Ingram Micro has one main piece of business advice for anyone in the audience at its ONE partner conference in Orlando this week who’s nervous about the looming prospect of a recession: cash is king.
“Especially in times of economic uncertainty, it’s really critical to focus on cash,” said Kelly Carter, CFO and vice president of Ingram Micro Canada, during a keynote presentation. “You don’t know what headwinds are going to be facing your business, so you need flexibility and cash gives you flexibility.”
Sensible advice, but at odds in the minds of many channel pros with the equally compelling urge to capitalize on what Ingram itself says is continued demand for IT products and services in a wide range of markets. Carter, who spoke with ChannelPro yesterday, sympathizes.
“The smart financial move for a company is to conserve their cash,” she says, “but you don’t want to stop growing.”
The answer, Carter and others at Ingram contend, is to tap into distributor financing. “You keep that cash in your business, but you can still grow,” Carter says.
Ingram has been making that case for years, noting as it did at ONE this week that partners who use financial solutions grow 25% faster than those who don’t. The current economic climate, however, has it dialing up the volume even louder.
“Heading into economic uncertainty makes it even more important that they’re thinking about these things,” Carter explains.
Ingram’s latest vehicle for extending cash flow, which it’s highlighting at the conference, is an offer good through the end of the year to delay payment on purchases made now for 90 days. Subject to credit approval, the promotion applies to both fair market value and $1 buyout leases attached to deals valued at $1,000 and up.
“It’ll push their payments into 2023, to give their customers time for their budget year,” says Melanie Delvalle, Ingram’s director of customer finance.
Utilizing finance programs does more than help channel pros conserve cash though, she and Carter emphasize. It also allows them to offer their clients more payment options. “Now they’re not just selling that technology solution,” Carter notes. “They’re part of that whole buying process and bringing value to the end customer.”
Customers every bit as eager as their technology partner to conserve cash are likely to be even more appreciative of that value, she adds. “Especially in this climate, they may want those long-term financing solutions.”
Getting financing through distributors has other advantages as well, Carter continues. Ingram and companies like it tend to approve loans, leases, and other offers more quickly than banks. They tend to offer partners better interest rates as well.
“Ingram is not trying to make money on financing. We’re trying to enable the growth of their business and the growth of Ingram, so we’re passing through the lowest financing rate that we can pass through and have that contract work for us,” Carter says. “That type of financing isn’t generally available out there.”
Even MSPs can work with Ingram to strengthen their balance sheet, Carter continues, noting that Ingram can pay them a fourth, half, or even the entire lifetime value of a services contract upfront, using the contract itself as collateral.
“We’re not really financing anything,” she says. “We’re funding the future payment stream of their contract.”
Xvantage, the “digital experience” Ingram rolled out earlier this year is making it easier for partners to request financing online, Carter adds. “It’s really just taking a lot of the stress out of the business,” she says. “They don’t have to call and follow up.”
The data pool and artificial intelligence built into Xvantage are enabling Ingram to raise credit limits for partners automatically and proactively as well. The company has already given 400 partners credit increases totaling over $18 million just in the few months since Xvantage launched.
“We can see what they have in the pipeline, so we have an understanding of the business that’s going to be coming,” explains Delvalle.
Additional functionality allowing partners to bundle financing into solutions at the same time they place orders and through the same interface is on the Xvantage roadmap. “They’ll get the financing quote along with the product quote,” Carter says. “It’ll just be part of the sales process.”
Until then, Delvalle urges partners to speak with a financial solutions rep now about their hopes and fears for 2023 and beyond.
“We’ve all been running so fast for the past couple of years. Now it’s time to just take a pause and evaluate your business and the goals that you want to achieve,” she says. “Then we can work through a roadmap together on where they can leverage funding for their business and financing for the technology.”