By Mike Monocello, chief editor
Business Solutions magazine recently made a trip to the Buffalo, NY corporate sales office of value-added distributor (VAD) Ingram Micro. It's here where the VAD houses approximately 300 sales associates including 20 Data Capture/POS (DC/POS)-dedicated sales resources.
The first stop on our tour was to meet with the technical support and integration services teams at the company. It was there we learned that this department of 150 cross-trained technicians receives approximately 5,000 pre and post technical sales calls a day. The job of this department is to "enable" the sale. This team is devoted to providing a VAR all the information, technical support and tools it needs to develop the right IT solution and close the deal.
A couple things make this possible. First, this technical support team is very specialized. Each member has core competencies, as well as secondary competencies. While this specializing mostly applies to technologies such as data capture and POS, it also spans verticals. For instance, this group has a strong focus on the government and education vertical markets with a support team of more than 60 focused on all segments of Gov/Ed business, including the stimulus opportunity.
What helps makes this group even more knowledgeable is the immediate access they have to the technology in which they specialize. For instance, as we walked the hallways of this department, it was common to see everything from network switches and storage devices to receipt printers and cash drawers on the desks of Ingram Micro's technical support members. These products aren't just lying around. On the contrary, all the demo products are fully functional, running on a test lab network. Having these products within immediate reach allows for informal training to take place continuously and helps make Ingram Micro's support and services employees subject matter experts.
While there are working solutions implemented at each employee's desk, the more impressive display of implemented technology could be found in the VAD's multi-manufacturer "Solution Center." This 3,400-square-foot lab is home to approximately $10 million in the latest (products change every few months) solutions from companies like Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, EMC, and VMware. In all my years as a VAR, I've never seen so much hardware running in one place. And it's in this center that VAR and end-user training and education classes can take place on topics such as virtualization, storage, digital signage, IP communications, and IP surveillance. If you can't make it to the facility in Buffalo (or the Solution Center in Santa Ana, CA), training also is often available via live webinars and online classes.
Following the tour, Business Solutions magazine's President, Jim Roddy, sat down with Marc Rachiele, the director of vendor management and marketing for Ingram Micro's DC/POS Division. The duo recorded two educational pieces today that many VARs will find interesting. Following are links to those videos (podcast versions are also available).