In Defense Of Distributor Value

[IPVM Editor's Note: This originally was posted as a response to Manufacturers Sound Off On Distributors article but is being moved to its own discussion given its length, details and points raised.]

Truth be told - most manufacturers depend on distributors to get and keep their products in front of installers and integrators, and in addition put a tremendous amount of volume and stocking commitments, etc. for distributors to be able to make any margin whatsoever. Many love end of month deals to unload inventory and then in most cases, disappear until the end of the next month or quarter. Is this a case of corporate strategy or a lazy salespeson? The answer is somewhere in the middle I guess. Distributors also provide huge value in terms of logistics and the accounting side of things. Distributor marketing, events, counter days, trainings, are all opportunities where manufacturers have their chance to connect and re-connect with integrators. A real distributor, can be compared to a broker. If you call a good broker, he will understsand your business and review various insurance providers and put you with what makes the most sense for you, as opposed to if you call the insuran ce company directly they are only going to tell you why and how they are the best, they only company to have blah blah, made up buzzwords go here.

Of course a manufacturer would want to de-value this, because they want to get all these benefits and not give up any margin either. This is a microcosm for life in which their is a pattern of devaluation all around and leverage battles between distributors, manufacturers, and integrators. It's rather sad at times. Can't we all just get along? And be honest too? I forget, business is too cutthroat and competitive for all that.

Not to see there isn't a ton of truth to this article and the comments, because there certainly is, when you consider the distributors. In their defense, there number of locations is their value. If you need more or expect more, than simply stop buying from them as an integrator and stop supporting them so much as a manufacturer. We tend to complain about jobs, or relationships, etc. but when called out are scared to take action.

Speaking for DWG, we get hundreds of calls per week from installers as well as integrators that needs help with their projects. Now some of them might believe they don't, or like to pretend they don't in fear that this will show and value as leverage to us as the distributor, which they don't want to admit in many cases. This is often exposed with the preface, I just have a "quick, easy question for you". "Or, I'm not going to take too much of your time, I just need to know which system will, etc. etc. etc." Or, "I just need a quote on generic term 1 , generic term 2." We get this, and understand the position they are in, so we are used to it and accepting of it. And certainly they would not always tell the manufacturer that DWG is their savior by testing XYZ product in the middle of their job because that might hurt their chances of "buying direct" or getting better pricing down the line. They can easily forget or downplay the important of someone correcting their order last min ute or doing their power calculations for them. Understandable. We are all "poker players" nowadays. We have evolved. We are all great self promoters. [I am going to write an article one day on how people can sell the crap out of themselves, but can't sell anything otherwise.]

We also have integrators that send us parts list, of which we review and usually find mistakes. An example would be a reader that doesn't work with a particular access control. Or a system that just makes absolutely little to no sense for the particular end user entity. We in all cases, speak our opinion. We often will ask questions to figure out more information about the project and expose new ideas to the integrator. The power of questioning is so strong and by doing that, we make so many things better for our customers on the short and also long run. I do believe there are many good reps at other distribution firms, that also have good peope that really care, and are probably somewhat offended by some of the comments, and maybe just didn't have enough time to actually stop and write it all down in this thread.

As a distributor we are able to keep tabs on technical information, more easily than most installers and integrators. In turn we get a lot of "pick your brain" type phone calls, because our customer base knows that we will tell them true differences between various manufacturers, whereas in many cases the manufacturer themselves cannot do that. Like the broker who has insurance options, We will unravel the manufacturer proprietary names for features and break them down to what they really are, so we know what we are actually comparing. Whether they admit it or not, our customers do see value in that, or else they wouldn't keep calling us. Now there is manufacturer loyaly no question, if we know someone is using Vivotek, we will try to coach them through an issue and way out the benefits, rather than tell them to jump ship to Axis, in the face of their first technical issue.

Not to generalize, but....many manufacturer's staff sadly are often in a bubble and really believe that they have some sort of proprietary new compression, or ground breaking feature, while few do. They bad mouth each other with false claims. We are better than Manufacturer B, because they don't have XYZ (of which they have no idea). Rarely are they called out on this, so it continues. This is also why so many of them despise IPVM, because it cleans up so much of this for the integrator and is really such a good resource. We on the other hand, like IPVM are comparing and contrasting the features and benefits of these manufacturers, testing products before we stock them, and using them internally to get to the bottom and cut through the marketing information for our customers.

Now this article and comments are definitely accurate on many points, because of the distributors it is referring to. Due to their sheer size and strategy to be a logistic hub, nature kind of takes it's course unfortunately. That is why you see the comment of the manufacturers wanting to work with the smaller, more helpful distributors.

To truly be successful, the chain needs all levels, manufacturers, distributors and dealers. (With exceptions of course.) Now if a particular part of the chain is not doing their fair share, that is probably a fault in that particular link, not necessarily the strategy overall. (The grass is always greener right?) I will say that who you partner to go to market with will depend on your goals and capabilities, but make sure you partner with and work with people that actually care and are willing to understand the situation. Don't give in and feel you have to work with "lazy" people. There are good people and good companies out there, that can be good links in this chain. Manufacturers - stop giving in to the distributors that don't provide value, because you feel it's easy and start to give your best pricing to distrubutors (and project deals for integrators) to the ones that are actually "selling" your products not just taking orders.

In business the best relationships are those that are beneficial for all parties, so we need to stop looking for ways to "kill" each other and see the value we each provide objectively and be appreciate of that all around. Again, if the value is not there, than shut up and move on. No one is trapped in this industry. One thing there is plenty of is options.

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