Ingram Micro Helps Smaller Partners Scale To Compete In The Big Leagues

Financing muscle, education and peer support are key for SMB solution providers trying to grow their business.

Ingram Micro may be the largest IT distributor in the world, but that doesn’t mean it can’t think small.

The financing muscle, educational opportunities and peer support the distributor offers are key for SMB solution providers trying to grow their business, said Darren Gottesmann, director of U.S. SMB sales at Ingram Micro.

“They may not have the skill sets or geographic presence to grow their businesses,” Gottesmann said. “We look at how to help partners scale and how to make sure we don’t lose them as they grow.”

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SMB solution providers typically have two unique major problems, he said.

The first is financing, particularly for larger deals where the solution provider may need to bring in expensive products and services, he said. For those situations, Ingram Micro can get creative with financing options including terms, credit card payments, leasing or even an arrangement where Ingram Micro collects payments from the customer directly, he said.

The second is keeping up with new technologies such as the Internet of Things or digital transformation, Gottesmann said. For many of those partners, Ingram Micro’s SMB Alliance community provides year-round education opportunities in small-group settings as well as access to what Gottesmann called “talking-shop” quarterly peer group meetings featuring presentations done exclusively by solution providers themselves.

“At these meetings, it is really the partners conversing with each other,” he said. “Vendors may be there, but they are listening and ready to reinforce what partners need.”

Ingram Micro has shown it really understands SMB partners, said Bob Bell, director of operations at Integrated Data Technologies, a Lake Park, Fla.-based SMB solution provider.

Ingram Micro and its SMB Alliance are providing support and relationships that no smaller solution provider could ever hope to find on its own, Bell said. “They have great industry partners supporting us with access to a broad range of opportunities for SMBs,” he said. “We’re now bringing customers managed cybersecurity, cloud backups, disaster recovery and more that we couldn’t talk to customers about in the past. And we have access to people at Dell, Lenovo and other vendors that in the past would require us to be $1 million accounts for them.”

SMB Alliance partners get access to dedicated and customized Ingram Micro support and marketing resources, Gottesmann said. “For example, we make sure partners can speak with whoever they need,” he said. “We can set up monthly calls to discuss issues or be available to contact any time.”

Of Ingram Micro’s 20,000-plus channel partners, 270 are members of the SMB Alliance, with that number expected to climb to 300 by the first quarter of 2020, Gottesmann said.

For SMB partners not part of the SMB Alliance, Ingram Micro provides annual conferences like Ingram Micro One to bring solution providers, Ingram Micro and technology vendors together to discuss unique SMB issues, Gottesmann said. The company in September also held its first IoT Summit to address support for partners looking to provide IoT to their customers.

Overall, Ingram Micro has changed how it communicates with partners—with a big focus on listening, Gottesmann said. “It used to be, ‘I call you and tell you the new offers and features,’” he said. “I dictated to you. Now you call me, tell me you need this thing or these agents. We create the forums for how to create these new solutions. IoT is an example. People want to know how to incorporate it in their business.”

Membership in the SMB Alliance has brought tangible benefits such as access to all Ingram Micro support advisers, free shipping, and travel expenses to SMB Alliance events, said Paul Hager, CEO of Information Technology Professionals, a Madison, Wis.-based solution provider that has been in the community since the beginning.

However, Hager said, the real benefit for a small Wisconsin-based family-owned business is being in a community where he can work with peers on business ideas and contacts.

“A lot of partners need help with disaster recovery outside hurricane-prone areas,” he said. “We have a [colocation] facility here in Wisconsin. Partners who work with us win because they help their customers, and we win with new business for our data center.”

Deepak Thadani, president and CEO of SCO Cloud, an Armonk, N.Y.-based cloud solution provider and Ingram Micro partner, said his company has used Ingram Micro’s SMB Alliance to provide help to other partners looking for cloud assistance and to find partners who can provide remote support for its own customers.

Working with other solution providers in this way gets the kind of attention from vendors that SCO Cloud would otherwise not get, Thadani said.

“Many manufacturers use the SMB Alliance as the go-to place to reach top Ingram Micro partners,” he said. “This is a place for manufacturers to focus time, money and expertise on partners who are willing to listen and take advantage of their offerings.”