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Sat 15 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Canon blows box-moving model away

As Canon looks to forge stronger ties with resellers in the region, it is also asking partners to take a closer look at how they push printing products.

As Canon looks to forge stronger ties with resellers in the region, the vendor's Middle East product manager for the consumer imaging department, Bittu Hose Mattam, wants partners to take a closer look at how they push printing products. Do they truly understand the hardware's full capabilities and are they sufficiently answering their customers' needs?

How will printer resellers have to change and evolve their selling methods in the future to make the most of the opportunities in the market?

Right now, box-selling is still the most likely proposition for major resellers. That is primarily because Dubai is a trading hub so there is a legitimate reason why this is the case, but our first job as a manufacturer is to see that our customers print more.

To move away from box-pushing to more of a value added proposition, resellers can do things like bundling software because these are good value-for-money propositions that make sense to the end-customer. One step that they must take is to understand the needs of the customer by asking them what their monthly print volume is. The reseller needs to move closer to the end-user and towards these sort of parameters.

The reseller also needs to be able to position the correct models. Every brand today has about 40 models and Canon, in laser printing, has 34 models. So you can just imagine that with 34 models - even if the reseller is really educated - they may not be able to provide the right kind of proposition to the customer. Considerations such as print volumes become very important with a huge product portfolio.

How do you ensure resellers can keep up with so many models and the constant refresh rate of technology in the printing sector?

Actually, resellers have already slotted themselves into their groove. Many have a big chunk of their business in box-pushing and this model whittles down to a few models that see large volumes.

Now, what you are talking about is, how is the rest of the range promoted? The rest of the range goes into corporate, small and medium enterprises and large enterprises. That is where the segmentation comes in and these are primarily sold through tenders and involve specific corporate requirements so there is a lead time involved as well as pre-selling and pre-tendering. This helps the reseller channel narrow down what is needed and provide it to the customer.

Should resellers look to assert their individuality and gain a business advantage by developing some form of differentiation?

Resellers need to focus more on understanding the different strengths of the brand. This is done by upgrading their skill levels on products offered by the different brands. They need to focus on what is unique about them, their strong points and what caters to the particular customer.

That is what they have to understand and what they have to provide. This is the challenge for the channel.

Are you satisfied with the level of skills currently available in the Middle East reseller channel?

There needs to be improvement, of course, because we still see now that resellers are primarily involved in box-pushing. That mentality needs to change. You have established and qualified resellers at the very high end who know the business model they are in and they are consulting and selling in that fashion.

So there are a couple of them already, but if you are talking of almost 100 to 200 resellers on Computer Street then you need to educate their sales people if a chunk of them are to be moved to a higher level. Currently I would say that it is only the owners that might have an understanding of the total brand and proposition, but it is the sales people that need to be brought up to speed.

Whenever you look into the dynamics of the Middle East printing business, partners always stress the point that they make a strong proportion of their margin from the consumables sale, rather than the hardware. What is your view of this?

In the commercial market the resellers face a mixture of fulfilling the demand for the printers as well as for the consumables. What generally happens is that the reseller has to specialise. Some people will specialise in moving printers and on Computer Street you might find certain supplies specialists. It is actually a combination of the two.

What approach do you currently take with partners in the region and how can they expect this to evolve in the future?

We have recently rolled out a channel marketing programme, which is further developing into the Computer Street channel. We are moving closer to them and appointing key account managers who will also be working with the resellers. This is a departure for Canon in the Middle East as the distributor used to be the contact for the resellers, but now it is Canon who will be contacting them directly.

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