D&H’s technology show remains at heart “a selling show”

Greg Tobin

D&H Canada GM Greg Tobin

ChanelBuzz.ca attended the fifth annual technology show at the start of D&H Distributing’s sixth year in Canada. Held at the Mississauga Convention Center, approximately 400 customers met with 55 of D&H’s 200 vendors.

That’s a jump from when D&H first opened here, with 29 manufacturers. Prior to that, customers had to buy from the US and become importers of record.

Ah, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, another show. So what? Why go? What’s to look for?’

“As solution providers (SPs) the most important thing they have is intellectual property… IP equals knowledge,” said D&H Canada GM Greg Tobin. “We want to train them on vendor programs and more importantly, products.”

The event featured seminar tracks in the morning, a trade show format in the afternoon, followed by a party and dinner with entertainment. SPs talked with vendors about products and programs.

Every customer who attended was given exclusive discounted pricing from all of the vendors. If you didn’t attend, you don’t get it. And you must take delivery of product within five days. It’s in keeping with the spirit of the event.

“It’s a selling show,” Tobin said. “Let’s be honest – we want to sell product. So take the opportunity to have some food with customers and sell product. We’d love to be able to fulfill their orders so they can take advantage of the show specials.”

A VAR wants to know how to use a product in a profitable manner and make customers happy. For customers IT has to be great value. Yet a solution provider can’t hold inventory.

“They might not have something in their sales funnel yet, but by talking with vendors they can learn what they need to do,” said Tobin. “That’s differentiating ourselves via knowledge of exclusive product opportunities for our attendees.”

To apply special pricing on special accounts based on the people who’ve registered takes a lot of maintenance.

“We see good growth in the market, but we are seeing a bit of softening, from May (the D&H fiscal year start) to now,” Tobin said. “The number of computer shipments is down significantly. A lot of factors are behind that – including a new OS coming out in a month and a half. We believe it’s causing a deferment of purchases, in some cases until that comes out.”

D&H also believes SMBs will be first adopters of Windows 8, because large companies take a few quarters to adopt. SMBs do so quicker, especially if it’s a new business.

This is also the year for a change in the BYOD challenge.

“Two years ago IT managers said, ‘you can’t use that behind my firewall” noted Tobin. “Now you restrict the app, not the device. You question if it’s a contravention of your internal policies – productivity and other areas.”

When SPs talk about the number of SMBs starting in Canada, they make the assumption the business knows as much about IT as the SP does. They don’t.

“Do you know any other industry in which we share knowledge so openly, to the point where we assume the customer knows what we do, so that we challenge our own value?” Tobin asked. “We forget to realize they simply want to take care of their customers, and they’re willing to pay for the security of knowing someone has got their backs in technology.”

Businesses opened to serve their customers. The end user is expecting a seamless experience – whether interoperability or collaboration – that’s got to work.

“It still takes the intellectual capital of the SP to make it work for them,” said Tobin. “As technology changes, the one common that remains is the IP that the SP brings. How people buy product might change – hybrids of ecommerce or etrade, or direct mail, or from the service provider. How they source product may change. How they pull it together and make it work is the glue the SP provides.”