Press "Enter" to skip to content

View from the channel

Colin Ayres, Operations Manager – Head of Sales, Blackbox Solutions

Colin Ayres

Q: What are your customers most interested in?

A: We have seen a huge increase in demand for data and document security. As companies are becoming more aware of the impending EU directives on GDPR, they have attached greater importance to data security and document management. We are now implementing a strategy of including data encryption software onto all our new machine placements to help our clients ensure they are GDPR-compliant when the new laws come into force in May 2018.

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

A: During discovery meetings a greater number of clients now understand the MPS & MDS industry acronyms, however, their actual interpretations of what these terms mean in practice can differ. This is often dependent on who they have spoken to; a stationery supplier will mean they can supply the cartridges for all of their different machines at a preferential price, to the MFP reseller and service provider we are able to offer a single unit price to cover all hardware, software, supplies and support to enable clients to maintain a tighter control of print costs. We’re seeing that BYOD is more often referred to as “Air” or “Android” printing during discussions – our more IT-literate clients are now expecting this as part of a standard offering!

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

A: Aside from the “bread and butter” services supplied to fulfil SMEs’ office requirements – typically A3 colour MFDs with two trays and copy, print and scan functionality, we have gained traction within several niche sectors. For example, within the legal, insurance and medical markets we are experiencing fantastic results in multi-device placements, coupled with software solutions to include document storage and retrieval. Managed print services and cost controlling software like Papercut are also proving incredibly popular across the board – of course, print can be a major expense for many companies, so they are keen to look at new technological solutions that can make them more productive and efficient.

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

A: Print Management solutions like Papercut, as well as many of the manufacturer propriety document storage solutions we have available are proving popular. We are currently in the process of implementing Umango, a document archiving solution, together with Microsoft Sharepoint as part of a multi-device placement, as more of our larger clients are starting to look at ways to boost productivity and facilitate teamwork throughout their organisations.

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: We are normally notified of the latest products and solutions through marketing emails and manufacturer training programmes, which are usually delivered through “in house” training sessions. It really depends on the OEM in question, some are really excellent at keeping us abreast of the latest products and solutions. However, I’d say that in general OEMs need to improve their communication and reseller understanding by performing onsite training at their channel partners to promote maximum understanding and delivery of their new offerings. Ultimately, as a reseller if our sales team aren’t aware of all the latest products and features then we aren’t in a position to sell these services to our customers.

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

A: Our home patch is Kent where there are more than 15 local dealers all claiming to offer a similar service, including document solutions, IT services and office technology products. This in turn has created a highly competitive market with prospective clients using search engines to compile a supplier list. As a result both hardware and service costs are driven down, which may seem like a good deal for the customer, but the negative side is that service performance can suffer as a result and we’ve seen plenty of competitor’s contracts that are imply too good to be true! Customer service is our primary concern and we try to set ourselves apart from the competition by providing high service levels and developing long-term relationships with our customers, built on trust and mutual respect.

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

A: All of our sales team aim to have a minimum of 10 to 12 client-facing meetings a week spread across three days. Either side of these we engage in “old school” sales practices – literally knocking on doors and calling potential businesses – to try and gain maximum traction in a particular area. The remaining two days in the office are normally spent on the phone making appointments or working on proposals.

Q: What would make your job easier?

A: If we didn’t have any competitors! But seriously, better communication within the market from manufacturers to resellers, to ensure we are offering the best solution for the device, software and service package. Technology is moving forward rapidly which is fantastic, but business users don’t have the time to keep up to date with the latest developers – arming resellers with the information they need to offer the customer what they want is crucial.

Manufacturers also need to provide a standard pricing structure to all partners. For example, if all partners went through an ISO type training and examination structure to ensure correct representation, this would in turn ensure greater stability within the market and promote a valued proposition from any supplier.