CompTIA’s Distributor Advisory Council Meeting Tackles Where to Invest and With Whom

CompTIA’s Distributor Advisory Council (DAC) met at ChannelCon this month and, as always, engaged in a passionate, wide-ranging discussion of both strategic and near-term industry issues impacting the distribution community.

CompTIA Vice President Annette Taber led the conversation, asking the DAC, “What are the investments that we need to make?” Crash Lowe, director, sales, Waterdog Technologies, jumped in immediately. “Traditionally what’s important for distributors is what’s important for their partners,” he said. “We took that off the table. We talk to partners about their needs; getting down to a granular level. We don’t push something based on what we want to sell. It’s based on their needs.”

A key part of the DAC’s mission is addressing how distribution has gone through a substantial transition with the rise of cloud. “A shift is happening but distribution is always going to be a relevant place,” Jennifer Anaya, vice president, marketing, Ingram Micro, said.  “We’ve been selling cloud for eight years and we’re seeing a shift in that.” Anaya specified that the extent to which hardware competes with cloud continues to shift. “There’s a big opportunity there in distribution.”

Taber asked, “You have so many vendors out there; how do you select the ones you really want to invest in?” Lowe said it’s a matter of being able to say no. “You have to be in a space where you tell people, ‘No, we don’t want to sell your product.’”

The Joint Advisory Council was meeting later that day, and Annette asked the DAC what it’d tell the wider group of councils in this meeting. Ryan Walsh, co-founder and senior vice president, partner solutions, Pax8, answered. “It’s fascinating how cloud and hardware interact,” he said, adding that the nature of customers is such that distributors should avoid trying to sell them overall platforms. “They want to turn it on when they want it and add a little more when they want.”

Denis Raue, president and CEO, Telegration, stressed investing in marketing. “You [have to] use your marketing dollars to go digital and then teach our agents what they need to know to sell our products,” he said. “You have to have the basic digital content and people who can help train and support that.”

Amy Bailey, vice president, marketing, Telarus, stressed education. “You have to retrain vendors to not give the elevator speech but to instead tell their story,” she said, specifying case studies are useful here.

“It boils down to the why,” Lowe said. “Why does the client need what you’re trying to sell? Once you know that, then you can sell a solution.”