How Much Information Do I Have To Give To A Manufacturer? (Resales Application)

How do other integrators handle manufacturer resale applications that require way too much information? In this case, the product is to be purchased through distribution, so establishing a credit account is a non-issue.

Here are some sample questions that they expect me to take the time to answer for them, in addition to wanting some financial information (some of you will probably recognize this manufacturer):

-What Consultants and A&E firms do you work with?

-Please describe your experience with IP and/or traditional access control.

-Do you partner with other system integration on projects? Do you prefer to act as the prime or the sub in these situations?

-What kind of professional service offerings do you provide to your customers today?

-What are the key markets or niches for your products and services? Where do you feel you need to grow your presence?

-Please outline your company sales organization.

I've also had some that have required detailed (and in one case, audited) financial information and a very detailed business plan. In this case, we're not talking Lenel, Software House, or Honeywell, of which we work with 2 of them, and they didn't ask for this info.

I guess I just get a little annoyed/offended when they ask to meet with me, tell me they want us to partner with them, then assign me a homework assignment.

Am I off-base?


(A) Leave it blank, submit it.

(B) Answer with 'Confidential' or 'Private Company - Confidential Information'

Those are the two typical approaches I have seen.

Often, that is good enough. The manufacturer will not push back for more and you are done.

If they do push back, you can see which ones and how demanding they are. Might be a good test of how good or bad a 'partner' they are going to be.

Coming from the manufacturer side...

I don't see anything there that is too overly confidential, but I'm probably not looking at it the same way you are.

Most of the larger manufacturers are just generally trying to understand the kinds of integrators they have in various regions. In a previous role I took information like this to build a "coverage map" of where we had dealers/integrators, specialities they had, etc. Then if we got a lead in Denver, CO from a customer that wanted someone with experience or clearance for government facilites it was easier to determine which integrator(s) to pass that lead on to.

If several integrators all said they needed help growing their business in specific area it could be an opportunity to do an educational webinar, do some co-marketing, etc. Or, maybe we just take that info and realize none of our top dealers do much with K-12 markets (lame example), so it wouldn't make sense for us to do a big marketing push into a vertical where we didn't have a good fulfillment route.

And, if a particular dealer pushed back too hard or considered this "homework", I'd consider whether or not that company would really make a good partner going forward. Would they be willing to share pipeline info with us so we could get better forecasts? Would they make us aware of large opportunities they were working on? Etc...

I see the compiling of this information to be the job of the manufacturer's rep. If you come to me (as in this case), and want me to partner with you, you do the "homework". I'm happy to sit down with you and discuss our business, I'm just not doing a report for you. And I'm going to be very cautious as to what information I give you regarding pipelines and forecasts, as I don't really know what you're going to do with that info. That may change once a relationship is established, but certainly not in the beginning.

I can't help but feel your position is a little bit adversarial.

Assuming that your post above is representative of the questions, how long would that "homework" take? 15 minutes? None of those seem like questions you have to really think about, it should be all basic company profile type stuff really.

Maybe asking for a detailed sales org description is a little much, but usually it's just looking for something like "Alice Smith, VP Sales, Outside Sales: Bob, Carol, Dave, Inside Sales: Eve, Order Processing: Frank".

Those are a few reasons. It can depend on if the manufacturer limits the number of dealers in an area. You say a distribution product which would mean "open access" so the information needed would be for the benefit of lead sharing or a potential dealer program. In a closed access product line it's not just the number of dealers in a market, it's also the specialties. One dealer may do all government bid work while the guy next door won't touch it. One does commercial and another only high end residential. Not every dealer chases every opportunity. As stated, you can always decline and see what the results are.

If you go back to my first response, I'm not refusing to provide info. I'm not just too interested in preparing reports for someone that is asking me to see their product. Not sure what you're referring to as "adversarial".

You describe it as "preparing reports" and "homework". From what you've posted here it seems like it would take you less time to provide that info than what you've likely already invested in this thread. I simply don't see what the issue is.

How can the manufacturers rep "compile" this information without your input? Are you going to take the time dictating it to them just so that you personally don't need to fill out the "report"?

You're coming at this from "the other side," so we're probably not going to see eye-to-eye on this. And honestly, you haven't really addressed the points that I've made, other than to tell me that it isn't a big deal to just comply.

Let me try it this way. As an integrator (and more specifically, the owner of the company), I am the customer to the manufacturer. Your goal is to sell me your stuff and I then resell it. I'm oversimplifying, and putting the cart-before-the-horse to a degree, but you get the idea.

My customer is the end-user. Do you really think that I'm going to go to my customer and say, "Mr. Customer, can you please fill out this questionaire on what you do, who else you do business with, what you hope to gain from our relationship, and what, exactly, you want me to provide for you? And while you're at it, please tell me why you want it."

Of course not. I'd meet with them, have a conversation, during which time I would gather this information and develop a relationship. And hopefully not an "adversarial" one.

"Mr. Customer, can you please fill out this questionaire on what you do, who else you do business with, what you hope to gain from our relationship, and what, exactly, you want me to provide for you? And while you're at it, please tell me why you want it."

That's a great analogy! I had not thought about it that way. On the other hand, some manufacturers think they are doing an integrator a favor to let them be dealers :)

Keith, only answer what you feel comfortable with, see what happens.

For instance, sometimes big companies send us huge documents to fill out because they are getting an IPVM membership. I never fill out the details and none have ever refused. Even as an integrator, when I had directly comparable issues, most took partially complete applications and processed it as is.

And honestly, you haven't really addressed the points that I've made, other than to tell me that it isn't a big deal to just comply.

Your recurring point seems to be that it is some sort of a time sink or inconvience for you to fill out a basic company profile form. Is there more to it that I didn't see in your posts?

Generally speaking (since we obviously lack specifics on the manufacturer or full questioanirre) the point of these things is for a manufacturer to figure out how to try and do more business with you. Is your organization capable of taking on large leads, or are you mostly self-sufficient and just want to buy stuff? Do you have a particular skill set or vertical focus that is noteworthy? Etc.

Your example of asking for similar information from the end-user isn't really a good analogy. It's two different business models, the manufacturer is (presumably) trying to help you find more end-users, more opportunities. Any given end-user is more of the end of the chain in terms of new opportunity generation.

And John's comments are also correct, you can decline to give any or all of this info. Tge product is seemingly already available to you through distribution and you seem to be able to buy it already.

In response to your original post, I don't think this is in any way out of the norm or tedious. As a manufacturer I've also had some of the more savvy integrators ask me for similar sorts of things along the lines of "What types of promotional or marketing funds do you provide to your integrators? What sales volume is required to secure "right-column" or best pricing? Who are your existing dealers that cover my territory of X?

If you want to be a "partner", I think it's optimal to have a solid understanding of your partner's business. If you want to be a "reseller", then send your PO's to the nearest distributor and go at it.

You are also correct that the manufacturer may be able to gather these details through a casual conversation. Personally, I'd rather go into a conversation with a basic understanding of my customer's capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, etc. and get right to disucssing how we can generate the most overall business with those things in mind. I find it a better use of both of our times to get the basic details covered as efficiently as possible and move on to more in-depth conversations. Of course, everybody has their own "ideal" way of doing business and getting to know each other.

"What types of promotional or marketing funds do you provide to your integrators?"

Whoa whoa whoa! You mean I should have been asking for ad funds from manufacturers all this time?

I don't know if that's still as common as it used to be, but at my old gig we got a lot of co-op marketing funds from manufacturers. We generally used them for co-branded marketing slicks, polo shirts for techs, swag giveaways (pens, notepads, etc.). Not sure who still has offers like that, but I'd start asking.

"Mr. Customer, can you please fill out this questionaire on what you do, who else you do business with, what you hope to gain from our relationship, and what, exactly, you want me to provide for you? And while you're at it, please tell me why you want it."

I don't think it the same thing. Like some of the manufacturers have commented, it's kind of a different relationship if it's a closed channel model. When you go into a 7-11 to by a Coke, they don't ask you all those questions. But if you want to be a Coke Distrubutor and get special bulk pricing and maybe promo/ad support, and be the exclusive distributor for that area, then they're going to want know what you can do for them and if you can execute effectively (even if they don't say it exactly like that).

"be the exclusive distributor for that area"

I know very few integrators who are the exclusive distributors / resellers / dealers in any territory with any substantial product.

So I agree if they were giving you some exclusive, sure more details are understandable. 99% it's not near any exclusivity.

"99% it's not near any exclusivity."

That and Michael's comment below is true, too.

Yes, 99% of the time we're not talking about exclusivity.

But he also made good points about bulk pricing and ad/promo support. It's not a perfect example, but it was a good analogy (IMO).

"But he also made good points about bulk pricing and ad/promo support."

And if a manufacturer responded that one needed to answer more detailed questions to get bulk pricing and ad/promo support, I think this would provide more motivation to do so, i.e., "I can approve you for standard dealer as is, but if you want to be premium / gold / platinum, etc. I need x, y, z information."

To answer more to the OP's question, we have left sensitive info off of applications before and so far not been turned down.

My experience is that while that most manufacturers call their dealers "partners", only a small number actually consider them as such. The remainder treat their dealers simply as customers, and could care less about what they do or who they sell to as long as the purchase orders keep coming in.

As a consultant, I have been surprised at how quickly many manufacturers are willing to throw their so-called partners under the bus in order to win a project. Is the partner who represents a product in a given area not acceptable to the client? "No, problem, which integrator would you like us to make a dealer?" is the response from many manufacturers.

For manufacturers who do truly treat their dealers as partners, it is understandable that they would want to know a little more about the company's operation and business model before they make them a dealer. In a way, it is a little like investing in a business or hiring an employee - you want to do a little due diligence before you enter into the relationship.

As a consultant, I have been surprised at how quickly many manufacturers are willing to throw their so-called partners under the bus in order to win a project.

Honestly, I've seen everyone throw each other under the bus at various times. I can't count the number of times a dealer has performed a sub-par install and then tried to blame me/my product for inferior performance. This is a "small" industry, but there are still LOTS of people at all levels, statistically speaking you get some high-level people, a lot of every-day good folks, and some number of shady operators in any given segment (manufactuer, consultant, rep firm, distributor, integrator, end-user).

To address your segment directly, I see a lot of consultants who will not make any specific recommendations (for a named product) but will instead "hide" behind an A&E spec "The product should do X, Y and Z. It should be manufactured in zip code 12345, it should be painted a lovely shade of chartruese and the packaging material should use biodegradable corn-starch in a pink color." But they won't just come out and say "You should use Fancy-Cam product for this application". That gives them the ability to side-step a lot of direct accountability under the guise of providing a general recommendation.

Let me answer this question another way. You are the customer and you can offer no answer whatever. Seems perfectly within your rights. As a manufacturer of parts in distribution you would still have the same access all others who buy without this information have. Now, is there something they offer that's different that you want? Then you either meet their requests or decline the additional offering. This isn't any different than your relationship with your customer. Just for fun let's say you have a customer that wants you to do a $250,000.00 installation with them. Would you start work if you didn't have a reason to believe they could pay? After all, they want to give you a lot of business. Would you ask for more info than a $250.0 install? If the sharing of info is disturbing "just say no" and that's that!

"Just for fun let's say you have a customer that wants you to do a $250,000.00 installation with them. Would you start work if you didn't have a reason to believe they could pay?"

However, OP said, "In this case, the product is to be purchased through distribution, so establishing a credit account is a non-issue."

John.....the statement wasn't so much as a credit decision as it was meant to show why a company offering a service might have reason to ask for info not usually requested and the ability for either side to simply decline. Unless it's the IRS asking of course.
This thread is beating around the bush so much I think I'm getting dizzy. The OP asked "why don't have to supply info to a manufacturer for a product I can buy from distribution. Here is the answer. You don't if you choose not to. Now if the question was "I want something special from the manufacturer and he is making me fill out information I don't want to give". The answer is the same. Don't if you don't want to buy don't expect anything special. Manufactures of restricted access products can and will ask for quarterly reports, specific target and existing customers, number of branches, types of marketing, trained tech certifications as well as set target sales and training to keep the products. I have asked and received all before, including financials. The decision was still the integrators in that they could comply or not have the product. What are we missing here?

From OP's opening comment: "I guess I just get a little annoyed/offended when they ask to meet with me, tell me they want us to partner with them, then assign me a homework assignment."

Because of that, I believe this is early in the relationship, where there may not be much of a relationship at all. I have seen the same thing.

Most people are far more comfortable giving sensitive information to people they have some history and trust with than a guy off the street.

I don't think you're missing anything. From a manufacturers perspective.

However, my original question was directed at other integrators out of curiousity for what they do. That's not to say that you (as well as Manufacturer A) don't have very good and valid points, but as John pointed out, this was a small manufacturer that is coming to us. If we were going after a well-established line that we didn't already carry, and the knew the game was to provide various reports on a regular basis, then fine, we would make the decision if that is worth it to us. Probably not, as we already carry very large and well-established lines and don't provide these for them, but it would depend on the circumstances. Again, that isn't the case with my original question.

if there isn't a compelling reason to supply this info ..... and I haven't heard one yet, then off to the shredder goes his application and business card. Somewhere there is a compelling reason for the manufacturer to ask like a dealer program or co-op marketing, listing on manufacturer website....something. Or that's just one very nosey manufacturer.

Just to add my own thoughts here - I've been both on the Integrator side and on the manufacturer side of this discussion.

As an Integrator:

I took the time to fill out the application with as much information as I was comfortable sharing. Why? Because I wanted the manufacturer to understand the value my company offered as a potential SI/Reseller of their product. In short - I wanted to show as much value as possible so that they would give me a higher level of importance as a new customer because they understood the potential impact bringing me on as a reseller would have on their sales channel. Often due to the extra time we spent on the applications we received better initial pricing and/or free training on a product. If we hadn't spent that time, we probably would not have had that strong initial support.

There were also times where I thought the questions were useless or did not apply to me - and in the applications I simply filled out that portion of the application with an "N/A" or "not relevant". I never got pushback on applications that weren't fully filled out as long as the sections that were filled out were detailed and compelling.

I also used the application to test the seriousness of the manufacturer I wanted to work with. If a sales rep sent me the application and I took the time to fill it out in detail I could then check to see how much said sales rep read and internalized my company's approach. If they came back to me with questions that were already answered in the application then I knew they didn't really want to get to know my company, they followed process over relationship-building, and I knew what to expect in terms of ongoing support and the passion they would bring to the relationship.

As a manufacturer we ask a set of questions for several main reasons:

  1. To qualify the seriousness of SI/Reseller's desire to become a partner. If the SI/Reseller is willing to take the time to communicate in an orderly, professional manner it reflects positively on their company. If they give us a half-assed response then we can assume we would have similarly half-assed responses in the future. For example - a big challenge in working with SI/Resellers is being able to gather ongoing end-user requests for new features SI's need in order to win projects. Often those requests are unclear or are not properly vetted in terms of practicality before they get to us. A reseller who communicates clearly on their application usually does the same moving forward for special requests or techncial support issues.
  2. To make sure the new potential SI/Reseller not only understands their own business but also can communicate that business externally to 3rd parties. (Are they a good sales organization?)
  3. To understand the new potential SI/Reseller's approach to their geographic or vertical market so we can understand how to bring them into our channel in the most advantageous way possible without creating channel conflicts for them or our existing channel.
  4. To identify any potential conflicts with the products an SI currently sells. If an SI sells 2000 cameras a year, for example, and 80% of them are with one platform, while the other 20% is spread across 5 different brands then where would we fit in the picture? Are we replacing the 80% or are we going to be the 6th brand spread amongst the 400 non-dominant VMS cameras sold?

So in the end I would have to say that taking the time to do the homework at the beginning is an overall good strategy if you find a new product compelling and you want to carry it. It helps build trust and it has the potential to better kick-off a new relationship on both sides.

When I started dating my wife, she asked me all kinds of personal questions. What's my middle name? Favorite Nine Inch Nails song? How much money I had in the bank? What kind of police record did I have?

I guess it was always my prerogative to tell her to take a hike and refuse to answer, but in the interest of an honest relationship I answered.

Maybe if you feel the questions pry too deeply, you should just move on.

Or maybe you can take the opportunity to ask the manufacturer similar 'get to know you better' type of questions.