The term “value-added” has been used so widely that it has lost much of its meaning, as virtually all distributors today incorporate this term into their company description or tagline. Value-added should be used to describe only what a distributor offers beyond its core capabilities of providing inventory, logistics and financing.
One of the problems most broad-line distributors face is they simply offer too many products to be specialists and have too many accounts to have a deep understanding of individual customer requirements. Providing effective value-added services starts with knowing the customer. This includes company size, markets served, preferred technologies and products and technical capabilities. A value-added distributor (VAD) needs be viewed by their customers as a true technology partner; and to be viewed as such, the VAD has to build trust by demonstrating how it can bring knowledge and resources to the relationship — which translate into time savings and increased earnings for the integrator/dealer.
Value-added services fall into two main categories: pre-sale and post-sale.
Pre-sale: A VAD providing true pre-sale support must have salespeople that have a strong understanding of available technologies, the manufacturers of the those technologies, and the feature sets of available products. They must understand compatibility of products and how to organize the building blocks of a security system in a way that makes sense for the customer’s applications from both a technical and commercial standpoint. Essential elements of pre-sale support are closely listening to the customer’s stated requirements and then asking the right questions to establish a good understanding of the budget the integrator is working with. If trust has been established by demonstrating a high level of expertise, then solutions can be explored and frustrations avoided. The VAD takes a consultative approach to selling. Frequently it is the small- to medium-sized dealers and integrators that do not have specialized staff who look to the VAD to be an extension of their own technical team.
Post-sale: This value-add involves the support provided when a customer has a problem with a product they purchased or has issues with an installation or integration. The single most important aspect of post-sale support is responsiveness and quick resolution. The distributor must share the same sense of urgency as the integrator when their customer’s system is down and a quick fix is demanded. In addition to responsiveness, a VAD offers a deeper level of technical support and knowledge. Technicians will be well trained on all products sold and with the technologies associated with those products. A lab should be maintained where most common VMS and NVR products are running and technicians have the ability to troubleshoot both hardware and software problems — normally without the need to contact the manufacturer.
Bill Douglas is vice president of Business Development for United Digital Technologies (http://udtech-usa.com), a distributor of network video products. To request more info about the company, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10215460.