For NextStep Networking, a Cincinnati-based solution provider, D&H Distributing literally has provided a financial lifeline to grow its education business.
D&H's Assignment of Funds program has allowed the company to win big E-Rate deals that it could not have pulled over the goal line without D&H's help, said Matt Worthen, vice president of education partnerships and innovation at NextStep Networking.
"That's a program specific to D&H," said Worthen. "That provided the financial vehicle to win the E-Rate business."
D&H also has provided critical education and enablement around the E-Rate program, which is aimed at providing government funding assistance to help schools and libraries obtain affordable internet access.
NextStep Networking has done $1 million in E-Rate Meraki business through the program over the past year, said Worthen.
"The D&H Assignment of Funds program made that possible," he said. "D&H is absolutely our exclusive E-Rate distributor."
The Assignment of Funds program is a testament to D&H's knowledge of the market, said Worthen. "That program has been huge," he said. "We are a small company. We don't have the capital to buy $1 million in Cisco gear, incur the costs and recoup it when the monies come from the federal government. That was a game-changer for us as a small business emerging in this space who couldn't be encumbered by those costs."
Worthen, a member of D&H's Education Advisory Group, is one of many partners giving D&H high marks for its K-12 education VAR programs. The group meets regularly with top executives and sales leaders to provide feedback. Sessions include product and solution road maps with key vendors including Google and HP Inc.
"They listen to their resellers," said Worthen. "I mean they really listen. They are not this big immovable object that is unapproachable. What they do is far beyond the other distributors. They truly care about our business and our voice. They collaborate and work with us. Other distributors act like they know what we want instead of allowing us to help build the programs. D&H is building programs based on our needs."
Worthen had high praise for a recent seminar that D&H pulled together for partners that featured Funds For Learning CEO John Harrington, who provided tips on how to navigate the complex E-Rate application process.
"How cool is that?" asked Worthen. "We had the No. 1 industry leader of E-Rate talking directly to us in a small roundtable in an intimate setting at a D&H event. Funds For Learning really helped us navigate the conversation with customers. Since Funds For Learning presented to us, it has made a world of difference."
Worthen commended D&H Vice President of VAR Sales Peter DiMarco and the entire D&H team, including Rhonda Hubbard, a D&H VAR channel program manager, for the initiatives.
DiMarco said the K-12 VAR enablement program includes a robust Chromebook sales offensive, which includes a "Battle Bag" in the form of a student knapsack with a Chromebook and a slew of devices that attach to Chromebooks—all valued at $4,000. D&H provides that Battle Bag to about 100 VARs every year backed up by an extensive D&H education training program.
"We train their entire sales team with a blueprint of a virtual classroom with all of the opportunities that can be monetized," said DiMarco.
D&H also provides "white-glove services" with D&H engineers who help partners integrate technology in the field. The specialists work long hours to help D&H VARs activate devices in time for the school year. "Our engineers are working every weekend in July and August, working with VARs and school districts to get Chromebooks activated and deployed," said DiMarco. "In many cases, we are also setting up and managing access points as well. It is true post-sales support."
D&H's investments have resulted in a 120 percent increase in the distributor's K-12 sales in the past two years, said DiMarco. What's more, there are 50 percent more VARs closing K-12 deals for D&H over the past three years, he said. DiMarco said he is proud of all the heavy lifting D&H has done to help partners in the education arena.
"This is a place the other distributors were not paying enough attention to," he said. "Partners are telling us the investments we have made have really helped them grow their business."