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The evolution of the distributor: From credit lines to sales acceleration

Matt Paynter, vendor alliances director, UK and Ireland at Exclusive Networks compares the then and now in Distribution

When I began my journey in the channel, the perception of distribution was rather straightforward; it was primarily seen as a credit line for vendors and a form of warehousing. In those early days, our warehouses were not massive, but they served a vital purpose in the distribution chain.

It was at this time that distribution was often relegated to the bottom rung of the ladder, considered a necessary evil due to agreements with vendors. It was a transactional relationship where the primary focus was on fulfilling orders and managing logistics, and nothing less.

Over the past decade, the landscape of distribution has undergone a significant transformation. Take Exclusive Networks, for example; we have evolved into what is arguably the most sales-oriented distributor in the market. The word "distributor,” once a term that conjured up stock sitting in warehouses, now feels inadequate to capture the full scope of what the modern distributor does.

 Many of these distributors – the successful ones, at least – have shifted their focus from being perceived solely as a distributor to becoming a sales acceleration partner, whereby they drive sales and deliver additional value to their vendors and partners rather than being limited to administrative and logistical roles often associated with distribution.

Elevating to the point of sales acceleration partners will undoubtedly shift their position in today’s partner landscape. Now, they may find themselves being regarded as the primary partner by many of their vendors – a far cry from the earlier perception of distribution as a bottom-rung entity. But it’s true; our vendors see us as a significant driver of sales, at least, and they certainly rely on us to reach their target markets effectively And that’s what happens when we, as important cogs in the IT channel, evolve beyond traditional distribution. We are then able to provide our partners and vendors with guidance and an informed perspective. We’re able to become more than passive entities following orders; we can all actively contribute to the business decisions that accelerate growth for everyone involved.

Co-selling of this nature should be a central part of every modern distributor’s strategy. Working hand in hand with partners and vendors ensures mutual profitability and fosters stronger relationships. Distributors are not an added cost but a force that drives sales and growth.

A crucial aspect of our collective evolution is the shift from a price-centric approach to one that emphasizes value. We have successfully navigated the price-versus-value battle by demonstrating our unique value proposition to partners, who finally understand that choosing a vendor or distributor is not solely about the lowest cost but about the value and service provided. Once they see that, distributors will find themselves able to retain contracts and maintain long-term relationships based on their unwavering commitment to delivering value.

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