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View from the channel

Paul Derry, Group Sales Director, Automated Systems Group

Q:        What are your customers are most interested in? 

A:         Everyone is focused on security in one way or another. However, what we find customers are increasingly focused on is the integrity of the business they work with. ASL is a service provider and customers just want to focus on running their business and don’t really want to have to worry about whether their devices will print, is the network ok or if their unified comms are operational. All these things are a given in their eyes. Therefore, reassurance about the service levels and capability with referrals being key rather than specific product details. ASL has a strong breadth of offering with over 25 years history and in excess of 5,000 customers, so we find that is where the focus is from prospects and customers. All at the right price of course.

Q:        Do clients have the same understanding of industry terms such as BYOD, MPS or MDS, as we do?

A:         We deal with a large cross section of buyers, some will be familiar with industry jargon and others not, due to their more general role. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that the customers know, particularly in the SME space where you may deal with owners who have many other acronyms to focus on!

Q:        Where are you seeing most traction at the moment, are there any verticals that are particularly strong?

A:         Aligned to my previous comments, what we find customers most seek is proactive account management. We are winning good new business because we offer a tailored service to our prospects, including the ability to write scripting on established solutions to specifically meet their needs. Due to our size we can do this in house which means projects run very smoothly. We are finding that other dealers and resellers are not actively working their base to offer more services, maybe because they don’t have them in their portfolio, or they have just got complacent. 

With regards to verticals, we are very successful in some industries and that helps with referrals of course, but in general I think you must consider each customer individually, provide the right solutions and then consider whether there are opportunities to use that solution in other sectors. ASL has recently increased our marketing presence by recruiting a Marketing Director, Nigel Allen, who understands the industry and will help us segment the opportunities and increase our presence. The first stage of this is in a major rebrand of the whole business to endure that we reflect our status and offering physically and digitally.

Q:        When selling MFPs, what are the most popular software solutions you provide and why?

A:         Print management particularly with Papercut and Document Management tend to be the most popular by far but as per my previous answer, we listen to customers’ needs and have the ability to tailor the offering accordingly.

Q:        Where do you get information on the latest products and solutions, and do you feel that the OEMs are doing enough to educate their channel partners?

A:         As ASL is one of the biggest and fastest growing independent resellers in the market, we are in a position where the OEMs recognise the opportunity and therefore, we have great communication links and service from all the account managers we work with.

Q:        Is your patch particularly competitive – is it national or local competition that you face?

A:         Having national coverage, it varies region to region, but we are always competitive, and for customers who want to work with a company that provides independent advice, we find that there is less competition.

Q:        How do you spend your week – time on phone, face to face meetings with customers etc.?

A:         With nine sales and service offices. my time is spread between sales teams and key customers as well as maintaining our excellent supplier relationships. With the increased availability of technology we try to use it where possible to make our lines of communication more efficient.

Q:        What would make your job easier?  

A:         Life would be much simpler if there were less erosion on margins, but the secret is to not let yourself be exposed and diversify your service offering. Less competition would help of course, and the market is consolidating so much that there are less people involved in deals than there were ten years ago.

If you could halve the traffic on the roads that would help, but as previously mentioned with technology these days, I can meet with people without always having to be physically face to face. 

Finally, once Brexit is finalised that will settle nerves in business and improve currency stability.

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