Above: Sharp President and CEO Mike Marusic addresses Sharp’s commitment to expanding opportunities for dealers through its partnership with TD Synnex.
Over the years, I’ve probably attended more than two dozen Sharp national dealer meetings. To paraphrase Will Rogers, I’ve never met a Sharp national dealer meeting I didn’t like. This year’s meeting on April 18-20 in Las Vegas was no exception. It had strong content, relevant keynote speakers, a major product announcement, and an opportunity to hear from dealers during General Session panel discussions and interviews.
The theme of the meeting was “Opportunity Meets Execution.” Throughout the three-day event, Sharp provided dealers with a vision of the future that included new opportunities beyond traditional print devices and offered a variety of breakout sessions that provided a framework for dealers to execute those opportunities. As is typically the case with a Sharp dealer meeting, this was a first-class event from beginning to end.
1. Sharp Enters the Production Print Segment
After hearing about Sharp’s entry into production print, dealers rushed from the General Session to the Product Showcase to get a first-hand look.
It took a while, but Sharp finally rolled out its first three digital presses to the delight of many of its dealers. This was a top-secret announcement that even many Sharp employees weren’t aware of until it was announced in Las Vegas. Scheduled to be available to dealers by the fourth quarter of 2023, the presses include a 120-ppm color model with six color stations and two monochrome models running at 125- and 136-ppm. Conversations with numerous dealers during the event underscored the excitement displayed by dealers in the audience when these products were announced. Sharp has partnered with Fuji Xerox to add these products to its offerings.
2. Time to Diversify
Shane Coffey, vice president, product management, offered an in-depth briefing of Sharp’s product roadmap, including laptops, displays, A3, A4, light production, production print, and software during Wednesday’s General Session.
As Sharp President & CEO Mike Marusic noted during the General Session, “We are an industry focused on diversifying into new areas.” For Sharp dealers, that means Dynabook laptops, NEC displays, Aquos display boards, video walls, and production print. For some Sharp dealers, these have the potential to be game-changing products, or at the very least, a way to win new accounts or remain stickier with existing accounts. “These other technologies from Sharp are going to be a big part of the future of your business,” emphasized Marusic.
3. Sharp is Still a Document Company
Marusic noted at least twice during the meeting that Sharp was still a document company with strong roots in the copier segment. Although that statement seemed to run counter to his diversification message, it’s not untrue, and with a refreshed A3 line, a growing A4 line, and a strong light production lineup, the underlying message to dealers was that Sharp has no intention of abandoning traditional print devices anytime soon.
4. Growth Spurt
What’s a national dealer meeting without a look at the company’s recent performance (through FY 2022)? John Sheehan, senior VP of Channel sales, reported that Sharp-only and dual-line dealers have been growing nicely, with Sharp-only dealers up 112% from 2021 and dual-line dealers up 117% since 2021. In terms of A3 market share, Sharp has been trending upwards, growing its share from 5.8% in 2014 to 10.1% in 2022.
5. Sharp Expands Its A4 Offerings
Two of the new A4 products on display at the Product Showcase.
Sharp executives acknowledged that the company has not had the most extensive A4 product line, and to rectify that situation, the company introduced four new A4 black & white models that will be introduced this quarter. The company also announced two new Sharp-designed MFPs that output at 40- and 50-ppm.
“This is basically no-compromise A3 functionality in an A4 platform,” said Coffey. Sharp is also refreshing its A4 color products in every speed segment, including adding two new Sharp-designed, clean-sheet color models that operate at 35 and 45 ppm. All of the new models are consistent with the Sharp A3 workgroup architecture and will have the same features and finishing. “These new A4 models are key strategic offerings, especially for MPS engagements, particularly for customers whose page volumes may have declined over time,” explained Coffey. “And in these cases, sometimes an A4 product may be a better fit.”
6. Raising the Bar on Light Production
Sharp is refreshing its Polaris Pro line with two new models that output at 70- and 80-ppm. These models will be available in the fourth quarter and offer expanded features such as 2400 x 2400 dpi and support for heavier media, up to 360 GSM. During the meeting, I had an interesting conversation with a dealer who believes the new digital presses will help him sell more Sharp light production because having the higher-end digital presses will help him get a foot in the door in organizations that might not have spoken with him before.
7. Security is Not an Option, It’s a Necessity
Wednesday’s keynote speaker, Drew Sanford of ConnectWise.
During the General Session, Sharp’s Sheehan and Coffey noted that Sharp is under promoted in security while emphasizing that Sharp’s leadership in security around its devices goes back to the early 2000s. Coincidentally, before and during the meeting, I spoke with several dealers who were specifically there to learn more about Sharp’s security offerings. There were print security demos at the Product Fair, including an integration with ConnectWise; a general session presentation on security by Drew Sanford, VP global security operations, ConnectWise; and two breakout sessions devoted to security. Coincidentally, before and during the meeting, I spoke with several dealers who were specifically there to learn more about Sharp’s security offerings. I caught up with two of the dealers I had spoken to before the meeting, and both were impressed by what they learned about security.
8. Introducing Synnapx Manage
A big part of the Sharp story when it comes to its devices is its Synnapx platform, and the big news out of Las Vegas was the introduction of Synnapx Manage, a new technology that focuses on managing devices across multiple platforms from a single dashboard. It doesn’t require an agent to be installed on a network, which Coffey said makes it far less intrusive in the customer’s environment.
“This will have applications as a tool for the customer’s IT department to manage their own products and an expanded set of features for dealers to remotely manage things like firmware distribution, device billing, settings, and usage data,” noted Coffey.
9. Making Nice with TD SYNNEX
John Sheehan, Dave Moorman of Novatech, Sean Mummert of The Office People, and TD SYNNEX’s Sandi Stambaugh.
It’s no secret that some Sharp dealers have had reservations about using TD SYNNEX for access to certain products. As a way of allaying those concerns and in keeping with the concept diversification, TD SYNNEX had two opportunities to explain the benefits of working with them. First, Sheehan interviewed Gary Palenbaum, executive vice president, endpoint solutions, for TD SYNNEX. He later moderated a panel with two dealers (Dave Moorman, president, chief information security officer, Novatech and Sean Mummert, CEO, The Office People), and Sandi Stambaugh, senior VP, product management, endpoint solutions, from TD SYNNEX, to discuss the advantages of using the company distributor.
Having dealers on stage to support the TD SYNNEX cause was a smooth move but based on some dealer comments during one of the breakout sessions, there remain a few hearts and minds that still need to be won over.
10. The 2023 Sharp National Dealer Meeting Dealer Perspective
UTEC’s Kevin Van Kannel shared his dealership’s success stories with Sharp’s AV products.
Several dealer panels allowed dealers to hear from other dealers. to share their success stories selling Sharp products, and, as noted earlier, working with TD SYNNEX. In keeping with the diversification theme, Sheehan moderated a dealer panel featuring Jennifer Huddle, vice president sales, All Copy Products; David Polimeni, president & CEO, RITE Technology; and Kevin Van Kannel, president of UTEC, that focused on diversifying into Pro AV products. An update on Sharp’s dealer council was provided by dealer council President Mark Miller of Eakes Office Plus.
Bonus Takeaway: Sharp’s Take on AI
Mike Marusic pointed out various trends/buzzwords during the General Session on Wednesday morning and followed that up with a deeper dive into Sharp’s position on AI on Thursday.
During a press and analyst luncheon, Marusic noted that when originally planning the content for this meeting, AI was not a part of the program. However, after the introduction of ChatGPT last November and the subsequent ChatGPT hysteria, Sharp’s take on AI was added to the script. During his presentation, Marusic noted that generative AI can’t be ignored and that it’s going to be a game changer. He added that Sharp will leverage it, but none of the other hardware OEMs, including Sharp, will lead in AI development. “But we can leverage it and adjust our sales and use what AI provides,” emphasized Marusic.
He added, “If it can organize an unlimited amount of information and provide context, it’s going to have a tremendous impact on document management. It’s going to have an impact on people that work with information in an office. Imagine being in a meeting and having every piece of information that’s been discussed transmitted, talked about, and emailed to the whole company available, accessible, and sharable. How productive will that be?
“So how will it be shared, well, everyone in the room is rooting for one answer. We want it printed on a page. That’s the goal. But maybe it won’t be. Maybe it will be on a conference room display, maybe it will be on a desktop display, maybe it will be on a laptop. Wouldn’t it be great to be a dealer positioned in those businesses?”
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