Archive for the ‘Channel Business’ Category

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Future trends in Distribution services – Looking forward in 2018 & beyond

February 28, 2018

Having served the IT Channel for a decade and working with Manufacturers, Distributors and Resellers in over 60 Countries, channelcentral is well placed to observe Channel movements and trends. We recently contributed to the IT Europa Channel Predictions report, so we thought we’d share what we had to say:

Traditional IT buying and selling motions are under pressure to evolve.  Our Chief Strategy Officer, Greg Starks, believes that, “The lines between traditional upfront selling and Device-As-A-Service/Software-As-A-Service will continue to blur. The channel [distribution] will offer hybrid financing that address selling upfront + As-A-Service together. This will allow partners and customers to visualize packaged As-A-Service offerings alongside financed custom solutions as a comprehensive OpEx payment timeline.” We hear manufacturers talking about Device-As-A-Service every week. We recognize the role that distribution now plays in the ‘As a Service’ IT procurement model and partners who engage closely with distribution will be more successful.

As-A-Service offerings will increasingly be seen as a way of ‘locking customers in’ and earning their loyalty.  Everything that is offered ‘As-A-Service’ needs to be validated, yet you still want to give your customers choice and not be too prescriptive. Packaging/bundling up an ever-wider number of products, whilst managing your customers’ journey and still offering them choice, will create a need for more sophisticated eCommerce sites that have integrated Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software. Without this, the management of these offerings is extremely resource intensive. Traditionally, distributors have had to assist customers with their hardware configurations or ask them to click out to hosted CPQ software.

There is still a time and a place for this level of complexity but we will be seeing a shift in the market. Already, hosted CPQ Software has an ever-growing number of attach options to fulfil the ‘As-A-Service’ model but what if Partners can leverage their offerings even more easily than that? Greg Starks, thinks that “Manufacturers and Distributors will invest in point solutions to bring just enough CPQ Software into self-service IT buying. Beyond just configuration, tools that help to shape demand toward the high-confidence products that can be delivered immediately.” These are likely to be served as ‘plug-ins’ to eCommerce systems with full basket integration.

As distribution advances its capability to aggregate their breadth of suppliers into packaged “As-A-Service” offerings, smart Partners can take new, more appealing sales propositions to their customers. In the Noughties End Users would reach out to their resellers when they had CapEx available to spend on a specific project. If a Reseller won a €2m deal one year they’d be expected to win one next year and the year after. How do you resource that? Fast forward to now and that’s now OpEx spread over several years.
As-a-Service is not just about predictability of revenue and removing barriers to driving new IT projects there are other advantages including:

1. Partners become strategic to their End User as they sign long-term contracts to provide IT Cloud or Infrastructure projects based on a Managed Service.

2. Distributors now represent hardware, software, services, finance and cloud vendors making the choice of solutions near infinite. Partners can guide end users to truly optimized solutions.

3. Partners (usually) bill the customer monthly and that’s a good thing – consistent interaction with a customer gives Sales opportunities to engage, seek feedback on the effectiveness of the solution and identify new opportunities.

4. Software-As-A-Service is incredibly easy to audit versus traditional licenses ensuring the End User is compliant but also the sales opportunity is maximized. Businesses without full “license” compliance equals a lost revenue opportunity as well as a risk to their business.

5. Working indexing into contracts means that margin is protected over the term (example would be linking the price to the Retail Price Index or similar).

6. There’s such a great opportunity for partners to differentiate here and that means less price comparison.

7. End-users need help. Yes, commodity resellers sell servers and over time similar companies will use technology to improve that experience, but partners are best placed to recommend solutions.

Do you need help implementing your As-A-Service business model? We can certainly assist. Just contact us for an informal discussion. We’d be glad to offer you advice.

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Signs you need to improve the way you quote customers

January 26, 2018

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For some, if you’re sending out quotes and hitting your targets, that may be enough, but often with our customers, we can find at least one area to improve.

 

 

We have some key questions that we ask to help us find out:

How long are your quotes taking to get out of the door?
If quotes can be made quickly they are more likely to result in sales success. If you’re finding, due to complexity, that your quotations have multiple touch points internally (or even throughout your supply chain), it can cause delays. Or perhaps you’re so busy, your teams’ just haven’t got time to respond to leads efficiently. It might be time to assess how you can shorten the cycle and improve quote conversion rates by 30%*.

Are your sales teams discounting too much?
In anticipation of winning a deal it is quite common to offer large discounts and these are not always feasible or financially viable for the business.  It can be difficult to manage even if staff are told not to go below a threshold. Looking at ways to manage discounting and grow attach rates will help protect profit margins. You could increase monthly quotation values by as much as 40%*!

How are your quotes calculated?
So many people are still using good old-fashioned spreadsheets! However good they are at using them, manual calculations always leave room for mathematical errors and out of date information. Sales Teams should be quoting with real-time information. Moving away from spreadsheets will not only speed up the quotation process but will decrease the chances of human error.

Do you require product specialists or solution architects to help your sales teams quote?
When specialist staff are required to support the sales team this not only increases your overheads but delays your quotation cycle. If you’re selling complex products it is impossible to expect your sales team to know the technicalities and compatibility of what might be thousands of products, but there is a more efficient way of supporting them.  You could reduce workload by as much as 50%*.

Is your customer service team spending too much time rectifying orders and managing returns? What if they could be using that time offering courtesy calls and managing customer satisfaction instead? If quotations are accurate and 100% validated every time, not only does it speed up the sales cycle but it can reduce the number of enquiries/complaints and reduce the impact of managing costly returns by 4.9%*!

Are customers waiting too long for delivery?
This might be because they are accepting quotations for products that are out of stock. If stock was transparent then an alternative solution could be found and delivery made quickly.

Is your customer base growing more quickly than your sales team?
Not a bad problem to have, but you will lose business if you can’t respond to all your leads. Harder still, when those leads are coming in from other countries with language and currency barriers. What if you could remove these barriers to entry and operate in any market where there is business?

After this quick assessment, there is a strong chance that at least one of these areas for improvement is an on-going issue in your business. So rather than just carrying on doing things the way they have always been done, let’s try and fix it.

Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) Software is designed to:

•    Reduce sales cycles
•    Protect profit margins
•    Ensure accuracy with built-in validation
•    Be your product expert
•    Provide real-time information including stock and pricing
•    Operate in multiple languages and currencies

And much more beyond!

CPQ Software can be offered as standalone or integrated within webstores either as a plug-in or a single web service call, enabling customers to self-serve and manage their own complex quotations.

If you think it is time to improve the way you quote your customers then get in touch, for an informal discussion or download our whitepaper on Increasing Revenue and Reducing Workload to learn more.

*Source Data: HP and Westcoast Case Study “Westcoast empowers resellers with quotation tool”

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Attracting New Talent!

November 2, 2017

Chris editedYesterday, we were at the University of Gloucestershire Placement Fair. We spoke to many students that are either looking for an Undergraduate Placement opportunity or a full-time role after graduation.

channelcentral has been working with the University of Gloucestershire for 3 years and we have had much success with our Undergraduate Placement Scheme. Our students have worked on development projects for multi-national organisations and have brought great value to the business with their talent and enthusiasm. In return, we firmly believe in giving our students the best start; with excellent rates of pay and benefits, a varied role with lots of opportunities to learn and a friendly, experienced team of professionals to work with.

One of our placement students simply said:

“Basically, it’s the biggest opportunity you can have to develop your skills”

As we look to recruit the next wave of Placement Students into our business, we are proud to have a permanent member of staff who came back to us after the Undergraduate Placement scheme. With all of our students, we not only want to give them the best start in the IT Industry, but we want them to spend their careers with us!

Visit our careers page to learn more about our partnership with the University of Gloucestershire and hear from past students.

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Introducing our new Red Hat Product Selector

August 31, 2017

We are excited to announce the launch of a new Red Hat Product Selector. We have been working with Red Hat to develop a solution that guides customers through a selection of filters to assist them in their buying journey.

Initially, the Product Selector is only available for use inside our Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) iQuote Configure, Price, Quote software but in time, it could be available elsewhere.

The Red Hat Product Selector has made it easier than ever to build a 100% validated quotation.

Simply login to iQuote as normal, select your base HPE unit and once you are through to the configuration screen, select ‘Software’ and ‘Red Hat’ and you will be presented with a selection of filters to choose from. Once you have chosen your requirements, our intelligent Product Selector will recommend which Red Hat products are compatible to build you a complete HPE Server solution.

Visit iQuote today and have a look at this brilliant new feature:

Red Hat Product Selector

iQuote is Configure, Price, Quote software developed for HPE by channelcentral.net

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Celebrating a Decade in the Channel

August 29, 2017

August 2017 marks 10 years of channelcentral being in business. We are incredibly excited to be celebrating. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are today, made slightly harder by the Global Recession that coincided with our launch!

In August 2007 channelcentral started as a team of just 4 people working out of a spare rooms. A year later, our flagship product, iQuote, was born. Today, iQuote is used around the world in over 60 countries by Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. customers. This configure, price, quote (CPQ) software has helped grow their businesses and provide efficiencies within sales teams in hundreds of Distributors and Resellers.

Off the back of iQuote’s success, channelcentral has been able to develop new CPQ Software services, Product Selectors, B2B Sales Portals, and Smartphone Apps as well as many custom built developments to assist the IT Channel. Our Software has been shortlisted for a few awards along the way too!

Today, channelcentral has 2 UK offices and a presence in the US and Colombia to support it’s ever growing business. With 29 members of staff, many of which have come from the IT Channel and are experts in their field, channelcentral is looking forward to the next 10 years and developing many more software solutions for IT Vendors, Distributors and Resellers.

At our Company Meeting held in August 2017 we reflected on the last 10 years and enjoyed an obligatory cake. A huge Thank You to all of our customers for helping us get this far. We wish we could have saved you some cake!

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Our iCreate Software hits the news again

August 23, 2017

Our iCreate Software is developed exclusively for Westcoast UK and is going from strength to strength. It’s latest release includes an exclusive customised-to-order (CTO) initiative for education-focused channel partners. The configuration tool enables resellers, or their end-user schools, colleges and universities, to design and build their own bespoke HP desktop PCs – and then receive delivery within 48 hours of their order!

The software can be integrated into the website or e-commerce platforms of Westcoast’s partners. Westcoast partners can rebrand the software to fit with their own colour-way and even add in their own services.

Paul Hamilton, Client Director at Westcoast said “It’s a comprehensive, versatile offering iCreate HPFEthat benefits partners, educators and learners.”

Initially, the CTO tool can be used to configure desktop PC systems but Westcoast and HP are planning to add laptops and other products in the short term. The latest release has been picked up by channel press and is set to be a highly utilised tool by Westcoast’s channel partners.