The distribution sector is the engine room of the PC retail channel. Even more so than vendors it is vital that distributors see The Big Picture and it means that they are in the enviable position of being able to both observe and influence trends in the PC industry.
The fact that even Dell, the only PC company to have bypassed the channel, is now looking to embrace it, is testament to the effectiveness of the channel and of the distributors who are its lifeblood. Dell has even appointed a channel head in the UK – and guess where they got him from… (Westcoast, in case you didn’t know).
In 2007 the market’s distributors have also had it tough, with the declining prices and thus margins that have affected the whole industry being the key challenge to overcome. With necessity being the mother of invention, this has led to an impressive amount of innovation on the part of distributors in the manner they help the channel to do business.
Distributors can only do business if the frontline retailers and resellers are doing business. At the same time vendors all know it’s in their interests for the channel to remain healthy.
So what results is the three-way symbiosis represented by the main categories of these awards in which, to risk a slightly cheesy metaphor, the frontline is the body, the vendors the mind and distributors the heart.
SALES TEAM: HOME
Centerprise’s business model has been rewarded with 20 years of continual growth, from a small family business to a substantial organisation that recently shipped its one millionth PC. This has placed it in the enviable position of being an asset-rich company with a £3m production facility in Basingstoke, an £8m plant in Caerphilly and a nationwide network of qualified engineers.
Gem’s strength is in stocking a wide range of retail-boxed products from the largest games, creative and business software vendors in the world. The sales team’s knowledge of this range is vast and they receive in-depth product training on a daily basis to maximise opportunities, focusing on the key reasons to stock, as well as why consumers should purchase the product.
Interactive Idea’s retail sales team works with retail, e-tail, mail order and TV shopping channels to bring to market software and peripherals for the home and home office. While most distributors focus on tier one vendors, Interactive Ideas has developed a reputation for introducing and managing specialist and emerging companies. The team plays a vital role in maximising sales by supporting both customers and suppliers.
Realtime recruits account managers who are ‘people people’, who build a relationship with customers that is more than just supplier/customer. For example, key customers often receive birthday cards from the team. Realtime trains its sales team to be proactive and call customers whenever they have opportunities to make margin and also to find out their particular business needs. The team is there to solve customers’ problems and offer solutions.
Every VIP customer is profiled to understand their business and allocated a dedicated account manager. They work closely with each customer to develop product placement strategies, supported by credit terms and reseller schemes that are tailored to each to help develop their business. In some cases the account manager may suggest the customer takes advantage of VIP’s PR and marketing services.
SALES TEAM: BUSINESS
C2000 is a large broadliner, but has risen to the challenge of keeping its service relevant and its relationships personal. It has invested heavily in adding value through services such as logistics and prides itself on staying on top of latest product developments. For all of this to be implemented requires a sales team operating at the peak of its abilities.
Enta boasts a highly motivated and dedicated sales team, many of whom can draw upon years of specialist experience. Formal internal training takes place twice a week and product managers regularly attend briefings with all key vendors. Enta also provides a service for its customers to literally get to know the sales team with its online ‘meet the team’ facility.
The world’s largest technology distributor has made a point of retaining a personal touch and much of the credit for this must go to its sales team. It is constantly looking for ways in which it can help customers, including designing an instant web facility and creating opportunities for retailers, resellers and vendors through events like its Retail Expo trade show.
Interface’s sales team prides itself on its product knowledge and it is through excellence in this area that it aims to set itself apart. It has a real strength in business products, bulding on partnerships with vendors like IBM, Sun and Lenovo. The sales team is well supported by specialist customer services, spares, professional services and consumables teams.
VIP account managers work closely with customers to develop product placement strategies, supported by credit terms and schemes that are tailored to each customer to help develop their business. In one example VIP created a bespoke solution, which included weekly pricing and stock availability forecasts, delivered in a format specific to the customer’s business model.
Enta’s sales team is innovative in its approach, offering an extensive range of options and incentives for both online and telephone sales. Enta provides direct marketing support and funding for marketing activities, helping resellers to present a more professional proposition and compete against larger competitors on a more level playing field. Among the many approaches used by the sales team is the Enta Account Card, a creative means of credit leverage.
Gem provides the channel with an excellent range of added value opportunities. Its new identity signifies the direction of its commitment to the channel by offering tailored solutions in conjunction with vendors and a proactive approach to sales. The focus team has offers specifically designed for their customers and will also obtain feedback which is fed to the vendor to tailor future offers and solutions.
Over the last couple of years Interactive Ideas has developed its retail team to really support online companies with the ability to fit into their supply chain and provide the resources they are missing. This ranges from a complete managed service to simply recommending products and a logistics function. The team now includes not only sales but also marketing and support staff to provide a high quality service.
Spire has been praised for its commitment and support of the UK channel and has been rewarded for this by becoming one of the UK’s leading distributors of computer components, peripherals and consumer electronics products. It also stands out as a key Microsoft partner.
VIP created a unique solution for a major etailer to meet its needs. Transactional account management is handled by the team, while back orders are proactively managed to give the customer maximum visibility of stock availability. A ‘bill and hold’ facility allows the etailer to control when orders are fulfilled to support restricted warehouse space.
MARKETING AND PR
Blue Solutions has grown pretty quickly over the past 12 months. Because of this it has added five new members of staff to its marketing department. This has resulted in BlueTV, BluePrint and BlueZOO: respectively, online video training, a customer newsletter and a user forum. In addition, the team maintains weekly contact with its customers through websites, email campaigns and RSS feeds.
CCI Distribution, formerly known as Computer Connections International, was established in 1997 and has since grown to be one of the leading distributors of high-quality storage and multimedia products in the UK. The reason for the name change was to allow the acronym to also stand for ‘Customers, Choice and Information’ – a pledge the marketing team has been critical in fulfilling through initiatives like its regular in-house magazine.
Gem Creative supports Gem’s core sales function in marketing and communication to retail partners. It also offers assistance to supply partners and retail customers as a second tier agency to complement their in-house facilities or third party agencies, offering a design and production solution. Bespoke in-house trade marketing output has been instrumental for the success of many of Gem’s vendors.
The role of the VIP marketing team is to listen to customers’ needs, find the gaps in their business and offer them advice and support to help build their businesses. Marketing is not an isolated department at VIP; the department works closely with account managers to help communicate advice and strategies to channel businesses.
XMA’s approach to marketing is characterised by innovation and a desire to be different. With a real strength in printers, consumables and digital imaging, it provides free ‘Cheat Sheets’ for retailers, to ensure they have the key features of the products they’re selling easily to hand.
M2M came into existence in the aftermath of the dotcom bubble bursting. It specialises in memory and storage products and as such is at the forefront of exciting developments in RAM and solid-state hard drives. Having originally specialised in dealing with OEMs, it now deals directly with resellers and retailers, increasingly though its brand new ecommerce capabilities.
Meroncourt has a reputation for bringing new vendors to the UK market. With a strong pedigree in gaming, featuring brands like Razer, Speedlink and Everglide, it has latterly branched out into networking with Sitecom and Bluetooth peripherals via Anycom. It has recently moved to new, larger premises.
Realtime has developed a strong portfolio of high end gaming vendors and remains prominent in the UK gaming market. It has established key strategic alliances with leading manufacturers and expanded its vendor portfolio in 2007 with the addition of several prestigious brands. Realtime also boasts a dedicated PC build assembly department.
Since its inception in 1998, Target Components has consistently punched above its weight in the channel, thanks mainly to the tireless endeavour of its staff and conspicuous commitment to the channel. Target Components aims to go the extra mile to help resellers and offers an innovative range of sales tools, all of which can be completely branded as their own and which offer total flexibility to set their own pricing levels.
As its name implies, Widget has made its name in the portable gadget sector and as such has had to evolve considerably over the years. Having started as a PDA specialist, it has stayed on top of the market and is now doing very well out of satnav devices. Widget is also known for championing new products such as the Flybook and its current big hit – the PocketSurfer.