX name, he adds. “”I’ve never asked to white label anything,”” Crystal notes. “”I like to tell my customer up front my partner is the No. 1 distributor of IT in the world.””

To date, Crystal has been pleased with the know-how and professionalism of the TD SYNNEX service providers he’s been assigned, but he’s aware that your results may vary. “”Do your due diligence,”” he advises. “”Ask for references, see how much things cost, and see if it makes sense for your business.””

Asking questions of your distributors more generally is a good habit to get into, Crystal continues, because they’re constantly adding new resources that could be of use to you.

“”You just have to engage with them to see what they can offer beyond buying memory and a monitor and PCs or servers,”” he says. “”Really, they can do everything for you.””

Image: iStock


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