Expanding the Tech Data FamilyBy Chris Gonsalves | Print
Riding a wave of growing revenues and renewed confidence among customers, Tech Data's Bob Dutkowsky tells Channel Insider he'll use the distributor's credit clout, a growing roster of VAR services, and continued global expansion to maintain momentum.
Q: How are your efforts to attract new VARs to the Tech Data family going?
BD: We’ve learned some valuable lessons from one of our new partners, Zenith InfoTech. When we met up with them we asked them 'how do you find customers?’ Because remember their customers are VARs. They said they would go to a second-tier city, say Rochester, New York, and they would get a list of the VARs there. They’d put out an invite and 20 of them would show up. They pitch their managed service and then they’d pack up and go to Buffalo the next day and do they same thing. That was eye opening for us. It’s like, Holy cow! You’re talking to our customers and they show up for this kind of stuff?’ That’s what caused us to partner with Zenith. It’s grassroots hand-to-hand combat.
We often have these visions of these grandiose programs , but I think Zenith opened our eyes to these technology solution fairs in cities and people will come. Of course then you have to back it up with all the other marketing stuff. But there’s always room to go back to just sitting and talking about your business and how we can help you. People will show up and will invest their time and energy. It still works.
Q: Are you bringing the same mentality to dealing with and retaining existing customers as well?
BD: You bet. So, think about you being a little VAR someplace and our competitor announces, as they actually did, that they’re now going to cover you with one of 12 sales people. Well, we’ve already said that we’re only going to cover you with two and we’re going to make sure that both of them know your name. And, by the way, if you’re not buying anything, those sales people are going to be rated on how often they call you and ask what you’re working on and how we can help you with that. Our folks are outbound now as opposed to just waiting for the phone to ring. We’ve taken such a different approach to serving the market than our competitors and we’re gaining share and they are not. We think the market has decided that they like our approach better.
Q: That’s pretty different from Tech Data was head just a few years ago.
BD: Sure. Five years ago we sent out a letter in Europe saying, 'We don’t want your business over the phone. Please don’t call us. The only way we want your business is electronically.’ That was five years ago. I called on a customer over there recently and he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the letter. He still has it. He waves it at me and says, 'you told me you didn’t want my business.’
Who thought of sending that message five years ago? The damage that you do when you make that declaration to the market, it’s very hard to come back from that. I’m sure it seemed like a brilliant decision at the time. That’s not us anymore. That’s not the Tech Data of today.