David Johnson, Sales Director, ABC Managed Business Solutions
Q: What are your customers most interested in?
A: Security is the big buzz word I’m hearing during my client reviews, and that ranges from small companies all the way up to enterprise. Security affects everyone trying to protect and build a business, so we need to be much more aware of the issues affecting their market and how we can remove some of their pain points.
There is so much talk about GDPR compliance and securing networks, that it’s raised quite a few eyebrows over the last six months. Much of it is scaremongering, as most MFPs combined with supporting software have the ability to cover the minimum GDPR requirement. At ABC, we tend to raise the bar and focus on security at a much higher level, as it tackles all the potential business breach points.
Q: Do clients have the same understanding of industry terms, such as BYOD, MPS or MDS, as we do?
A: On the whole, yes. IT people, CIOs, CTOs, we all speak the same language in today’s digital world. We’re all exposed to so much information, through a multitude of mediums, that most business people have a greater knowledge of their operating environment than they did 10 years ago.
Granted, there are varying levels of technical knowledge, but as a sales professional, you learn to speak the same language as your audience. I’m never too surprised if a CEO wants to have a technical discussion these days, it’s just the way the world has changed.
Q: Where are you seeing most traction at the moment, are there any verticals that are particularly strong?
A: As an organisation, we operate across all the key verticals, but we’re finding that businesses taking advantage of technology to grow are creating better opportunities for us. Some of this is down to the fact that we’re very much solutions rather than hardware driven.
Our conversations are about process improvement, automation and driving efficiencies across a business. It’s a much smarter discussion to have than simply talking about cost reductions and click charges. You lose credibility as a sales professional the moment you pursue this route and frankly, it’s more challenging working on a project that shows tangible benefits to a customer’s environment. I take a lot of pride from that.
Q: When selling MFPs, what are the most popular software solutions you provide and why?
A: We take the view that the solution we offer has to complement the client environment, and these days there is a solution bolted onto about 65 per cent of our deployments. In terms of print management, we are not limited to one particular product, it really does depend on the customer’s needs as there are slight variation in all these products. Whether it’s Papercut, PrinterOn, Equitrac, Cirrato or Uniprint, to name just a few, it’s essential to take the user environment into account first and foremost. There really isn’t a one fit for all if you’re doing your job properly..
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: Information about products and solutions tend to come from a mix of our marketing team, technical team and the OEMs, but I do also take the time to do lots of reading about tech in our industry. It all tends to have an impact on our business and the client eventually. A good example is 3D printing, AI and blockchaining. It’s the future, so understanding how it can help your client is essential as a sales professional.
OEMs on the whole are taking channel education more seriously than they did, but their dealers need to embrace what they’re being told, and integrate it into their value propositions if they are going to benefit. It’s a two-way street. We need to have relevant information and products that can make a difference and add value ultimately.
Q: Is your patch particularly competitive – is it national or local competition that you face?
A: To be more effective in my role, I tend to focus my own time in the North West but we have coverage across the whole country. With so much consolidation in our industry, you tend to come across national and local competitors everywhere, especially in the bigger cities like Manchester and Liverpool. I do believe medium sized businesses like to know their partners are relatively nearby geographically, so we make a point of having that ‘local feel’ as a business, but our engineers and technicians cover the whole country.
A personable, local company with a national presence makes buyers feel more secure, this tends to work in our favour when competing against the much larger dealers. It’s no more competitive that it used to be, margins are tighter when you’re competing in a hardware service only deal, but we’re adding value with a much broader offering, so it tends to be more advantageous for us. I wouldn’t like to be working at a one dimensional reseller focussing on hardware and clicks, as these guys aren’t likely to be around long, as it’s got a limited life in today’s world.
Q: How do you spend your week – time on phone, face to face meetings with customers etc.?
A: I do try hard to spend most of my time talking to clients and prospects. Face to face is always a preference, but we’re finding social media is becoming just as important as a means of communicating with clients. I need to keep an eye on LinkedIn, as prospects often drop me an in mail rather than an email these days. Our marketing team put out a lot of relevant content that triggers discussions, so I need to keep an eye on it more than ever. People just engage in different ways now, so we have to adapt.
I spend about four to five hours a day on my mobile and tablet. It starts after my workout at around 6:30am, but I tend to take the view that I’ll respond to clients any time they get in touch, regardless of the time of the day (within reason). People reach out when they are ready to talk in today’s connected world, so you need to be responsive. I tend to avoid spending too long on emails and read them twice a day unless it’s a client message. It’s easy to lose yourself in non-productive emails if you’re not careful.
What constitutes a success for me personally, is talking to a happy client that can see the true value of our solution, and is actively using it across their business. It’s satisfying on so many levels to see them come back to us time and time again because they trust us, and value our input.
Q: What would make your job easier?
A: Customers that always say yes, no competitors and no traffic on the roads, but that would just be too boring, right? But seriously, I wish someone would sort out the traffic out on the M6.