Posts Tagged ‘IT Channel’


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.


Signs you need to improve the way you quote customers

January 26, 2018


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”


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!



How can you manage multiple Vendors and your entire Channel more efficiently?

November 30, 2016

email2_09Configuring, Pricing, and Quoting products from multiple Vendors can be a challenge for any Distributor or Reseller. Now you can manage them with a single tool and shorten your quote-to-order cycle, ensure quote accuracy and align your go-to-market strategies.

Multi-Vendor Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) Software can manage all of your product data feeds, configuration rules, pricing and stock for all of your chosen Vendors’ product lines.

With Multi-Channel capability it can be used by your internal sales/technical/product teams, your customers and even your customers’ own customers!

Freebird CPQ Software, developed by is a service which offers Multi-Vendor, Multi-Channel and multiple product types too.  Watch our latest video to learn more about Freebird.

To discuss Freebird, contact us today. CPQ solutions from channelcentral will save your company money on IT expenditure, whilst increasing the efficiency of your sales teams and your eCommerce reach with your customers.



You want to show stock in your Configurator. That must be easy right?

October 24, 2016

shutterstock_17837185For ex-stock sales showing stock (inventory) in a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) tool offers a better chance of a “right first time” quotation. In Sales, how often has a solution been created but has to be re-worked and re-worked at great expense because it can’t be shipped in time?

Customer expectations are high and in some geographies same or next day deliveries are considered normal. One of the reasons factory configuration (aka configure to order) business models that were popular at the start of the millennium in the IT Channel are not as common anymore.

Surfacing stock should be easy. With our experience we know it’s not as easy as you’d think.

CPQ: a separate system
It’s very rare for an ERP system to be able to offer CPQ capabilities that exactly match the business or technical complexity. So stock has to be “fed” to the CPQ system. Today that almost certainly means a web service as even hourly text files can be out of date. A business turning over stock every two weeks in volume or value terms is shipping a lot of products per hour and it only takes 1 part from 10 to be sold to invalidate a configuration.

Web services are real-time and with the best programming techniques stock figures can cascade in once a page has loaded, to improve performance and handle complex configurations that have hundreds or even thousands of parts.

Pulling stock through in tandem with price makes sense so this is often a single process.

Stock is Stock
Well surprisingly not. At any stage a Manufacturer or Distributor may have orders placed on their suppliers so there’s what is in stock, plus what is on order. Then add in expected due dates so the user can accurately forecast when a configuration can be shipped. Sometimes products in constraint have “back orders” or “forward due date orders”. So the due quantity isn’t the amount on order it’s the amount after back/forward orders.

Imagine losing a sales opportunity today for 50 units when you have 5000 units arriving in the warehouse tomorrow.

The concept of bundles is usually associated with promotional discounts so buy these 5 products together and get a better price. In addition, bundles also exist where “large deal” price lists are in place where all products must be ordered from one supplier on a single invoice. It doesn’t stop there though: for large geographies stock exists in multiple warehouses so to build a configuration, all the items have to be in the same location otherwise the shipping is a) more expensive b) slower. Lastly, some countries have complex tax laws and to pay the “correct” tax, products have to ship from specific locations.

Virtual Stock & Electronic Licenses
If you are a Reseller that carries some stock but can buy from multiple sources, you have the advantage of being able to show “aggregate” stock numbers but be careful not to fall foul to the Bundle rules that may be in play. Also some products are ALWAYS in stock as they are basically licenses or services delivered via an email. So your user interface needs to make it clear that they are ALWAYS available not ALWAYS out of stock.

Visual Aids
New word for the dictionary: shippability. Show products in the basket that can ship now in green and those that can’t in red. OK that makes sense. Especially if the “electronically” delivered parts are also green. The user can instantly see the entire configuration is shippable. You will also want your CPQ tool to update shippabillity in a quote that was created 2 weeks ago. If a product can’t be stock refreshed warn the user.

Still think showing stock is easy? Well it’s not impossible. All of channelcentral’s CPQ tools cope well with ALL of the complexities laid out here. If you are having issues managing stock for your Channel contact us to hear about the different CPQ tools that we can offer.


channelcentral at CompTIA EMEACON16

October 13, 2016

ComptTIA Premier Member LogoAs a Premier Member of CompTIA, channelcentral was invited to attend our first EMEACON this year in London.  The event was held in a great venue and attended by over 400 IT Channel professionals from a host a Managed Service Providers, Vendors and Resellers.

The event is a mix of certification sessions for those looking to build their CPD hours and IT Channel sessions for the wider community and is very well planned out. On Tuesday the event kicked off and we were fortunate enough to attend a lively session by the author Charlie Hutton, who gave some fantastic insight to Online Lead Conversion in his session “How to ‘Legally Murder’ your Competitors Online”. There were also a number of other useful workshops led by different thought leaders.

Also on Tuesday we heard from Tracy Pound, Managing Director of MaximITy who introduced a fantastic initiative to introduce more women into the world of IT. The #MakeTechHerStory campaign was launched and led many of the Professionals in the room to ‘let their hair down’ momentarily by finding innovative ways to wear the campaign bandana!

A great Day 1 was wrapped up with a drinks reception and fantastic Networking Dinner which was enjoyed by all.

CompTIA Stand PictureDay 2 saw the main foyer full of exhibitors who had an incredibly early start to set-up stands to promote their solutions to the rest of the delegates.

channelcentral was fortunate to have a great stand position and be given the opportunity to promote its Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) Software and other services. It was a busy day with lots of insightful conversations taking place around the event, including more sessions for the Certification Partners and IT Channel that had a chance to expand their knowledge on Cybersecurity, the Internet of Things and the general state of the industry.

Thank you to CompTIA for a great couple of days of Networking. It was a good opportunity for channelcentral to meet new customers and build Channel relationships. The hospitality was superb and we look forward to joining CompTIA at many more events in the future!