The Makings of a Valuable Partnership
Distributors should be members of and actively support the associations on national and local level
- By Pat Comunale
- Jan 01, 2013
The role of distribution has evolved dramatically over the years.
Much more than a mere product source, a distributor, in order to
meet the growing and changing needs of its customers, also must
grow and adapt to stay current with the changing face of the supply
chain market. Serving installing dealers and integrators not only as a distributor
of products, but as a truly dedicated distribution partner, is a key to a
distributor’s success and that of its customers.
The value proposition that distributors can and should bring to the channel
is huge. Not only should they offer a vast and comprehensive inventory of
products, they should constantly strive to expand the value-added services
they provide to customers as well. A distributor should never lose focus on
what the changing needs of the customer are in the marketplace. The menu
of value-adds that Tri-Ed/Northern Video offers is extensive, and serves as a
point of reference for outlining these critical value-added services every customer
should be able to expect from its distribution partner. They include:
Customer service, technical sales support. Good, old-fashioned customer
service will never go out of style. Although many dealers use the Internet
to look at pricing and inventory, most prefer face-to-face interaction at the
branch level for personalized service and technical expertise. Trusted relationships
are important to helping dealers make their product purchases.
Keeping sales staff knowledgeable and trained in all the technologies is the
duty of a valuable distribution partner. This involves sending staff to manufacturer
facilities for product training on an ongoing basis. Distributors need to
make sure they have the best people on staff who can talk to the customers in the
most educated way to ensure their success when they’re laying out their projects.
Free and ongoing dealer training. Keeping customers competitive also is
crucial. Training customers in new technologies and helping them compete in
new arenas, such as the exploding IP sector, is key to their success. At Tri-Ed/
Northern Video, for example, we are training at any given time in the branches
with our IP Road Shows, and with our vendor partners to help customers
transition to that next space. One of the services we provide for our customers
is programing IP cameras and sending them to the jobsite.
We have the technical expertise to configure the cameras and put together
the switch or router the dealer needs to make the configuration happen. It’s
important to deliver the same high level of technical expertise at the branch
level as on the national level, and have a dedicated IP specialist at each branch,
along with ongoing manufacturers’ demos. Delivering the best possible service
and technical expertise to dealers must be part of the value proposition a
strong distributor provides to its customers.
Credit. Dealers should be able to look to their distribution partner for much
needed credit lines and flexible terms. While that has always been the case, in
these challenging economic times, it is perhaps more critical than ever.
Next-day delivery. Getting customers the products they need, when they
need them is crucial to their businesses.
Warranty support. Dealers and integrators should be able to look to their
distributor and leverage their strength to handle warranty issues quickly and
Customer appreciation. The desire to meet and exceed customers’ expectation
should drive the distribution business day in and day out. Appreciating
your customers—showing them how much you appreciate them—is not just
good business, it’s the right thing to do. It should go beyond the everyday
things like prompt and friendly service, hot coffee, refreshments, Internet access at the branches and the like to
make their day more pleasant. Hosting
special events at the branch level
such as customer appreciation days
with special pricing, door prizes,
barbeques and entertainment brings
home the message to customers that
they are valued.
Customer loyalty programs that
reward purchases are another great
way to give back to the customer
base. Our Great Expectations program
is a prime example of that. You
never want to take your customers
for granted. They are the most important
part of your business, and
are to be valued and appreciated all
Aligning with strong vendor
partners. While providing valueadded
services are a pivotal part in
the role of a distributor, providing
the best possible product offerings
remains at the core of a distributor’s
value proposition. Partnering with
industry-leading manufacturers to
deliver the best product is priority.
Offering a comprehensive line card
is important as dealers and integrators
want to have that one-stop shop.
That means delivering to traditional
security dealers what they need, but
also expanding beyond security to
data communications, and other,
more high-end products systems
that integrators need for full solutions
The industry is at a great point
right now, both on the commercial
and residential sides. Technology
is driving much of the growth in
the industry, especially with wireless
technology and IP-based products.
On the residential side, lifestyle
enhancement features, such
as streaming video so parents can
monitor their children at home, are
in demand. Touchscreen keypads
are another important offering. The
manufacturers have quality products
that are really being driven on
the technology side. But I believe a
distributor should be careful not to
carry so many of the same products
that it becomes hard to distinguish
one from the other. We try to limit
the amount of partners so we bring
a strong and meaningful mix to our
customers. We’ve brought on several
new vendors to round out the IP
space of the market, as well as more
video and intrusion products to
make sure they get the right product
for the job. We want to be a significant
presence to our vendors, and we
don’t carry every product line.
It’s important to keep a pulse on
what’s happening within the local
communities you have a presence
in, know what is of importance and
concern to your customers, what the
pressing issues are and get involved.
We are all in this industry and working
together is so important.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.
Pat Comunale is the president and CEO of Tri-Ed.