Industry calls channel to arms

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Industry leaders have slammed the channel as “too passive” in a call-to-arms assessment of a maturing Australian IT sales sector.

At an IDC Research conference in Sydney, Australian channel executives challenged resellers to take back the power from vendors to drive business productivity for their customers.

Kerry Baillie, MD of Tech Pacific, said some channel players had grown complacent in the boom years and lost the ability to sell “in the old-fashioned way”, building relationships with a strong knowledge base to add value for vendors and end-user clients.

“The channel is probably too passive,” he said. “We should be more knowledgeable [about the products] and more aggressive.”

Stuart Hendry, MD at Logical Networks, said the channel was “far too passive ...You need to be able to look your customers in the eye and say 'we do right by you'.”

He said many channel companies were not doing their best to harness their position, in between vendor and customer, to deliver business benefits to end-users. Channel players needed to be “proud” of their independence from vendors and leverage that to build trust in end-users, instead of behaving “like a pipeline”.

“Stand up to command respect. That makes you a much better business partner for customers and vendors because that's a triangular relationship, with pressure on each side, instead of the channel as cannon-fodder pushing new technology for vendors,” Hendry said.

Hendry said more work needed to be done by the channel as a whole at the sales skills and knowledge level to prove indispensability to vendors and end-users alike. “It will take [another] couple of years but we will get there,” he said.

Steve Rust, MD of Ingram Micro in Australia, challenged vendors to dump any channel partners that failed to perform better than the vendor could at the sales and distribution level, arguing he believed strongly that opportunities for smart channel players would remain no matter what further changes the industry experienced. “Instead of whinging and moaning about what the vendors are doing, look at what you can do. The opportunities will go to those resellers who keep their eye on the endgame, which is maximising the dollars for customers,” he said.

Hugh Bickerstaff, MD at Volante Systems, has worked in both a multi-vendor channel and a single-vendor environment. He said the multi-vendor reseller would continue to hold advantages for the customer precisely because it enabled them to compare different products and approaches.

“The single-vendor model runs out of puff after a certain period of time and vendors generally acknowledge that as well,” Bickerstaff said.

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