There is a saying in professional sport that 'you are only as good as your last game' and it can easily be applied to distribution. Resellers have a lot of options to choose from and most of you will quickly turn to somebody new if you have a negative supply experience. After all, your customers only care about the service levels they receive and are not interested in hearing excuses for why orders turned up late or incomplete. Any distributor failing to live up to expectations should quite rightly expect to spend some time warming the substitutes' bench.
During conversations with several distributors in the past few months, many suggested they had seen some upswing in their business. Furthermore, most of those attributed this to orders placed by resellers who were unhappy with recent service levels at Ingram Micro.
Its newly installed managing director, Guy Freeland, is well aware that some customers have jumped ship as a result of its integration problems. The immediate job for him and his team will be to convince those resellers that everything is back to normal and secure their business.
At the other end of the supply chain, vendors have a little more patience and tend to be a little less reactionary because they can afford to take a longer term view. It is telling that no major players have chosen to walk away from Ingram during the past few months because of the distributor's warehousing problems. If Freeland can deliver on his promise that service levels will be back to normal within three months, its vendor portfolio could come out of the other side unscathed.
One vendor that has chosen to sever its Ingram ties is Sony Computer Entertainment. But its decision to take PlayStation away is more likely to have been driven by Ingram's new alliance with Microsoft and Xbox than by supply chain issues.
For all that Ingram has had a difficult time of late, the fact that its management is willing to discuss them with the market is the clearest indication that it is starting to overcome those problems. Although it is not out of the integration woods just yet, all the indications are that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
While SMB will continue to be its major focus, the new Ingram boss has clearly identified licensing and enterprise as its biggest growth opportunities.
The renewals business looks like being a hot area of competition for major distributors during the next year and this is something resellers should look to take full advantage of. Everybody knows it is more important to keep existing customers satisfied than it is to find new ones. The renewal services on offer will help you keep track of sales opportunities with those existing customers and notify them in advance when it is time to buy a new software licence or upgrade a piece of hardware. It is little touches like this that help a reseller become a trusted business partner rather than just another salesman. Failure to build these relationships could see your business spending time on the bench.
Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org