Guest Column | June 1, 2020

Identifying VAR Needs In The Face Of COVID-19

By Peter DiMarco, Vice President of VAR Sales, D&H Distributing


How D&H Distributing helped MSPs express urgent requirements to more than 200 manufacturers, allowing them to develop strategies to brave a quarantined market.

As a distributor mainly serving partners in the SMB segment, D&H is well-versed in the unique strengths of this partner community. When COVID-19 rocked the business world, conditions changed so rapidly that the channel hardly had a chance to react. End-customers were clamoring for telework technology, distance learning infrastructure, cloud storage solutions, and home network security. Many partners received requests for hundreds if not thousands of laptops and monitors at a time, outfitting entire city governments or school district populations. Yet still, other small businesses were forced to shutter their doors. Business continuity ruled the day, with companies implementing virtual operational plans that had long been only theoretical.

As manufacturers watched this dynamic unfold, many appealed to D&H due to our access to thousands of SMB partners to identify their needs. Without exaggeration, the country was counting on IT solutions providers to facilitate a comprehensive transition to digital work and school platforms. Our vendors were as vested as anyone else in making sure that happened, so the market could remain as viable as possible.

Communication is one of the best tools we have at our disposal when it comes to a crisis. D&H made a quick decision to connect a representative panel of partners to the company’s extensive base of manufacturers for a virtual panel presentation. A multitude of vendors could then listen to partners provide a first-hand description of their most immediate needs to brave the “new normal”.

D&H had just gone through its own COVID-19-inspired transformation: When quarantine mandates were announced, the company moved more than 500 employees from our new Harrisburg headquarters to work-from-home environments—which was completed over three days. We were also one of the first companies compelled to transition a live conference event (originally scheduled for March 26 in California) to a channel-wide virtual offering. The success of that first D&H THREADcast presentation inspired the launch of the partner panel engagement, to contribute to a quicker channel recovery.

Within days, more than 200 of our manufacturer partners registered for the panel, entitled “Maintaining Viable Partnerships During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The engagement was moderated by industry analyst and 2112 CEO Larry Walsh. It featured six SMB partners, who explained what services and market adjustments they needed most to achieve recovery, both short- and long-term.

One positive sentiment to come out of the engagement:  SMB companies are agile and determined, and our partners are intent on helping them weather the crisis. Some are already devising plans to help end-customers reopen. D&H has witnessed decades of transitions in the channel and knows the SMB sector is purpose-built for resiliency. With more streamlined operations, lower overhead, and less rigid expenditure requirements, small businesses are nimbler than their enterprise-level counterparts—and may stand to capitalize on opportunities when those larger entities falter under economic duress.

Key Panel Findings:

  • SMB spending immediately shifted to support of remote workforces, with larger projects being postponed.
  • Security became a priority. SMB employees were suddenly conducting business on home networks that weren’t protected to the same level as their office environments.
  • Partners had urgent needs for flexible financing options or licensing plans (e.g., D&H’s Device-as-a-Service program) to accommodate the spike in demand.
  • They want certifications and trainings for their technical teams. They similarly requested increased virtual sales enablement training.
  • Partners need manufacturers to adjust sales goals based on challenges in product availability.
  • They also need extended time frames to meet certification metrics.
  • Partners urged manufacturers to maintain MDF funding for marketing initiatives.

Every week we get closer to having COVID-19 in our rearview mirror, advancing as a unified channel toward the new normal. D&H is proud of the role the channel is playing as a mitigator of this unique market development and similarly arranged a credit-oriented webcast in May to this end. We’re honored to facilitate urgent, critical communication within the channel, helping resellers and manufacturers execute a coordinated course of action to help us all rebound.

About The Author

Peter DiMarco is Vice President of VAR Sales at D&H Distributing.