Dealers--Changing Distribution Models
One straight-forward solution is to broaden the sales force to encompass personnel other than just sales reps, Brehm suggests.
Citing the differences between a year 2000 sales compensation study now under way and the same study from 1998, Brehm observes that "the channel is starting to define the sales team as encompassing technical specialists."
PrimeSource, one of the largest players in the domestic distributor/ dealer arena, has instituted a different solution. The company has corralled its offerings for digital printing, including online solutions, into a digital technology division and has given it a dedicated staff.
Mike Silverman, director of marketing for this digital group, explains that the division offers focus and expertise dedicated to fast-evolving technologies such as variable data and on-demand printing. "A typical dealer sales channel needs to be accountable for a gazillion products," Silverman says. "We have gone to the extreme in creating an independent business unit with dedicated people who are solely involved in this narrow niche of digital printing."
All of the burden for keeping up with technology need not be on the distributor/ dealer, however. The manufacturer has a vested interest in the training of its re-sellers, and often will be involved in training programs.
In a perfect world, Brehm notes, a logical supply chain can be drawn from a product's manufacturer to its end user: manufacturer to distributor to dealer to end user. "But as we all know, ours is not a perfect world," he says. Through factors such as industry consolidation and adjustments in business focus, Brehm notes, some companies are blurring the lines between manufacturing, distribution and dealership.
"Distributors get a product to the end user quickly and efficiently, and a dealer is bringing value [through] other services, such as training and developing technology," explains Heinkel. PrimeSource, he says, has bridged the gap between distributorship and dealership. The paradigm shift that traditional distributors may face as they integrate new technologies is exactly what PrimeSource has done: It has combined the supply chain steps of distributor and dealer.