Are You Taking Full Advantage of Your Distributor Partnerships?

Distributors offer expertise, training, support, and a network that can benefit your business – if you take the initiative to learn what’s available.

Distribution Partnerships

Channel partnerships are a part of a successful managed services provider (MSP) or value-added reseller (VAR) business. However, you may not be making the most of what those partnerships, particularly distributor partnerships, have to offer.

Members of The ASCII Group, Joe Balsarotti of Software to Go, Rafael Hamoy of H2Webs, and Sean Jennings of CIM Solutions offer suggestions on how to get more value out of your distributor partnerships and managing two-tiered business relationships with distributors and vendors.

What are some specific (and lesser known) ways a distributor can help a VAR or MSP during the customer lifecycle journey besides acquiring technology products?

Jennings: We benefit in two ways beyond sourcing technology products:

  • Training and certification: The distributors we form the tightest bonds with are the ones that provide extra services, like training, rather than just box pushing.
  • Solution design and support: It is great when an MSP gets a complex request from a client, and we can lean on the distributor to help us with the design and sometimes even the implementation.

Hamoy: I’ve found that distributors can significantly benefit IT businesses by enhancing our expertise in emerging technologies like cybersecurity and potentially expanding service offerings. Their marketing and sales support can help IT businesses attract clients with professional co-branded materials. Additionally, access to expert technical support enables handling complex projects, such as enterprise-grade cloud implementations, which improves customer satisfaction and retention. This comprehensive support can dramatically enhance IT businesses’ operational and strategic capabilities.

Balsarotti: More so vendors than distributors, but the PC and server manufacturers’ recycling and “take back” programs can be beneficial in areas where electronics recycling is difficult or non-existent. Offering complete lifecycle support, including removal, data destruction and certified recycling, can be a good selling tool, especially for security-minded and environmentally-conscious clients.

Which distributor services do VARs and MSPs tend to overlook that they could benefit from?

Balsarotti: Distributors have groups focused on individual brands or product lines that you can consult with or use to validate server builds. For example, we utilize the HPE groups at D&H and SYNNEX to double-check our server builds. Most also have marketing departments that can tap into what little promotional dollars still exist for VARs and MSPs.

Jennings: Special project financing — many distributors offer special terms for large projects – and MDF funds. Some distributors also offer credits or back-end rebates on purchases of items across their vendor list.

Hamoy: I’ve noticed that MSPs and VARs often overlook several valuable distributor services that could significantly enhance their operations. These include extended warranty services that provide additional coverage beyond manufacturer terms, demo programs that allow potential customers to experience products firsthand, and advanced inventory management solutions that optimize supply chain efficiency.

What advice or tips can you share regarding successfully managing a two-tier business relationship, e.g., working with a distributor while maintaining a relationship with vendors?

Balsarotti: Don’t just accept the web pricing at the distributors. Orders with multiple SKUs from the same vendor, quantities of a single SKU, or larger orders will almost always get you a discount if you get the sales reps to give you a formal quote. Also, if there are back-end rebates available from the vendors, they can apply those. Buying on distributor websites vs. contacting a rep to save time for larger purchases leaves money on the table.

Hamoy: From my experience, effectively managing a two-tier business relationship between distributors and vendors can yield significant benefits. For example, leveraging a distributor’s purchasing power, I can often secure a 10-20% discount on bulk software licenses, which boosts my profit margins. A strong relationship with the distributor also enables me to customize vendor offerings to better meet specific business needs, such as a white-label storage or VoIP solution that I can market under my brand. This collaboration facilitates faster resolution of support issues, enhancing customer satisfaction through quicker vendor responses. Additionally, joint marketing initiatives like webinars on new cloud solutions help expand my audience reach and generate more leads.

Jennings: It is great when a distributor can go to bat with a vendor for you. Distributors have more pull with vendors than a single MSP does. It is also great when the distributor knows about special programs or discounts that a vendor may have and brings these to the MSP.

About The ASCII Group, Inc.

The ASCII Group is the premier community of North American MSPs, MSSPs, VARs and solution providers. The group has over 1,300 members throughout the U.S. and Canada, and membership encompasses everyone from credentialed MSPs serving the SMB community to multi-location solution providers with a national reach. Founded in 1984, ASCII provides services to members, including leveraged purchasing programs, education and training, marketing assistance, extensive peer interaction and more.  ASCII works with a vibrant ecosystem of major technology vendors that complement the ASCII community and support the mission of helping MSPs and VARs grow their businesses. For more information, please visit www.ascii.com.


Mike Monocello

The former owner of a software development company and having more than a decade of experience writing for B2B IT solution providers, Mike is co-founder of Managed Services Journal (formerly XaaS Journal) and DevPro Journal.