Sunrise on a new dealer channel

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New dealer Sunrise Associates, the latest stopping point for industry veteran Chris Jones, has a fairly unique view of B2B sales, where choice and impartial advice remains sacrosanct

Sunrise Associates does not sound like the name of a normal telecoms dealership. It sounds like a consultancy of some kind. And for the Milton Keynes firm, that is the point. It wants to steer clear of the “double-glazing” stigma traditionally attached to this sales sector.

Its directors, James Evans (pictured right), Chris Jones (pictured left) and Kevin Steed (pictured centre), claim to eschew tried and- tested dealer models for the fresh approach of a consultancy operation. The company has achieved some good early results – 8,000 connections from 280 customers, grown organically since its formation two-and-half years ago, and accelerating.

It has a churn rate of just two per cent, and it puts that down to the business vagaries of recession. And, for all the groundwork of consultancy-style business, it boasts a gross profit margin of 56 per cent.

Evans says: “There are loads of competitors but no real competition, if that makes sense. We are different; we’re not part of the ‘pack’. We guarantee to save customers money, but we are not playing like the easyJet of the industry.

“Our model is the right one. We chase the right type of business. Our clients are on great spend, and our profit margin is very high for this industry. I read other dealers bragging about turnover, and saying nothing of their profit. Which says everything.”

Structure
Sunrise Associates is to double staff numbers to more than 20 in the next 12 months. It is also planning to increase its current office space by knocking down interior walls at its current premises, a barn-conversion in Milton Keynes that it shares with director James Evans’ other business, Evatron, a maker of electrical housings.

Also, the firm will “imminently” add a second sales office in Marylebone, central London. More than 90 per cent of its customer base is within the M25 ringroad, and it intends to ramp up activity within the capital. However, another new sales site will be added in Swindon by June next year.

Jones, once a regular in these pages as managing director of various Caudwell Group businesses, says: “We are doing well in tough times. We are as reliant on the networks as they are on us – we need to show them we look after their customers well. We reach customers they cannot, and look after them better than they can. But we have to go out and prove that every day.

“The difference is in our attitude, our expertise and our experience. I’ve been in this industry over 20 years; James has been in it for 10 and Kevin has been in broader telecoms consultancy for 20 years. We know how to build a business and what foundations to set for the future. I have worked in and run big organisations.

“With James’ youthful determination and drive, Kevin’s commercial nous and my old-fox tactics, I think we are doing it the right way.”

To an extent, the ‘right way’ goes against the late trend within the sales channel to swear allegiance to certain network suppliers. Instead, Sunrise Associates swears by its consultancy approach to sales, which by definition requires independence. It is almost like a return to the old days of independent airtime trade, except it is running more advanced solutions advice.

The business is structured so that Jones and Evans take charge of traditional airtime and handset sales to businesses. Its team on the road is instructed to sell only on second appointments; the first meeting is only a fact-finding mission and investigation of prospective clients’ operational structure and telecoms requirements. IT and fixed line leads are turned over to Steed, running sister company Switch IT, who, if appropriate, returns with the mobile team to consult on those aspects.

Sunrise Associates normally presents two or three bespoke mobile propositions, which it claims are unavailable directly from operator price books. Its team goes through the pros and cons of respective deals with the customer.

Steed presents bespoke IT and fixed line solutions also. The firm does not work for commission from IT or fixed line providers, but utilises Steed’s know-how and contacts to present tailored advice. It does not operate as a reseller for fixed line and IT solutions, rather as an agent, taking finders’ fees or percentage fees for its work. Steed ploughs his own furrow alongside, crossing over with the mobile sales element where appropriate.

Steed remarks: “Customers are savvy. They have become cynical and wise. If you do not offer them choice, and proper advice, then they will suspect you’re governed by the commission available, and that you’re serving yourself, rather than serving them.”

Full article in Mobile News issue 475 (October 25, 2010).

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