Sharp’s new vice president of channel sales shares his background, talks about his new position, and discusses his immediate goals in an exclusive Cannata Report interview.
Two weeks ago, Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America (SIICA) announced that John Sheehan has been promoted to Vice President of Channel Sales, replacing Laura Blackmer.
Sheehan, with 25 years of experience in B2B sales, joined Sharp in 2013, after leading sales organizations at LG Electronics and NEC Display Solutions. Sheehan’s initial role at Sharp was leading its Professional AV and IT channel sales teams. That role, prior to his new position, was expanded this past year to include responsibility for the document business channel sales for Sharp’s Central Region.
We caught up with John last week to learn more about him, this new position, his goals, and to get his thoughts about Sharp’s upcoming dealer meeting that begins Tuesday, November 28.
Tell me about your new job, it’s like jumping into the fire, isn’t it?
Sheehan: Oh man (laughing), it is. Prior, I was handling North America for displays, reporting to Laura. In April I took over the Central Region for copiers and loved it. Central Region for copiers was a great job, fun people. Most recently, after six months in the role, and with Laura’s departure, they offered me the opportunity to run the entire document and display business. I’ve taken Laura’s role of VP of channel sales across all groups and I’m really excited to hit the ground running.
You’ve been with Sharp four years, what do you like about working for Sharp?
Sheehan: Sharp is a very good company, a progressive company, and with the Foxconn investment you’re seeing us enter new markets with new products, looking for new revenue streams with both display and copier as well as complementary products that we now have access to. When I first got here there were some questions on the stability of Sharp, but most recently with Foxconn’s $3.6B investment in Sharp Corporation, everything is moving forward. It’s a good place to be, good people, the future looks bright.
Prior to joining Sharp you worked for NEC and LG, how did those positions prepare you for your initial position at Sharp as well as your current one?
Sheehan: My history has been displays. NEC and LG really started moving into selling and managing overall solutions and making the display, for lack of a better term, the last part of the puzzle. These companies wanted the sales people and customers to look at the entire eco-system of the sale vs. just one component. Our sales people had to become experts on not only displays, but on other manufacturer’s products. At the end of my career at NEC, I was managing a group calling on third party software providers. These providers are usually the first to enter into the selling cycle of an opportunity because the software ultimately drives the screen sale. It prepared me for Sharp. You’ll see clearly from our dealer meeting that Sharp is moving in that direction —a lot of new products, a lot of new solutions. It’s really about the total value to the customer.
What’s it been like for you working with the Sharp dealer community the last six months or so, different from what you were used to before?
Sheehan: There’s a lot of synergies. Definitely, the products have synergies—the displays, the copiers—they sit on a network. For a B2B, the display and the copier are core products. Then there’s synergies with the customers. I managed billion-dollar distributors, large integrators, and small to medium sized resellers. Jumping into the dealer category, there’s a mix of everything. I’ve got to tell you, it’s great. The Midwest region has some really great dealers. I got to meet a lot of them quickly and have built some pretty decent relationships. In the end, both the IT/AV Channel and the Document Channel are calling on businesses to attach devices to their network. What matters is how you help the dealer navigate the sale, make sure their team is well trained on the product and services, and make sure that provide ways for them to be successful.
Sharp has experienced one or two significant changes over the past few years, how challenging was the discussing the Foxconn acquisition while out in the field when you were on the display side of the business?
Sheehan: It really wasn’t. I think people were generally happy with the news. It added some stability to Sharp, realizing that having that Foxconn manufacturing behind you is going to drive a lot of new products, a lot of new categories to enter in the B2B world. Explaining it was not hard because, for the record, it was an investment into Sharp. Foxconn was looking for a promising brand, and I think people understood that to be a positive. As we progressed through it and some of the things they are doing, it’s been easy. People are expecting big things from us and we’re starting to deliver on a lot of those.
Sharp’s national dealer meeting is next week, how large of a role will you have at that meeting?
Sheehan: I will be introduced for sure, but will not have a large speaking role. I just started in this position, so that has to be expected. I think that’s reserved for others, but I can assure you that for future meetings my roll will be commiserate with what you’ve experienced in the past with people in my position.
What has you excited about this year’s meeting?
Sheehan: I’m going to meet a lot of people. I’ve had a chance to meet most of the Central Region, now I am going to have a chance to meet a lot of the dealers, names of whom I’ve heard internally at Sharp over the years. Now I’m going to get the chance to introduce myself and hopefully start building relationships. For me, it’s going to be handing out a lot of business cards and a lot of introductions, and I really look forward to that.
You’re well aware you have some big shoes to fill. Taking over for Laura Blackmer, what is the message that you’re bringing to dealers or plan to bring to dealers as the “new guy”?
Sheehan: Laura and I were close. She was one of my biggest mentors. I’ve always learned from her and like you said, those are big shoes to fill. From my perspective, I just want them to get to know me and just get a feel for who I am and how committed I am to driving their businesses, helping them, and making Sharp part of their business. Hopefully, we start the relationships there and they just grow. I know it’s a big event and a lot of pressure, but I’m going to have everyone there at once, so it will make it easier to get out there and introduce myself.
What are some of the initial things on your agenda that you hope to accomplish over the next six months?
Sheehan: I’m going to be on the road a lot more than I ever have before and I look forward to it. I’ll be traveling to dealers, talking with them, learning about their business, and building relationships. In addition, there’s new products and new programs, I’m going to ask for their input on a lot of the things we do going into the next year. One thing I learned from our Dealer Council and other dealers who aren’t even on the Council, is their input is vital to our success.
Finally, how will you personally gauge your success in this new position?
Sheehan: Personally, it’s the relationships I can build. I keep talking about it, but it really is the key to this job—having the respect and rapport with the dealers. It doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve built some strong relationships over the past six months in the Central region, but they can always be stronger, and now I have to expand that throughout the country. If I can go into our next meeting with some strong relationships and over the year get a lot of input from dealers and build programs that meet their needs, that’s a great way to gauge success in the position.
Good luck and we look forward to seeing you in Phoenix.
Sheehan: Thank you.
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