Distributors play a key role in the security business, offering not only products but also training and other resources to security dealers. Here is what’s new in this area.
Easier to do Business
Distributors always seem to be finding new ways to simplify security dealers’ operations and making it easier for dealers and distributors to do business with one another.
For example, the inventory system at San Leandro, Calif.-based Access Hardware Supply now uses bar codes on the products that it carries to update stock-on-hand data in real time, notes Bill Smoyer, national sales manager for Access Hardware Supply.
The company also is adding e-commerce capability to its website so that dealers will be able to generate their own quote or place an order using a shopping cart interface such as those found on online retailer websites.
Emphasis on Vertical Markets
Greenville, S.C.-based distributor ScanSource Inc. is placing greater emphasis on vertical markets with the goal of helping security dealers and integrators that focus on those verticals, notes Wendy Thacker, vice president of channel marketing for ScanSource.
Called “Fast Lane,” the program goal is to help customers understand the opportunity, Thacker explains. In some cases, that might mean breaking into a new vertical market. Alternatively, “If they already sell into the space, they have an opportunity to extend the wallet share spend,” Thacker observes.
The steps ScanSource is taking to help dealers target vertical markets include highlighting vertical markets in their newsletter and offering seminars about certain verticals. The company also is commissioning studies about specific vertical markets with the goal of providing insight about how companies in those markets make decisions, what keeps them up at night, and how they function so that security dealers have a better idea of other things they can sell to them, Thacker explains.
Key verticals in which ScanSource has this expertise include retail, education and hospitality, notes Tracey Boucher, ScanSource vice president of Supplier Services Networking & Security.
Training Is Always Key
Training has long been a key resource that distributors provide, and it’s an area that distributors always seem to be expanding. ScanSource’s vertical market seminars are just one example of this.
Another example comes from St. Louis-based Security Equipment Supply Inc. (SES). Each of SES’s 13 locations has a training room and what SES Senior Marketing Coordinator Jamie Robertson calls a “rep counter” — an area where manufacturers’ representatives can answer questions and offer information about the manufacturer’s offerings.
“Our goal is to help customers grow by showing them other opportunities,” comments Tony Torres, SES marketing manager. “If they grow, we grow.”
SES offers training throughout the year, but puts a particular emphasis on the area at the beginning of each year, including classes that provide continuing education units (CEUs.) Considering that some states require dealers to earn CEUs annually in order to keep their licenses, “We try to get started at the beginning of the year so [dealers don’t have to] worry about cramming everything in at the end of the year,” Robertson observes.
Access Hardware Supply has made its facility available for trainers offering a range of certifications, including certification from the American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers, fire door recertification, and others. Security dealers looking to offer new types of services and equipment, or locksmiths that offer security and other services, may be interested in certifications such as these.
Training is also an important area for Banner Solutions, a Kansas City, Mo.-based company that encompasses what were several separate distributors — including Akron Hardware, Midwest Wholesale and others. As Banner Solutions Vice President of Marketing and E-commerce Benjamin Smith notes, Banner recently hired a training specialist who provides training on an ad hoc basis in response to customer requests. Training focuses on topics such as how to win more jobs and how to bid jobs, as well as specific products.
New Access Control Source
As Smith explains, the decision to rename the consolidated company that is now Banner Solutions was the result of a six-month project with an agency specializing in branding. The name was chosen because of its dual meaning. As Smith explains, the word can describe something “worth marking or commemorating,” as in “a banner year.” Alternatively, the word can refer to the banners that sports teams hang when they win a championship.
By bringing multiple distributors together, Banner now has 12 locations that are within a one-day reach of more than 92 percent of the U.S. population, according to Smith. Most of the workforce was retained, creating a large talent pool, he adds.
Banner’s roots are in door hardware and the like — and for now, at least, the company doesn’t focus on traditional alarm equipment. Part of the new company’s growth strategy, however, involves expanding into access control, thereby offering a potential new supplier for dealers that sell and install that type of equipment.
A Trusted Source of Information
Distributors can be a great source of industry information. Some of them, including ScanSource, SES and others, offer blogs or newsletters — and these offerings can provide valuable tips. For example, a recent SES blog post focused on how to choose an HDMI cable.
SES also has introduced other methods of dispersing information — methods that reveal considerable creativity and add an element of fun. For example, the company has introduced a tool from Zappar that lets dealers scan a photo of a manufacturer’s product to view a video or see additional details about the product.
Another information source from SES is the company’s YouTube channel, where dealers can watch videos of technical SES employees unboxing and discussing new equipment. Those videos were modeled after similar highly popular videos posted on YouTube by an 11-year old, in which he unboxes and discusses new toys, explains Derek Hagenhoff, SES vice president and treasurer.
And in the spirit of fun, your distributor may offer the opportunity to win prizes.
The new ScanSource Fast Lane program has a prize component that gives dealers the ability to qualify for monthly and quarterly prizes, as well as a grand prize trip.
And SES recently awarded a trailer stocked with products as the prize in a drawing — with dealers gaining more chances to win based on their volume of purchases of products from several key vendors.
Clearly, distributors do much more than simply stock and sell products. In addition, they can add value to their offerings through a range of methods, including streamlining operations, providing training and information and even by awarding prizes.