The channel has changed. Forget the old model of supply-driven sales, where vendors stuffed the channel with product and demanded that distributors and resellers did whatever they had to move it. Today, technology sales are demand-driven, where the customer demands a product or service and the vendor and channel moves - and moves quickly - to fulfil that request.
This was the central theme that came out for me at ChannelWorld '99, the highly successful conference and exhibition designed specifically for resellers and integrators, which was held by ARN and Inform in Sydney last week.
From the opening keynote address by Ingram Micro executive John Kinny, through to the final presentation on customer service by Catherine De Vrye, an Australian businesswoman of the year and best-selling author, putting the customer first was a recurring theme.
I think it was best highlighted during the panel session where resellers got to listen to and question a group of IT managers.
Frank Lieberskind, who until recently was IT manager of MMI, posed the question to all resellers: "Who are you working for? The distributors and vendors or your customers?"
The fact that an IT manager could have a perception that resellers are more interested in making a distributor or vendor happy than making him, the customer, happy, is a dreadful blight on the way technology has been sold in the past.
Ingram's Kinny said it was the customer acceptance of the Dell direct model, where that vendor has been far quicker in responding to customer's requests, that has driven this change.
Indeed, another of the IT manager panelists, Carsten Larsen of National Rail, said he preferred to do business direct because of this responsiveness and better service.
This is all wrong. A vendor should not be able to provide the same type of service as a good reseller or integrator.
After all, can you see any vendor suggesting to the user that they not buy their brand because there's a more suitable offering in the market? I think not. Only the reseller and integrator can act as an independent expert and consultant on such matters. Thankfully too, if the distributors' comments at ChannelWorld are anything to go by, they are getting their act together to help resellers be more responsive and provide better services. At that point, there will be no reason why a reseller should not be a much more effective partner than any vendor.
Know your customer then make sure your staff breaks its back keeping the customer happy. Because in the end, that's your business.
Farewell to a friend
It is with sadness that we bid farewell to Paul Zucker, ARN's channel director, who has decided it's time to pull up stumps at ARN and try something new. Seven years ago, Paul began Reseller Magazine as editor and then saw the publication through its remarkable transformation into a fortnightly newspaper called Australian Reseller News and then into an incredibly successful news weekly.
Paul has also been the man behind the ChannelWorld conference and it was largely due to his hard work that the event was such a success.
But most importantly Paul is a great bloke. We'll miss him.