Ingram Micro Gathers Government, Education Solution Providers

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Ingram Micro's government teams are preparing for a convergence of a whole different sort. Hundreds of government and education solution providers are expected to converge on Anaheim, Calif., for the distributor's Partnership America conference next week.

Originally scheduled for late last year, the event was rescheduled to Jan. 23-35 because of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., said Ingram Micro executives. "Obviously a lot of our key government resellers were involved with things with the Pentagon," said Bob Stegner, vice president of channel development at Ingram Micro.

Stegner has been working aggressively with Partnership America members to revamp the group and its conferences to provide the "right mix" of resources, services and contacts that solution providers need to grow.

"I want to make sure that if [solution providers are taking three days out of their schedule that it's beneficial," said Stegner. "I've always been a big proponent of finding out what the resellers' needs are and then helping them with that."

The conference will be held at the Anaheim Marriott and is loaded with breakout sessions on three tracks--federal, state and local, and education--to give solution providers new ideas to expand their business, become more efficient and secure government deals, said Stegner.

Session topics include government procurement policies, consultative selling, financial services, Ingram Micro's National Service Network, a CompTIA brief on Section 508 and available services, such as assistance with RFQs and bids.

The distributor will also unveil a revamped e-storefront program for Partnership America members. The new e-storefronts enable solution providers to offer online ordering and special government pricing to end users via their Web sites.

The e-storefronts are seamlessly connected to and Ingram Micro's back-end infrastructure, which routes, manages, fills and ships the orders. The distributor had pulled back an earlier release of the storefront to allow its partner, KPMG, to make critical changes, said Stegner.

About 28 of the new e-storefronts are already live. However, the distributor is not planning to deploy any more until it evaluates all current user feedback, probably toward the end of the first quarter, the company said.

Also at the conference, about 15 manufacturers are expected to give presentations focused on selling government solutions, said Stegner. For example, Symantec representatives will discuss how to sell security solutions to state and local government agencies. And Compaq Computer will address building solutions for the K-12 education market.

Stegner wants to mold Partnership America and its conferences after the success he has had with Ingram Micro's SMB-focused VentureTech Network. Still, he recognizes the different needs of government and education solutions providers vs. their SMB-focused brethren.

The revamped Partnership America will be a tiered program. Resources will be adjusted to meet the needs of tier-one solution providers, with 80 percent of their business focused on the government market, and tier-two solution providers, that have a 40-60 percent focus.

Partnership America has been in existence since 1994, and "years ago" the distributor broke off its government and education sales teams into a separate group, said Stegner. The program offers special pricing and services from 325 manufacturer partners to solution providers doing business in the government market.

"There are great opportunities for Ingram Micro in the government sector," said Stegner. "The government and education sector is probably one of the most stable sectors out there."

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