Distributors Offer a VARIED MENU
“Dealers require these services to be successful in the marketplace, and it is incumbent on us to provide them,” states Doug Hoerle, director of systems business at ADI, Melville, N.Y.
Training indeed ranks at the top of the list of distributors’ services to home control dealers. Some distributors partner with manufacturers on the training front.
Such is the case with ADI, which each year hosts 40 “ADI Expo” events at venues across North America. During these one-day events, dealers can meet with participating manufacturers of their choice to get a hands-on education on the ins and outs of individual products. Attendance at “ADI Expo” events is free.
ADI also offers what Hoerle deems a comprehensive suite of training courses that range from entry-level introductory workshops to more intense, advanced- level courses.
The menu of options includes review and exam courses, hands-on IP training and certification prep courses, NICET fire training and Webinars, along with manufacturer training and counter days.
Other distributors are opening up to dealers training programs that previously were available only to staff members. Such is the case with Tri-Ed Distributing, Woodbury, N.Y., which has made its Master’s Training Program available to security dealers and integrators.
The program, which comes with state and/or national accreditation, was introduced in 2005 to keep internal staff up-to-date on the latest products and technology, but the company views its content as valuable to dealers, according to John Hyatt, training coordinator.
Backed by a multitude of manufacturers with which Tri-Ed works, the program currently includes a component wherein each of Tri-Ed’s U.S. branches holds complimentary monthly workshops covering a different business segment.
Security was the focus last July and fire was last May. Access control was the featured topic in August; data communications and structured cabling in June; telephone and intercom in September; and CCTV in October.
Tim Walsh, vice president/operations manager for dealer BCI, Grand Prairie, Texas, says he has benefited from Tri-Ed’s training offerings for many years. “This provides us with a solid distribution model for products and accommodating (customers’) needs,” he notes.
In yet another twist on training, distributor AVAD LLC, Van Nuys, Calif., now provides training for security installers in home control. The object, says Bob Gartland, president, is to give security dealers the tools to grow their businesses beyond their core competencies.
One popular class, titled “Breaking into Home Technology,” is given at trade shows, and outlines the basics of entering the home electronics marketplace.
“For many security installers, adding home electronics seems like a profitable and viable addition to their business because they are already in the home and have trusted client relationships,” Gartland observes. “But that’s overwhelming without the proper training, industry knowledge and sales assistance needed to be truly successful in the field.” In total, Gartland says, AVAD presents more than 450 classes annually.
DESIGN AND SUPPORTTraining is only one piece of the distributor-to-dealer services equation. Distributors also have in place a variety of initiatives designed to assist home control dealers with system design and technical support issues.
For example, ADI employs a system sales and support team that is accessible to dealers via a toll-free telephone number. Team members provide design input and suggestions pertaining to which products might best be suited for a given installation, as well as about such issues as cabling and networking. This team fields approximately 1,100 calls per day, according to Hoerle.
Additional help is available from MyADI at www.adi-dist.com, a Web site whose search engine facilitates the location of products based on a variety of parameters. The site’s enhanced search features also include installation instructions, product photographs and data sheets.
Similarly, in addition to a technology and design support hotline, Viking Electronics, Hudson, Wis., hosts an online Tech Support Forum where dealers can post questions and, in most cases, receive responses from the company’s technical personnel and other users within 24 hours.
Additionally, dealers have the ability to view and read posted articles written by Viking’s product experts. Posted articles may be searched by keyword or product.
The Systems Depot assists dealers with systems design through a series of site survey forms dealers can fill out online. Proposed designs, either partial or from the ground up, then are produced by the distributor based on information pertaining to customer requirements and the premises.
Toward a related end, the company publishes online “Tech Tips” bulletins intended to provide dealers with access to critical information that impacts system design.
The distributor recently incorporated an additional design/sales tool into Depot Connect, its e-commerce Web site. Customers of Depot Connect now can download every data sheet submitted by product manufacturers.
“It’s an incredible resource,” says Carol Anderson, marketing manager. “The ability to instantly give our customers such detailed product information greatly enhances installers’ work. Installers can make more informed choices and can even use the documents with the end-user to explain product features.”
To download data sheets, customers first must get a Depot Connect login, which is available on The Systems Depot’s Web site or by calling a special phone number. Products that have corresponding PDFs available for download display a “Data Sheets” tab with a link to open the document.
SPECIAL DELIVERYJust as significantly, distributors’ roster of dealer services has expanded to encompass those that make the right products as readily accessible as possible at the right time.
Toward this end, ScanSource Security Distribution operates as a stocking distributor, maintaining its inventory in a 367,000-square-foot distribution center in Memphis, Tenn. Products ordered before 8 p.m. EST leave the warehouse the same day.
Furthermore, the distributor assigns each of its dealer partners to a dedicated sales representative who acts as a single point of contact for a limited number of customers.
Team members receive extensive product training on a weekly basis, increasing the likelihood that the systems and system components they recommend are appropriate and that the information upon which orders are based is accurate and up-to-date.
ScanSource Security Distribution also employs a sales and ordering model wherein a cadre of business development experts conduct initial assessments of new dealers to determine which products (and services) they should order and carry to help achieve their goals and expand their business.
Meanwhile, for dealer customers of The Systems Depot, access to products comes in part from Depot Express, a service available throughout most of the southeastern United States.
Using a fleet of Depot Express trucks staffed by Depot Express service representatives, the distributor delivers products ordered by dealers directly to job sites.
Representatives verify that orders are correct, complete and in good condition, as well as handle returns and address any questions, problems and concerns on-site. Dealers availing themselves of Depot Express also can request that items in orders delivered to their offices rather than to a job site be put away on the shelves, and that recurring-use items be restocked.
Teo Rivas, service manager at home security dealer ProTec Service, Laurens, S.C., says his company has achieved inventory levels of close to 100 percent using Depot Express. “Our inventory control has never been as under control as it is now,” he notes.
In a slightly different vein, Tri-Ed now offers sophisticated online ordering capabilities via its Web site. Dealers can set up shopping lists of products they regularly order and maintain them in a password-protected area; conduct product searches by description as well as by item number and vendor; and utilize a quick order pad to key in order components rather than place them in a shopping cart.
A reports feature yields rapid access to lists of previously purchased equipment, along with purchasing quantities and dates. Reports can be broken down by item or category totals or in a particular date range, while purchases may be displayed by specific item, item range, specific customer part number, customer part number range, vendor, invoice or general category.
For AVAD, extensive showroom facilities are the ticket. A case in point is the 23,606-square-foot AVAD-Austin facility in Austin, Texas, which features a demonstration showroom to display products and showcase special offers along with extensive warehouse space containing the most popular new products.
The location also houses a sales call center and technical support experts who provide onsite dealer assistance with installation and application needs, as well as a large training room where AVAD University’s courses are conducted.
Similarly, AVAD-Tampa in Tampa, Fla., houses an 18,000-square-foot distribution center and a “technology playroom” where dealers can see, hear and experience products. AVAD-Tampa also has a sales call center, two theater demonstration venues and a training facility.
All these services and features available to dealers from their distributors show that more than ever, distributors are partners in dealers’ businesses.