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Sharp to invest in partner education and training

Michelle Ryder caught up with Dealer Sales Director Paul Leach and Managing Director Stuart Sykes, at Sharp’s Elevate 2022 partner conference and product showcase

Sharp relaunched its legacy partner programme in September last year, a move that Dealer Sales Director Paul Leach explained was driven by COVID-19. “The pandemic changed the way dealers were engaging with customers and how customers were using technology. So, what we wanted to do was bring our partner programme in line with the new normal,” he said.

Leach points out that despite the business’ focus being centred on ‘going beyond print’, MPS and MFPs remain Sharp’s core business, a commitment evidenced by the launch of the new Future Workplace A3 MFP Series (see page 33).

“It’s like Alex Hermann, President of Sharp Information Systems said [in his presentation], keeping print going is what keeps the car moving,” Sykes said. “Everyone in this room relies on print to pay the bills. It’s the mainstay of the business and that’s working well, we’re investing in it and bringing in new technology, but with our supplementary product range, our dealers also have the opportunity to diversify.”

Embracing the future of work

In addition to its technology partners – traditional MFP dealers, Sharp also has around 60 tier one and two partners who are keen to evolve with the changing marketplace and buy in to Sharp’s vision of the future of work.

Leach said: “We will sit down with these partners, go through where they want to go, what they want to do as a business, what technologies they’re interested in promoting to their customers etc. and then we will build a plan around that. It’s a much more consultative and collaborative approach.”

As partners move through the tiers, they unlock more benefits – from sales and product training to additional tender assistance and marketing assets. “We want to make sure that we put our time and investment into people who want to change,” Sykes explained. “And if a dealer shows that commitment and they want to change then we will invest in them.”

True technology partner

Sharp has seen growth among its top two tier channel partners and has also signed a number of new dealer partnerships. “We are seeing dealers approach us,” Leach said: “In fact we have five new dealers here today. Part of that is in response to what’s happening in the market currently, namely supply chain issues, but there are dealers that want to see the diversity of our products and what else we can offer their customers as a true technology partner.

“The challenge we have is how we keep them on board with Sharp once the new normal kicks in and everyone’s got product again, so that they don’t just switch back to their incumbent suppliers,” he added.

Stuart Sykes, Managing Director, Sharp

There was a high level of engagement and interest in the suite of solutions showcased at the Elevate 2022 event. “I think there’s been a huge mind shift from everybody really. I think dealers are realising that the world is changing, and they need to change if they want to have a successful business. So, there is a lot of engagement, and they are actually looking for other ideas,” Sykes said.

Education and training

Sharp is committed to supporting its partners to deliver IT services and is investing in education and training.

Sykes said: “We will sit our top tier partners in a room and show them what Complete I.T. do and together we will figure out how we can package the services together in a way that works for us both. And we’ll support them with education and training.”

The company is also actively looking to engage with new partners. “We have a couple of tag-lines that summarise who we are and what we do,” Sykes explained: “The first is ‘making technology easy’ and the second is ‘friendly and flexible’. What I like about the products we showcased today is that they are really practical products. If you take the Plasmacluster air purifiers or the interactive touch screen tables for example, they are a great plus one sale and really easy to sell – it’s easy to see an MFP dealer selling them,” he concluded.