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It used to be that dealing with your distributor mainly involved finding the right parts. Now, it’s often more about finding the right people.

At Tech Data’s TechSelect conference in Las Vegas later this week, the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor is getting into the matchmaking game, showcasing ways VARs can share information and partner with one another to increase their scope and profitability. TechSelect is Tech Data’s members-only program for SMB solution providers.

A big part of that partnering push will happen within an enhanced TechSelect partner portal, which includes a new partner locator, according to Pat Olsen, senior manager of customer marketing for Tech Data. Through the portal, resellers can find potential partners based on geography or technical specialty.

“This is all about connecting VAR to VAR,” says Olsen. “We understand that for solution providers it’s impossible to be all things to all people. With tools like this, partners gain tech specialties and expertise by partnering with each other.”

“We’re answering a need here that the VAR community has expressed,” says Murray Wright, Tech Data’s senior vice president of U.S. sales. “Facilitating new, stronger partnerships among TechSelect members will be the driving force behind our event. The portal is a good example. It’s the result of interaction with the VAR community, who rely on each other’s strengths to create opportunity. This is a chance now to engage with hundreds of resellers in this environment.”

TechSelect members at the conference will also hear about ways to Web 2.0 and social networking tools to market their businesses to both end users and other resellers, Olsen says. Attendees will also be treated to peer discussion groups that start at the show with business-improvement workshops then continue through the year with online forums and events aimed at giving the member VARs ways critically review their work, implement improvement projects and evaluate results, according to Tech Data.

John Gray, vice president of CHS Technology in Oklahoma City attended the profitability peer group last year and calls it “one of the most valuable business-related sessions we’ve ever been a part of.” Gray says the key was hearing other VARs discuss opportunities his company hadn’t considered and, more importantly, “being able to measure ourselves against other resellers who we respect.”

Tech Data is adding two new peer discussion groups to the TechSelect roster this year: service management and marketing.

Also set to be unveiled at this year’s event is the new TechSelect Partner branding program, which lets members use TechSelect Partner logos and other branding materials to bolter their marketing efforts to end users, resellers and vendors. The program, which is included in TechSelect’s $2,000 annual membership fee, includes “customizable advertising copy for use in printed materials, promotional items, Web sites and even bid proposals. It explains the benefits of TechSelect and how end users, resellers and vendors can tap into the community’s value by partnering with its members,” according to a Tech Data spokesman. “Additionally, the TechSelect Partner logo was provided to members with suggestions for how it can be used to support the reseller’s own brand, which always remains front and center.”

And to help solution providers who offer managed services seal the deal once they attract the attention of new customer and partners, Tech Data is also rolling out a new financing program–backed by IBM Global Financing–to be used to pay the upfront costs associated with managed services engagements with SMBs. The program is designed to support deals worth as little as $1,000.
The MSP financing gives solution providers structured monthly or quarterly payments for hardware, software and services under a single invoice. For all deals under $300,000, IBM Global Financing won’t require MSPs to submit end-user financials, “and will provide credit approval and contracts within one hour.” A Tech Data spokesman said.

Tech Data’s TechSelect conference runs May 15 through 18 at the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort Spa and Golf in Las Vegas.