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.
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.
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.”