Ask security dealers what their core competencies are and they’re likely to talk about their expertise in securing homes and businesses and providing life safety. But there’s more to running a successful security business — and as they strive to stay on top of all aspects of their operations, security dealers may find that their distributors can help fill in any gaps.
Marketing, training and cybersecurity are just a few areas where distributors may be able to lend a hand. SDM talked to security distributors about how they can augment dealers’ own resources, with an emphasis on resources introduced in the last year or two. Here are 10 great examples:
1. Evaluating new products can be time consuming, and an individual dealer may not be aware of all the options. Some distributors, including PSA Security Network, act as R&D departments for their security integrators. PSA, headquartered in Westminster, Colo., has a committee that specializes in new product evaluation, vetting new offerings for its dealers, explains Ric McCullough, chief operating officer for PSA Security Network.
Another distributor, Anixter (headquartered in Glenview, Ill.), has a Solutions Lab, where technical experts research, test and evaluate products (see about Anixter’s Solutions Lab at www.SDMmag.com/anixter-media-day).
2. Sourcing skilled labor. During busy periods, or when they sell a big job, security integrators may need additional labor. Here, too, the distributor may be able to help. Greenville, S.C.-based distributor ScanSource Networking and Security, for example, maintains a database of skilled technicians and can match them with dealers as needed. As Tracey Boucher, vice president of merchandising for ScanSource, notes, the company only works with technicians who do not sell their own systems, which eliminates the possibility of the technician’s competing with the dealer for the customer’s hardware business.
How Can Dealers Get the Best Pricing?
SDM asked distributors what security dealers can do to get the best pricing on their equipment.
As in any industry, dealers that buy a higher volume of products generally get better prices. Therefore, Access Hardware Supply’s Bill Smoyer advises dealers to limit the number of vendors with whom they do business to maximize volumes with those they do use.
Dealers also should recognize that distributors have less ability to reduce prices than manufacturers do.
“Ultimately, manufacturers control who gets the best pricing,” observes Wendy Thacker at ScanSource Networking and Security. Her advice: Be well networked within the manufacturer community.
Dealers generally don’t have to buy direct from the manufacturer to get the best price, however. As Thacker explains, manufacturers have registration programs that are honored by distributors in order to allow for special pricing that may be necessary to win a competitive deal.
Dealers also should recognize that factors other than price can impact what they spend with distributors.
Grouping equipment into as few separate orders as possible can save on shipping costs, observes Keith Lathrop, business development manager for Midwest Wholesale. “There’s not much difference in freight cost between one item and an entire job” — assuming everything is shipped at the same time, Lathrop notes. But the cost of multiple small shipments can add up.
Another factor to consider: Some distributors include extra benefits with equipment purchases. For example, eDist Security Distributing offers one year of free monitoring on sales of certain control panels.
Some distributors also may offer discounts for early payment. For example, PSA Security Network offers a 2 percent discount for customers that pay invoices within 10 days and a 1 percent discount for invoices paid within 11 to 25 days.
For years, PSA integrators have worked with one another when one dealer needs to service a customer outside its own service area. More recently, PSA has begun a referral service for subcontractors as well.
3. Providing useful apps. Headquartered in San Leandro, Calif., distributor Access Hardware Supply recently introduced a useful app designed to help its dealers select the right electronic locks.
“It prompts them with the correct questions to get the information we need,” explains Bill Smoyer, national sales manager for Access Hardware Supply. Technicians also can attach photos of the current door hardware. Information and photos are sent via email to Access, where personnel recommend the right product for the application.
“Depending how big the project is, we try to get everything out the same day,” Smoyer adds.
4. Building products at the distributor site. As Wendy Thacker, director of vendor business and marketing for ScanSource, explains, there is a wide range of network video recorders (NVRs), and it can be difficult to correctly forecast how many of each version to keep in stock. ScanSource addresses this concern by doing the final assembly on NVRs for its dealers, enabling dealers to quickly get the correct version of the product.
5. An innovative inventory option. Anixter offers something Senior Vice President of Global Security Solutions James Rothstein calls “Customer Managed Inventory” or “CMI.” The program puts critical items on dealers’ shelves so dealers can deliver same-day service to their customers. Products are replenished and billed to the dealer as the dealer uses them.
6 .Cyber security is becoming increasingly important to the security business. PSA Security Network includes cyber security assessment and training as part of the portfolio of vetted third-party services that the company offers its dealers. And ScanSource offers a service that changes the default password on password-protected equipment before the equipment is shipped to dealers.
7. Getting equipment any time of day or night. eDist Security Distributing, headquartered in Mahwah, N.J., has an innovative way of enabling dealers to pick up equipment at times when the distributor location is closed. eDist will put equipment into what eDist President and CEO Quinn Ruelle calls “pickup lockers” that are secured using access control technology.
8. Marketing assistance. Some distributors offer marketing assistance by, for example, vetting third-party marketing and design firms that can create yard signs, brochures and other materials for dealers, sometimes at a discount.
Dealers that use eDist, for example, accrue funds they can use for marketing services from a sister company under the same ownership. A recent addition to the marketing company’s offerings is a service that analyzes a dealer’s existing customer base to determine key opportunities and then creates a marketing plan to get more customers of that type, explains Ruelle.
9. Distributor websites can be a valuable resource. Some distributors have put a lot of work into their websites to provide easily accessible information about key manufacturers that the distributor represents.
Learning From Your Distributor
Many distributors offer training, which can be indispensable and can take a wide range of forms. One of the most common forms of training is to have manufacturer representatives on hand at certain times to explain the manufacturer’s offerings. Some distributors also offer online training options.
Another alternative, offered by several distributors, is to take their training capabilities on the road.
At press time in August, SYNNEX Corporation — a distributor headquartered in Freemont, Calif. — expected to launch what the company calls “VISUALSolv” roadshows.
“The roadshows are designed to engage and educate customers on our offerings while showcasing the latest in traditional AV, digital signage, physical security and collaborative communications,” comments Sandi Stambaugh, vice president of product management for SYNNEX.
The roadshow’s 2018 itinerary includes stops in Chicago; Sonoma, Calif.; Palm Desert, Calif.; and New York.
In a similar vein, Midwest Wholesale has a semi-trailer that opens up when parked to double its size, enabling the company to take its training on the road.
“Inside, we have different door hardware and we train [dealers] on how to install it,” explains Mary Ciscos, marketing manager for Midwest Wholesale.
Some other distributors offer events to which dealers can travel to gain training while also networking with manufacturers and other dealers.
For example, Anixter’s 2018 Teeing Up Technology event series combines six hours of technical training, an interactive networking manufacturer expo and cocktail hour, and Topgolf play. The all-day events are held at various Topgolf venues across the country.
Meanwhile, PSA Security Network offers an annual PSA TEC event that includes different seminar tracks for employees with different functions within a dealer organization such as procurement, cyber security, marketing and leadership. Throughout the year, dealers earn education credits based on their purchase volume, which they can use to cover employees’ costs to attend the event. PSA Security Network Chief Operating Officer Ric McCullough notes that dealers have sent as many as 30 employees to a PSA TEC, using education credits to pay for airfare, hotels and meals.
“We get a lot of partnership materials from suppliers such as brochures, spec sheets and installation videos,” comments Mary Ciscos, marketing manager for Midwest Wholesale, a distributor headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. On the Midwest Wholesale website, those materials are all in one place, where dealers can easily find what they need, she comments.
10. Streamline ordering. More and more distributors are simplifying the order process by enabling a dealer’s equipment order to flow directly into distributor systems, eliminating the need for rekeying. Ruelle notes that eDist now can accept orders in the form of emails, XML or electronic data interchange.
Your distributor can be a great partner and can help fill in any gaps in your organization’s own expertise. In addition to the offerings highlighted here, distributors can also provide valuable training (see sidebar, “Learning From Your Distributor,” above).
Are you taking advantage of all the resources your distributor offers?
Check out other SDM coverage about resources that distributors can provide dealers at these links:
“What Dealers Want from Their Distributors Today”
“Eight Extraordinary Distributor Training Options”
“The Competitive Advantage of Working with a Distributor”