Dealers ‘must evolve’ to handle surge in UC

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Industry claims that opportunity is knocking, but that dealers must invest immediately to avoid poor returns from straight mobile sales

Parts of the industry have warned dealers they must urgently invest in infrastructure and expertise to sell advanced unified communications, or else face diminishing returns from traditional mobile sales.

Vodafone UK director of SME sales Rob Shardlow (pictured top left) said: “If dealers don’t have what is required, they need to invest now for the future. Partners are beginning to appreciate the time, cost and management commitment required to make the final transition to unified comms.”

Outsourcery channel business unit director Simon Howitt (pictured top right) said: “Dealers have to get themselves skilled and comfortable enough to sell unified comms. It requires a change in mindset and culture. They have got to broaden their thinking and evolve fast.”

Huw Stiley, managing director at Cardiff-based dealership The Word (pictured bottom left), said: “The journey has already started; mobile dealers need to decide if they have the appetite and motivation to evolve. If they don’t they will get left behind.”

There was a sense, among those polled by Mobile News, a natural order is starting to assert itself in the business channel, and that a marker has been put down between those likely to make the transition to more advanced solution-selling and those who remain focused on voice and traditional data sales.

Pure managing director Marcus Richardson (pictured bottom right) said: “If you invest in infrastructure and the future of this industry, and you pursue quality business, then the networks should reward you accordingly. All of this is part of the natural economic evolution of a consolidating market. And, in any business, you want there to be differentiation. I don’t want to be in the same basket as dealers who haven’t put any investment in to their infrastructure, processes and people, and who cannot deliver a service that underpins the brand values of their network partner.”

There is a sense the elite in each of various parallel sales channels will emerge to sell more involved unified communications products.

Vodafone’s Shardlow said: “Both ‘ends of the spectrum’ face similar challenges in evolving their businesses to allow them to succeed in the centre ground. There will be winners and losers – those that focus on customer needs and organisational efficiency will win through.”

The distributor fraternity was more modest, reluctant to alienate any part of their dealer bases – where individual dealers appeared happy to be pigeonholed with the elite and operators appeared content with their recent scything of the channel.

MoCo managing director Ian Robinson reflected: “Survival will come down to how close you are to the customer, and how well you understand their business. This conflict between the mobile, fixed line and IT channels will be resolved there. This channel is well positioned because of the mobility requirements in unified comms.”

HSC business manager Bob Sweetlove said: “There is no massive panic. Dealers have to be ready to react, of course, but let’s take dealers down the road when they are ready; rather than scaring them into action. There is no ‘big bang’; these things evolve.”