The question of whether to sell direct or indirect has been raised countless times throughout the years by IT vendors and distributors alike. My conclusion comes down to this: It's the wrong question.
To go direct or indirect is secondary to determining the most cost-effective and efficient ways to do business. Some may argue that the direct vs. indirect question is inseparably linked to cost factors, but in reality, true costs and benefits are not always appropriately measured, analyzed or even considered.
Over the years, shortsighted, uninformed decisions have led a number of vendors to pursue direct strategies while sacrificing their channel relationships. Only later,in some cases after it was too late,have they realized the dire consequences of their actions. Regaining the channel's support can be a costly proposition, particularly in an environment where loyal vendor partners have the upper hand.
The solution provider supply chain has consistently delivered superior results and proven skeptics wrong. Unfortunately, this history and tradition of excellence in meeting end-user needs can take secondary status during tough times,the precise times when the focus should be squarely on further optimizing what we do together.
My firm belief is that vendors that choose to engage, build on and strengthen the channel today will ultimately emerge from the current economic malaise with the best market positions. Let's not forget or diminish why this channel came into existence,because direct selling was not sufficient to meet overall demand.
No single vendor, reseller or distributor has all the answers, but we should all be asking,and responding to,the right questions. The most fundamental issues never really change. What the end customer wants and deserves is a good price, immediate availability and terrific support. How we can best achieve these goals and satisfy the buyer should take precedence over all else.
Timothy J. Curran
Senior Vice President, Sales
Editor's Note: This essay was submitted by a member of CRN's editorial cabinet. Look for additional opinion pieces throughout the year.