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View from the channel – James Overton, Business Development Director, SOS Systems

Q: How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future? 

A: Business is certainly better than this time last year. At that time, I feel we were still getting to grips with the effects of the first lockdown, in order to function more efficiently with staff working from home. Since then, we have made considerable investment in training our sales and professional services teams in order to cater for the higher demand in digital workflow and security services for our customers. The workplace is such a different environment to how it was preCOVID and I feel we have evolved and diversified very well, in order to cater for our customers’ new digital demands. Our business has also recently restructured, which has put us in a very unique position in the market, so I am really excited and confident about the future.

Q: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand? 

A: Our digital signature and cloud workflow products have been a massive hit during the pandemic, as businesses have changed from manual processes to digital. 

Migration from on-premise secure printing infrastructure, to cloud, is also definitely an area of growth. Companies recognise the benefits that printing in cloud brings both in terms of saving on infrastructure and application costs, and there are also considerable security improvements as well savings on internal IT resources. The pandemic has put a focus on bottom line savings and IT operational improvements, which has in turn fast-tracked demand for this service.

Q: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities? 

A: Collaboration through technology has definitely helped us in a number of areas. Like almost every business operating in the pandemic, using Teams has been a very powerful tool and has enhanced our communications amongst staff and customers alike. Our project management and professional services teams have used the platform exceptionally well and have managed to complete two very large global implementations, all whilst working remotely. 

Our service team has also developed a very effective triage service, for some of our hardware error codes, using some of the latest remote technology and this has helped reduce the need for on-site diagnostics, which were more challenging during the lockdowns.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today? 

A: Diversification and evolution is the result of a maturing market in the MPS world and adapting your services to suit is not a straight learning curve. 

Sales, technical and operations are all affected and if you are going to be taken seriously as a provider of digital services, you need to make sure you are ‘backing the right horse’ and selecting vendors and products that reflect your company ethos and your customers’ demands. 

There is so much choice available now in terms of third-party applications, so putting the correct amount of time into researching the best products and services for you, is so very important. All of this whilst trying to run ‘business as usual’, is quite a challenge.

Q: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And if so, what? 

A: I think every vendor has different challenges, and transparency in these situations is always appreciated for us to set expectations internally and with our clients. 

Aligning technical, marketing and sales is always difficult, but particularly if you are moving into new areas, so hand holding from the manufacturer during this process, is always critical to ensure you get the adoption required. 

I also think that some vendors create their marketing content from a manufacturer or direct sales perspective, that doesn’t always complement the position of the dealer or their customers. Direct communication between the vendors’ marketing team and our sales teams, could help create material and campaigns more specific to the resellers’ needs and challenges. I feel this would help boost sales adoption and improve lead generation.

Q: If you could change one aspect of your job what would it be and why? 

A: My new role has a mix of duties but still a main focus on sales. I think new business and the routes to market for it, have changed significantly. Cold calling and new business conversations are still a part of that but they are becoming harder by the day to initiate. If I could change one thing, it would be to make it easier to get in front of people that wanted to buy. 

Something tells me I’m not the only salesperson to say that though, and I know there is no magic wand!