Distributor IPL Communications held a thought leadership event earlier this year specifically targeting 170 dealers that were a mix between telco and system integrators. This was underscored by the need to change. Julia Talevski sat down with IPL general manager, Paul Scanlan, and managing director, Stead Denton.
What were the key messages resellers took away from the event?
Paul Scanlan (PS): Dealers need to change their business. The whole approach to customers is critical. As everyone knows a lot of the profi tability in telco is from the services that you add value to along the way. It’s a different philosophy and psychology when you go into the sell. The solution becomes more important.
A lot of dealers need to hop out of how many extensions they’ve got and any issues they’ve had. They need to start asking business questions and thinking about who to hire as a sales person to do that, how do they get them trained, and does their vendor or distie train them? They’ve got to go through a whole raft of changes and a lot of these dealers recognise they have to change.
Stead Denton (SD): The real challenge for them is to make that move. The telephone is no longer bolted into the wall, it’s on a server and network. When it becomes Unified Communications (UC) software, most system integrators know how to connect data lines but their understanding of UC software and how it’s used in the business process is limited. We’ve got partners that understand UC, but don’t understand networks and vice versa.
Not one vendor does it all or really bridges that gap. In our portfolio of products, we’re pretty much we’re the central point. As a distie, we probably shouldn’t have to do it, but if we don’t get dealers to the point where we need them, then I don’t have a business.
Resellers in the hardware business are all fighting in a declining hardware market and that’s the biggest challenge our dealers are facing at the moment. This is why they’ve got to become smarter and add value to the sale. You need to go approach a sale with a business process rather than a price.
What are some of the challenges you face as a distributor?
SD: It’s a desire on my part to remain relevant and it’s a challenge for us.
We’re doing a lot of eebinars and whole bunch of training. We’ve got about 400 dealers, 200 understand the need for change and about 100 will migrate. If we can achieve that in the next 12 months, then we’ve got a business.
We were a hardware distributor and anyone in the hardware distribution business has got to add value by way of services. We believe we need to be providing a cloud solution to our dealer network and on that will sit voice, UC and video to allow them to compete with carriers.
Are you putting any specific training programs in place to help dealers transition across?
SD: We’ve got a relationship with Netgear, they do a lot of training with our telephone dealers on network systems and data networks. Between Siemens and Panasonic, we’re doing a lot with our system integrators on UC. There’s one compelling to reason to move to UC apart from instant messaging and mobility – it’s video. We started with video conferencing (VC) and UC about two and half years ago and decided we needed those skills in-house. All of our engineers are now Cisco, Microsoft, Siemens, Panasonic and LifeSize accredited. We’ve been educating our pre and post sales engineers so they can provide skills that our dealers will get.
PS: Training is not a complex thing; you’ve just got to do a lot of it. We can get down to small requent classes. We think we have picked the right vendors and they know what’s coming down the track.
What’s your advice to resellers when making the shift from hardware to services?
SD: If our dealers don’t become part of the business process solutions or in a cloud, they’re going to fi nd it hard to make money. Revenues will come out of annuity on software licensing. The beauty of software is that it does require maintenance.