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Reaching out

Xerox’s Global Channel Strategy Lead, Aqua Porter, recently visited the UK, giving PrintIT Reseller the opportunity to find out more about how the company plans to increase sales amongst SMEs and the important role resellers can play

Aqua Porter
Aqua Porter

In April, Xerox announced the largest product launch in its 110-year history, including 29 new ConnectKey devices. In addition to increased functionality, a common user interface across the range and a customisable app platform, the new products fill long-standing gaps in Xerox’s portfolio, especially the new Versalink series. Designed to meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses, these new A4 and A3 devices will enable Xerox to compete better in growth areas such as A4 MFPs and managed print services for SMEs. To do this, the company is also hoping to recruit more IT resellers.

PrintIT Reseller (PITR): Xerox has said that it wants to increase sales to small and medium-sized businesses. Does that mean a greater emphasis on indirect channels?

Aqua Porter (AP): There’s a real opportunity for Xerox to see profitable revenue growth in the SMB market. About 75 per cent of that market is covered by indirect channels and 25 per cent is direct. To win in the overall market, we’re going to have to continue to shift our market towards those sellers that can deliver, and in the SMB space that’s really the indirect channels. So, the short answer is yes.

PITR: Do you plan to increase the business you do with existing partners or are you going to recruit more resellers?

AP: The idea is to cover the market with as big a footprint as we can, so we’ll have to do both. We want to be able to grow the participation of our current partners and increase the number of partners we do business with. That includes traditional print resellers and IT-centric resellers that may see print as just one part of a bigger solution. Quite frankly, we’ll probably do some acquisition as well, where we think appropriate.

PITR: How do you plan to attract new resellers?

AP: In multiple ways. One, we have to provide a value proposition and a financial model that’s compelling to partners. We have to make sure our product portfolio consists of products and services that meet the requirements of the end customer and partners or retailers. We need to get good at that and not just think about things from a direct standpoint. That’s one thing.

The other is we have to continue to bring innovation to the market, both in our products and our services. Our Connectkey launch, with 29 new products, really reinforces the message that we are investing in innovation. We also have managed print services that enable customers to outsource printer fleet administration so that they can focus on what that they need to do.

PITR: What do you think are some of the challenges your resellers face, and how are you helping them to overcome them?

AP: One is the magnitude of information, products and services for resellers to take advantage of and the fact that there may not necessarily be a roadmap showing how they can best position them and sell them to their customers. We need to do a much better job of helping them create targeted solutions for the environments they are addressing, whether that’s a vertical market or a shared workgroup – making it really easy for them to identify what solution or what set of products might work best.

That’s what we are doing with our Connectkey products. They are such a breath of fresh air and so contemporary. The interface is much more like what people are used to seeing on a tablet or a computer and the idea that you can download apps to solve a certain problem for a customer is unique and novel. Now, we even allow our partners to build apps for their customers or other partners to use. That ecosystem provides another level of value to our partners and makes us a more valuable manufacturer to work with.

PITR: Are there any apps that really stand out for you?

AP: One that I think is pretty amazing is the translator app: you take a document in English, scan it in and get a translated version in another language. I find the idea that you can do that with the push of a button, darn cool, especially as over the past couple of years I’ve been working on a portal where we spent a significant amount of time translating content into eight different languages.

The fact that we have given our partners the opportunity to develop software and apps that address the problems their customers have is pretty unique. Over the next couple of years, when that engine really gets going, we’re going to see some amazing solutions come out, because now you’re not limited to just a few people but can open it up to many more developers. It’s another element of the value proposition for our partners.

PITR: What are some of the other strategies or initiatives you’re introducing to attract new resellers?

AP: One is to let resellers know that Xerox is committed to the channel, and then to connect personally with those that are interested in partnering with us to ensure they understand the value of working with Xerox – to be very proactive about recruiting partners who want to do business with us and not just assume they know who we are.

We need to be very clear about the value proposition we offer partners – whether it’s financial, whether it’s from a products and services standpoint, or whether it’s around support for our partners and making ourselves easy to do business with us. The reason I’m here is because we have invested several million dollars in our partner relationship management platform. We have built one place where our partners can find all the tools and resources and information they need – to make it easier to engage with us and do business with us and find information about us.

PITR: In the past, what sort of feedback from partners have you had about dealing with Xerox?

AP: One of the things we’ve heard is that it can be complex doing business with us. We are a big company, we have lots of very enthusiastic teams and there’s a lot that a partner can take advantage of. But we don’t always make it easy for them to do that. Because some teams are in different silos, we don’t always make it simple for resellers to find information about something. We’re trying to make that easier. I tell people it’s like going to the mall; there aren’t 20 entrances to the mall; you go in one entrance and there’s a directory of places you might want to visit. We want a partner to come to Xerox and easily navigate to where they want to go, with one entryway and one set of ideas, information and credentials they can take with them anywhere.

With the coverage strategy for our SMB market, resellers need things to be uncomplicated. We need to make sure we stay foremost in their minds and that they don’t have to go through any unnecessary hassle to get to the information they need. It’s in our best interests to make it really easy for them to do business with us, so that they come back again and again. We don’t want them to have to think hard about doing business with us; we want it to feel simple and easy.

PITR: Is this also important for attracting IT resellers that might not have a history of selling print devices?

AP: With IT resellers, I think there’s a huge opportunity for us to make sure we understand who they are and how they sell and what they need and to target our offers to suit them. Differentiating a print reseller’s needs from an IT reseller’s needs and making sure we can deliver on both is absolutely what we need to do to crack that market.

PITR: What do you think are the differences between a print reseller and an IT reseller?

AP: The major difference is that the print reseller’s revenue has generally been through print, some kind of device related to print, so their existence and their success has been driven through print or print-related products and services. However, for an IT reseller print might just be one part of a bigger solution, wrapped up with other components and not necessarily the primary solution. They look for Xerox to help them with the print component in that overall solution. Print resellers will know a lot more about the print industry and print devices specifically, because that’s where their heritage has been.

PITR: With the Altalink and Versalink series and other new other products, like the PageConnect Services basic print service, you’ve expanded your SMB range quite a lot. There’s now more for the IT reseller to offer SMB customers.

AP: Absolutely. We’ve expanded the range and we’ve expanded our capabilities, and with the new A4 products, we’ve increased our breadth of range too. Both from a price point and from a capability point, we should be able to fill almost any need.