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Channel relationships really matter

The chief executive and founder of security distributor e92plus, Mukesh Gupta, shares his thoughts about the help his firm can deliver right now

Every week brings new challenges to all of us in the channel, but there’s no doubt that the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is a new one. It’s asking how organisations can adapt, survive and succeed in the most difficult circumstances, and while technology companies like e92plus might be more flexible and dynamic than most, no one is exempt.

As a distributor, we’ve been used to answering those questions about how we will survive for the past three decades. As the channel and technology has adapted over the past 30 years, it’s brought declines in hardware and the commoditisation of various products, the rise in cloud apps and infrastructure, managed services and continual changes in partner models.

We sit at the heart of the channel, pulling everything together – but when times are tough or the model changes, we’ve needed to be central to that too, so we can demonstrate value and help drive growth, rather than becoming a legacy business that just facilities orders.

In the current climate, more than ever distribution has a clear role to play. It’s essential that the channel works in partnership, bringing together our skills and experience to help our customers get through a challenging situation. That’s not just about goodwill and a collaborative approach, but practical steps that make a difference to our businesses.

Technology can be key to that, and the way all of us have embraced remote working and collaboration solutions in such a short time has been fantastic, and without doubt that couldn’t have happened without vendors, distributors and resellers helping organisations of all sizes respond so quickly. Although our seemingly natural ability to switch from a sales conference call to a Zoom quiz over beers was a little more unexpected.

Beyond the assistance to help customers scale and keep running in what is “the new normal”, it’s been great to see many vendors offer free licences or support to help organisations of all types, and go that extra mile to help customers make that step without a huge commitment.

Distributors need to do things a little differently. None of us can be successful without a solid business behind us, and the bedrock of that is cashflow. While e92plus has evolved beyond traditional distribution to offer fantastic services and innovation, being the bank of the channel remains key – because it’s what keeps the wheels turning at our partners.

Practical help is exactly what many people need right now, and the most important one is to keep the finances moving. It’s certainly one of the benefits of distribution that’s easy to take for granted – after all, it effectively comes by default. Vendors benefit from having one customer to invoice and manage a credit account for, where e92plus has over 1,000 customers from the biggest systems integrators to the smallest consultancies.

For those partners, having a close relationship with their distributor can help get those bigger deals through and allow for flexibility, and keep things going in difficult times. It’s not just about offering the biggest credit limits – it’s about building a relationship, understanding the business, offering the right service without putting either partner at risk.

We’re proud to have helped many partners grow their business profitably, and keeping them cash positive has been fundamental to that, while enabling them to go for and win the big deals that help them transform their business.

That’s why we’re now offering a way of increasing cashflow immediately by advance payment of margin through our Project Finance service. Where projects are a little more challenging, or credit limits are stretched, we can not only help make those deals happen, but our partners no longer need to wait for their customers to pay – we’ll get that sorted for them in advance, without any charges or additional costs. We all know the difference positive cashflow makes, and hopefully this will bring further confidence into our partner community that we can move forward together.

It’s an example of where we all need to invest in those relationships, and double down on our partnerships – whether it’s marketing support to drive pipeline, or training and knowledge transfer through online workshops. If we do that together, we’ll not only survive but come out the other side even stronger.

Ultimately, the channel is a fantastic place to be, and in running e92plus for 30 years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people and companies. It’s a source of continual innovation and enterprise, and that’s never been truer than now, and the way we’ve all responded to the challenge of keeping the economy going through technology and digital transformation has been great. That’s why we’ve made this change, and why we’ll continue to look for ways to pay back that trust, and help our vendor and reseller partners to be successful and profitable – that’s good business for all of us.

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