Recent concerns over the direct sales ambitions of large networking vendors are forcing experienced channel partners to seek new alternatives, according to Grant Morrison, business director for specialist Alcatel distributor VExpress.
Morrison claims the direct sales strategies of such vendors are likely to cause a large proportion of their resellers to turn elsewhere — and he is laying out the welcome mat.
“While Avaya has been the most quoted example, there have been several vendors telling partners at dealer events that the solutions are becoming more sophisticated, that their presence is required in the dealer’s accounts to educate them on the technology,” he said.
VExpress sells Alcatel products that compete in the same space as Avaya’s products. While no formal migration scheme has been put in place, Morrison encourages any dissatisfied channel partners to call VExpress and compare the training and services the new vendor is offering.
“It would be a fairly seamless transition to Alcatel products if you were a small or medium sized dealer — it’s a similar product family with similar pricing,” he said.
Morrison said if there were any skills a partner needed during the transition, VExpress could always provide professional services on a reseller’s behalf while it filled out its missing accreditation requirements.
The advantage of buying Alcatel products was that the vendor had no direct sales presence in Australia, he said, and that many of its most experienced technical staff now worked for distributor, VExpress, or its sister company, integrator VoIP.
“It’s nice peace of mind to know your place in the food chain,” he said. “From our experiences with VoIP, we have developed a program that essentially addresses the shortcomings of other vendors.”
The distributor has already signed up two large channel partners from a competing vendor.
“Many of those that are coming to us have been selling PABX systems for upwards of 15 years,” he said. “They were finding they would do six weeks of work on a solution for a customer, only to be undercut by five new bids at the last minute. Their vendors were providing no protection.”
Morrison said VExpress protected its resellers by only appointing a limited amount of partners in each geographic region or vertical specialisation.
He said it was not just networking vendors that had shown similar contempt for their channel — but also the major distributors VExpress competed with.
“The main distributors talk about providing services but all they are really doing is being credit and logistics companies that offer services as boxed products,” Morrison said. “When they talk about services, all they do is bundle their products with service packs from a third party — they are merely broadening their product portfolio to make margins.”
He said VExpress’ basic service was beyond what other distributors charged extra for.
“Where else can you get a distributor offering third and fourth level phone support from here in Australia? Most vendors will divert that to some international help desk,” he said.
Morrison said competing distributors were carrying too many products, required too many staff and were not able to sustain healthy margins.
“We focus on protection and sustainability instead of on volume,” he said.
VExpress was winning over disaffected resellers, Morrison claimed, because it had negotiated with its vendor partner to create a training and accreditation program that allowed partners to sell and support products properly.
The distributor is due to begin offering sales training by the end of the month and technical training by the first week of September at subsidies of up to 30 and 40 per cent off the cost Alcatel would charge.