Opinion: Sleeping with the enemy

Opinion: Sleeping with the enemy

Can someone please tell me, what's happened to the channel? When I started in this business 18 years ago, it was pretty simple: vendors made the stuff, distributors moved it and resellers put together a solution based on meeting customer needs. Lately, the roles have become a little blurry. I'm not uncomfortable with competitive change, but rather the way in which our channel community has accepted it.

The past two years have seen some extraordinary developments. Vendors opening retail stores, vendors buying integration companies, vendors selling direct to end users, and so on. Understandably, companies of all sizes are duty-bound to continually assess their strengths in a changing market, and adapt to provide maximum value to their shareholders. However, I'm astounded that the channel community supports these organisations during and after the "experiment".

These vendors truly believed one thing on their journey to direct sales: their current channel strategy gave them little or no benefit. Interestingly enough, the belief that the brand name kept resellers alive, rather than the converse, has proven a fatal approach. Many "direct" strategies have been dropped or re-orchestrated through the silent purchasing of a fulfilment company.

By the way, I'm not talking about the Dells or Gateways of this world. I'm referring to the companies whose very success has been determined by your efforts. Vendors that call you a partner, give you a plaque, throw you a lead or two and then establish a parallel strategy that directly competes with you, or at best, determines what single-digit margin you make.

The channel needs to challenge distribution decisions made by vendors, rather than blindly acquiescing. As a value added reseller, the following principles should apply when selecting whose products you sell:

They must be best-of-breed

They must present value to your customersThey must be financially stableThey must provide a product or service that you can't provide yourself.

I can almost guarantee that at least one of your suppliers fails in one of the above criteria. And if you want a partner in the true sense, rather than a fair-weather vendor, then change what you do.

Your very survival depends on it.

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