VARs: vendors get the gold for reliability, attention to deatil and strong channel programs
In the highly commoditized world of systems and peripherals, it's strong, comprehensive channel programs that help vendors distinguish themselves from the pack.
The vendors rated "gold" in this year's VARBusiness Partner Programs Guide in the systems and peripherals area represent a wide variety of companies including Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif.; Samsung Electronics America ITD, Irvine, Calif.; Lenovo Group Ltd., Morrisville, N.C.; Fujitsu Computer Products of America Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif.; ViewSonic Corp., Walnut, Calif.; Xerox Corp., Norwalk, Conn.; and Oki Data Americas Inc., Mt. Laurel, N.J.
For Ed Greenberg, vice president of sales for Westford, Mass.-based solution provider IT Access, HP's program stands out because the company makes an effort to give him what he needs to close deals.
"I've always been a happy partner with HP," Greenberg said. "We've tried them all. We tried Dell. We tried Toshiba. But HP has always been good to us. They've always been there when we needed them to come out and do demos with us. We do quite a bit of desktop and printer sales, and they've always been there for us."
HP also proactively communicates with IT Access, he said. "We have an inside rep that is constantly in contact with us, as well as an outside rep that goes with us on demos if we have large business opportunities." HP received silver stars in the VARBusiness Partner Programs Guide for sales support and communication, as well as for partner profitability and channel operations.
Communication and profitability are all well and good once relationships are established. But before that happens comes the all-important vendor's initial approach. When Samsung came courting Michael Worsham, owner of MWE Computer Services, North Augusta, S.C., at an Everything Channel XChange conference, it showed the kind of finesse and outreach that won it a silver star for partner recruitment.
"I put on my focus sheet [at the conference] what I was looking for," Worsham said. "Someone from Samsung gave me a call and set up a meeting. We met at the conference and they went through the entire spiel of what they do. They impressed me."
And Samsung's communication style and marketing support has kept him a happy partner. "I do like their reseller program for bonus points. They remind you nicely to push their events and new products without forcing it down your throat," he said. "And their presales is great. They actually will work with you. If you're working with a customer in a certain vertical, they'll send you information and white pages based on that."
On the other hand, Worsham is also an HP partner. And while he likes working with the company he sees room for improvement in HP's partner portal. "There are good sides to it and bad sides," he said. "On the good side, they have a nice portal. ... [But] if you ever use it directly and you're trying to find basic information on a printer, you have to dig through so many levels to find something. It's stupid," he said.
Another benchmark VARs use to evaluate systems and peripherals vendors is whether a vendor makes the extra effort to help them make money. For Todd Barrett, director of sales, security and network division for Waltham, Mass.-based CPU Sales & Service Inc., gold-winner Lenovo has helped him win deals and make a profit on Lenovo products.
"We've had great success with the two or three larger customers we have working with Lenovo. It's pretty straightforward," Barrett said. "What we really rely on them for is road map information and special bid pricing to compete against Dell and HP and other companies."