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Step back in time

Phil Madders, Managing Director, PAE Business spoke to Michelle Ryder about the changes both in terms of technology and customer needs, he’s witnessed over the past ten years

Madders has definitely earned his place as a true industry veteran; his first job offer in the print sector was with Canon back in 1985. “When asked what I knew about them, I answered that they ‘sponsored the football league’,” he said. “I had no idea what copiers were or how they were sold.”

Despite this he got an order on his first day of canvassing in Soho. “Not one since,” he added: “But it set me off on a career in the print sector that has been brilliant. When I reflect, I cannot quite believe all the good times and experiences I have had. Loved every minute.”

Times have changed

As a trainee salesperson for Canon UK, based in the company’s Covent Garden office, Madders’ first job looked very different to the one he has today. “I spent my time canvassing and running errands for senior salespeople. Delivering copiers for demonstrations and picking up paperwork,” he explained.

“At the end of every month, I would load copiers into my Vauxhall Estate at the Crawley Warehouse and then deliver them all over London to make sure commissions were booked in for that month. My favourite was when fax arrived on the market, a customer had ordered one and I duly delivered it. They asked for a demonstration of how it worked by sending a fax to their other office in Birmingham. When I asked the number of the receiving fax, they looked puzzled. The salesperson had not explained, or they hadn’t realised they needed two machines for this process to work!”

A shift in go-to-market strategy

Madders says that the go-to-market strategy today massively differs from a decade ago.

“Where to begin is the challenge, but you could almost sum it up by considering Office 365. What was a standalone purchase of £300 – £400
for a user license is now a cloud-based SaaS offering at £79 per annum. It also offers so much more value to a customer that you cannot really compare the two.

“It has removed the requirement for highly skilled individuals to manage infrastructure and applications like email and can be switched on and off to reflect your business requirements at any time – providing complete flexibility.”

He continued: “Ten years ago, people bought things, now they want to use them to suit their needs at the time and switch them off when they don’t need them, paying for only what they need. All of which makes the go-to-market strategy more dynamic, exciting, and challenging for us all.”

Changing customer needs

Madders argues that customers’ needs have shifted from a supplier–customer relationship to a partnership. “They need to be across so many different technologies now, compared to ten years ago. The vendors they work with need to be able to offer expertise in areas where they do not yet have the resources available to deliver the required solution. In terms of the back office – everything now needs to connect to another system as people are a valuable resource, so automation is the key to a successful operation,” he said.

Reflecting back on the past decade, he said that customers were happy to receive an email regarding a low toner, now it must trigger the process to order, deliver and if required invoice the toner or delivery. “The world seems to be moving to be more responsive to a given situation and our customers must be part of that and be seen to respond before their customers even know there is an issue. Our Remote Device Link is the latest manifestation of this trend.”

Looking to the future

The creativity and resilience of the channel is what excites Madders most about the future. “Since I fell into the sector in 1985, we have been through the proverbial boom and bust many times, several major wars and quite a few minor ones. We have had Brexit, a financial crash, a pandemic and England losing on penalties, so frequently there is a dent in the floor in front of my TV where I banged my head in frustration. And yet through it all our channel has continued to innovate, deliver solutions, and thrive.

“I can’t wait to see where we go next and am sure PrintIT Reseller will be there reporting and offering the thought leadership that we have enjoyed over the past 100 issues!” he concluded.