The company is providing dealers with an array of new opportunities, technologies, and services to help them become stickier with customers.
(Pictured above: Sharp President & CEO Mike Marusic tells dealers this is still a great business.)
One advantage of attending a regional dealer road show is intimacy. Unlike a big dealer conference, regional shows allow for more one-on-one interaction while providing many of the same educational opportunities and deep dives into new product offerings and company strategy as one might find at a large dealer conference.
The last of Sharp’s four Road Shows convened in Chicago April 1-2. Previous stops included Baltimore, Houston, and Los Angeles.
The theme of the Road Shows was “Momentum,” and kicked off with comments from John Sheehan, vice president of channel sales, who reported that Sharp’s revenue looks good, and even though prices are declining, unit sales continue to increase. He also noted that Sharp’s close ratio is improving, meaning when the company gets involved in deals, the close ratio is between 40 to 45%.
“That’s up year over year,” he noted. “That’s important. That means we’re working with you (dealers) more, closing more deals.”
The messages Sharp delivered to dealers revolved around diversification, new opportunities and technologies, and the Smart Office.
Indeed, Sharp is firmly committed to the concept of the “Smart Office,” a prominent talk track throughout the event.
“We use this phrase “Smart Office” to explain all the technologies that need to come together to make an office run better,” stated Sharp President & CEO Mike Marusic.
Discussing some of the trends permeating the industry, Marusic shared his perspective on the private equity money that’s been flowing into the channel. “They’re not buying into an industry in decline. They’re buying into an industry that has the best future, that has the best growth opportunity. That to me is very reassuring.”
He also stressed the importance of diversification, particularly around the Smart Office concept.
Sharp has a new perspective on what the imaging business is transforming into—the information sharing business—which Marusic pointed out is the business dealers and Sharp have been in all along.
He also touted the Foxconn connection and the many different technologies now available to Sharp.
The key is putting all these IT-related products together and sell them to customers in a package.
“Then you own the customers,” said Marusic.
Make no mistake about it, Sharp has the products and the people in place to deliver on this vision, including Bob Madaio, its new vice president of marketing who joined the company last November. Whether it’s MFPs, display technologies, desktop displays, laptops acquired from Toshiba’s former notebook division, or the Smart Office Suite, Sharp dealers have more than a few options at their disposal.
What’s next? How about the ability to sell software through the dealer channel, which provides a recurring revenue stream for dealers through the manufacturer’s portal? That, according to Marusic, is coming mid-summer.
We also heard a lot about Sharp’s connection to blue chip IT companies such as Amazon, Cisco, and Microsoft, all of whom work closely with Foxconn, and provide Sharp with an entry into these companies that it might never have had otherwise. For the record, Sharp is still the only manufacturer with an Alexa software control for its MFPs.
The imaging industry is transforming, and Sharp is positioning its dealers to be in the information-sharing business
Marusic was followed by Jason Hinton, senior partner development manager, Microsoft, who spoke about technology’s role in the workplace, including AI, accessibility, collaboration, smart technology, and intelligent security, as well as teamwork trends, all key drivers for the smart office of the future. Hinton emphasized Microsoft’s commitment to working closely with Foxconn and Sharp, which should be viewed as an asset for any Sharp dealer.
The challenge of providing dealers with a wealth of new products, many beyond their comfort zones, is encouraging them to sell them and helping them to sell them. Shane Coffey, vice president, product management, described Sharp’s turnkey approach that will help make some of its new products easier for the dealer to sell, set up, and put into action. For example, Sharp is providing video bundles and will add to that other IT product-related bundles such as a printing bundle and a desktop bundle, that will help Sharp, and by extension, the dealer, own the office, as Coffey put it. This, he added, will make it difficult for a competitor to come in and disrupt that type of business model.
With Sharp now offering desktop monitors, desktop PCs, laptops, convertible tablet models, as well as web storage and disaster recovery, Coffey pointed out that it shouldn’t be difficult to pitch existing customers on these products and services. And the business model for selling these diverse technologies is a subscription model, or as Coffey put it, “technology as a service.”
We also saw a demonstration of Sharp’s Windows Collaboration Displays for conference room collaboration. These new displays are designed around the Microsoft Office 365 environment and offer integrated touch screens, audio, video, and sensors that can monitor and pick up conversations from everyone in the conference room no matter where they are sitting. Data and video are tied to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Sharp sees a huge and profitable market for these types of products and we expect to hear more about these products at Sharp’s dealer meeting in October.
Project Marvel, another element of the “smart” office includes such elements as an MFP Mobile UX for scanning to the cloud or to the user, and for releasing secure print jobs. There’s also a Pre-Meeting Assistant, under Project Marvel, which enables more efficient scheduling of meetings. Sharp’s commitment to making the entire meeting room experience more efficient and productive is further strengthened by another initiative called Project RocketStart, a room license that can be sold as a display option. We’ll be writing more about this as well as taking a deeper dive into Sharp’s Smart Office ecosystem in the future.
Coffey also offered details on the company’s product road map, focusing on display and A3 and A4 products. This information remains confidential, so there’s nothing to report just yet on what’s new or when it will be released. Likely, we’ll hear more definitive details at Sharp’s October dealer meeting.
Owning the Office
If there was a single take home from the Road Show, it’s that Sharp is looking to own the office. But I think it goes deeper than that. Sharp is looking to own the “smart” office. And if these initiatives are embraced by the dealer channel, that goal is entirely possible.
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