This article originally appeared in the November 1, 2017 Channel Executive Magazine.
I interviewed Stanley Louissaint, principal and founder of FLuid Designs, and Mike Bloomfield, president geek of Tekie Geek, about the value of distributor relationships.
Louissaint is principal and founder of Fluid
Designs (www.fluiddesigns.com), a New Jersey– based managed services provider offering comprehensive computer, server, and network support services for managing computer information and technology systems.
Bloomfield is the president geek of Tekie Geek (www.tekiegeek.com), a managed services provider in Staten Island, NY. One of Staten Island’s most-trusted IT advisors, Mike has a passion for business continuity, network security, data security, and IT infrastructure.
Q1: Distributors have been part of the channel from the beginning. Now that software and cloud application vendors are easily able to work directly with their partners and cut out the middleman, can distributors still be relevant and add value?
LOUISSAINT: The answer to me is yes because distributors do add value. They let you know when there are bundles, discounts, or promotions on items you buy. They can add value by introducing new products and services.
It’s not just about the product or service that you’re buying from them but also the overall industry knowledge they have, because they do work with all kinds of manufacturers through all kinds of applications. With that knowledge, they can help you to create what you’re trying to do the right way.
BLOOMFIELD: I absolutely believe that distribution is still a necessity in my business. If growing up in Staten Island, NY, taught me one thing, it’s that business is extremely relationship-driven. Human interaction is absolutely necessary. When cutting out the distributor and going direct, you’re often dealing solely with a website. They’re expecting you to place your orders and get pricing without human interaction because they’re trying to cut costs.
The other major area that I find is lacking when cutting out distribution is that support usually becomes lackluster.
Q2: What advice would you give to a solutions provider who is being recruited by a vendor that sells software through a distributor?
LOUISSAINT: Make sure the distributor you’re going to work with can meet your needs. I prefer an online portal where I can order things or request items such as licenses without having to interact with a person on the phone.
Make sure you can place your orders in a smooth, expedited fashion and have room to make your margins. Time is a valuable resource, and the more you spend toying around with distribution the less you have left to make money.
BLOOMFIELD: Ask some straightforward questions. Where does support come from? Am I able to go to the distributor for support? Does that distributor have a dedicated support team to help with both pre-sales and post-sales support issues?
The final thing I would recommend asking is whether you are still able to register deals and try to get the best pricing.