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Q&A With Samsung BCS Channel Chief Doug Wonson

April 24, 2009

15 Min Read
Q&A With Samsung BCS Channel Chief Doug Wonson

By Khali Henderson

Last fall Samsung Telecommunications America LLC decided to shake things up at its Business Communications Systems division by bringing in new leadership. The company tapped a Nortel, Verizon and NEC alum, Doug Wonson, as its vice president and general manager. Since BCS is 100 percent channel focused, Wonson also is heading up the company’s channel strategy. Already, he has instituted a new structure and invested $4.7 million in other partner-enablement initiatives, such as doubling the support staff, lead-generation tools, financial packaging and new products to help Samsung’s indirect sales partners target the small and medium business market. PHONE+ spoke to Wonson in early April about the changes in the BCS channel. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.

Samsung BCS Channel Chief Doug Wonson

How does your experience at Nortel and NEC inform what you are doing at Samsung?

I have a pretty extensive history in the business development area in the channel between NEC and Nortel and, quite frankly, I think it helps in terms of the business model and in terms of trying to meet the particular needs. Our main goal is to provide the best professional service and support organizations we can with local touch point. Those local touch points are focused on the SMBs throughout the United States and Canada. It’s apparent that customers want that choice and our objective is to provide that for them.

We have made significant investments this year — $4.7 million to be exact — to strengthen and double our support in the channel from a resource management perspective, to provide our folks lead generation with full CRM tools. We’ve brought together financial solutions and financial partners and other partners to begin to bridge and to build the things that are necessary for a complete office automation suite for the client.

What do you mean?

We’ve brought a company to providence capital to the table. We are providing financial solutions in the areas of, for example, 0 percent financing for 24 months. We are also looking at a range of solutions beyond the straight lease-purchase arrangement. We are looking at managed or hosted solutions.

That’s interesting. Is there anything on the table yet?

We are getting close. The goal here is to provide the SMB with a positive experience. This is a group that is quite large; it’s a $7 billion market. They have all the needs of the enterprise space, but they’d like to get it at a price tag that’s more affordable and that they can use to their advantage in the competition they are in.

Will it be this year or 2010?

We are hoping to make that a 2009 initiative. Our main goal is to level the playing field for SMBs by making enterprise telephony more accessible and more affordable.

Are there changes that you initiated in the channel since you’ve joined?

When I first got here, one of the things that we had to do was a complete assessment of the situation — not only from the end user and market perspective of the SMB community, but also how Samsung was creating and managing its business.

What we did was realign the channels into two support organizations. One was headed up for the reseller community and the other headed up for the direct dealer channel. We started to orchestrate the proper messaging to each of those groups and make sure our people were trained and understood those message and key deliverables.

Once we did the assessment, we realized that we needed to have additional people and resources specifically in different quadrants of the United States where we were not as strong as we needed to be. We have basically doubled our sales force in 2009. We went into a long hiring and training process to onboard those people and have them center stage and ready to go in of support the two-tier and single-tier distribution model.

So, you broke out the Dealer Advantage Program, which is your direct dealers?

That is correct. And, we allowed those that wanted to be direct to be direct and those that want to go through resale to do so. What was really driving that was the models that each of those companies had. What we needed was a match between their models and our support systems to drive the behaviors to the customer choice model.

Does it makes more sense to deal with them separately?

It’s sort of separate in some of the scenarios and support techniques, but overall channel partners and supporting partners (channel managers) do have quotas on both the reseller side and the dealer side. They are very familiar with the automation to be able to help even the smallest dealer in the most remote parts of the country.

The channel support people could help a direct dealer or reseller; they are not devoted to one or the other?

That is correct. They win in both scenarios. The goal is to provide customer satisfaction to the user community.

Second, probably one of the most important things was we developed a full product and service roadmap through 2017 showing not only our partners but also the user community. In today’s market, that’s kind of unique to have that level set of a plan in place.

What advantage does that give your dealers or customers?

That gives them a heads up on where the platforms and the products are going. It helps them understand terminal migration — not only from desk sets but to fixed wireline mobile convergence, how micro PCs play in that space. It brings in the full gamut of applications – from desktop solution with CTI to uniform communications to ACD to moving into platforms in conference bridging to the full gamut of professional services that might be necessary as one enters that space — whether it be in the area of field engineering support to fill gaps from the distribution partners or IP support or data support. We do have under our new Samsung Professional Services relationships about 175 FTEs nationwide in two 24/7 NOCs.

Showing this roadmap — is it to instill confidence in dealers and buyers in your longevity and vision or is it to gain feedback from them about what they want?

I think it’s a little of all of the above. One of the programs that we also have in there is that we are making a reach to the user community. We are looking to get a user group formed. We are working on a dealer council group to be able to form a better union between product teams, product demand and service offerings.

When will the user group be launched?

Second half of this year.

And, the dealer group, when will it be formed?

It actually has started. We took a group of folks over to Korea when Mike Rosen joined our organization and started the foundation of that group.

What will their role be?

It’s really to be on the distribution side to understand from a dealer or reseller perspective how to enable and provide better levels of service on the product lines and to be a key conduit to the sales and supporting organizations within Samsung.

How many VARs are in that group?

I believe there are eight or nine at present and we are looking to expand that to a larger number in terms of the board members.

Do they meet directly with you or your reseller managers?

They meet with key people with Samsung on a regular routine basis. As I say, one of the trips was to Korea to actually exchange ideas with the headquarters development team.

What does the change in leadership at BCS mean to Samsung and its channel?

I think you are going to see a lot more time being spent with the BCS organization as it goes toward the SMB channel. I think you are going to see a lot more of the co-development of products and services coming in the converged space, which means that fixed wireline mobile convergence, the advent of micro PCS, converging the home and small business. You will see a joint focus in the Samsung mobile group and the BCS group. In other words, taking down the barriers that exist in the different domains.

So we are going to see more collaboration among the business units of Samsung?

In fact, we are bringing out this year fixed wire mobile convergence, which is actually having a cellular handset off of the PBX and a brand new micro PC, which will be a new terminal off of the PBX. The micro PC is being launched this month (April) into the channel. It was announced at the Las Vegas show (CTIA Wireless 2009) and we are getting ready to announce it in form of a dealer letter this week.

How are your dealers impacted by the recession and have you done anything to help?

We have done a couple things in that area. First of all, the SMB space is still a growing market opportunity. It’s a $7 billion market throughout the United States and Canada. What is clear is that those particular customers want to buy from local touch points and local service and they want to have a good experience with a manufacturer that’s behind them all the way. What we are going to do is enable the dealers to do a better job of that with more comfort and more capabilities. This is where the array of products and things we have been talking about come together.

One is the leasing portfolio. We have more than one leasing partner planned to bring to the table. We plan to integrate not only in terms of financial packaging but managed, hosted and leased environment.

We’ve also brought to the table lead generation to be able to help those dealers cut down the sales cost and time of being able to get to those particular customers. We acquired the database through Harte Hanks throughout the United States for all customers 250 lines and below. We will be target marketing those customers by vintage, by technology and by term. We will be hitting those folks with campaigns and bringing them back to a nurturing portal to help them understand the particular support environment they are under in the SMB channel. Once those folks are in turn educated and understand all of the support services available, we would be bringing them back to the channel.

We have developed a GSBN (Global Samsung Business Network) tool, an online tool that’s a single point of entry for dealers. It makes it easy for dealers to handle the business. We’ve brought in auto configurators to eliminate errors and improve price productivity.

We have brought to the table live Webinars two and four times per week. These are real-time sessions where we go through applications and use cases to enable our dealers.

We do have in addition to that a complete five-year warranty package that comes with the product, which helps retain value and helps dealers to sign up long-term service contracts with those particular customers.

We created a significant amount of sales promotions and financial solutions to help make that happen. We have seen an increase in sales — largely because of the way we are managing the business, how we are reaching out to the service and sales organization. To give you an example, one of them is lead generation. We’ve been in the lead-generation business for less than 30 days. We have launched 96 dealers into that channel with the CRM tool and have trained that many thus far. We have put 960 leads into their hands with customers that have an opportunity sometime in the 30, 60 to 120-day range.

Does the Nortel bankruptcy generate opportunity for your dealers?

First of all, overall it’s sad and disappointing that it’s occurring. But as one door closes, another door opens. Certainly those customers that are out there — there is a huge amount of prospects in that space — are still looking for advancements in technology. They are looking for service provisioning. They are looking for answers to their time challenges, their domestic and global purchase requirements, their office automation needs. They are looking for education, security, reliability, scalability. They are looking for a tool and technology that’s safe and easy to use. They are looking for improvements in their IS capability. And, they are looking for someone to help them remove financial barriers.

In the scope and size of Nortel, there is about $55 million worth of prospects that are in vintage from four years old to 25 years old. To me, those represent significant sales opportunities throughout the United States. Our goal is to help map to those folks and provide a customer choice opportunity to them and a service opportunity that’s second to none.

Are you incorporating them into this new lead-generation program?

We are. We are not only going after the particular dealers that our friends from Nortel have, but we are also looking at direct touches to those end user customers and helping them understand the Samsung experience.

So you are looking at converting some dealers as well?

That is correct. Our goal on the dealership is really unique. We are interested in maximizing the amount of customers that we have with the least amount of distribution necessary. It’s not about just adding dealers for dealers’ sake. It’s about adding quality representation and keeping it channel-centric to the SMB space and doing what we do best and not being all things to all people.

In what way are you screening the Nortel dealers?

We go after geography. We go after skills. We go after financials. We go after customer base information to see how they have been servicing those portfolios. When we acquired the databases, we’ve matured them to help in our hunt better.

Have you had any traction converting Nortel dealers?

We have. Across the board we’ve added 146 dealers and resellers in the last six months. A fair amount are Nortel’s. A fair amount actually fit across the different spectrum of customers. All of them have bought in to this new process and thought leadership. What I am suggesting is that all of them have come out with guns blazing and validating our model.

You mentioned the micro PC and FMC offers. What will be the hot products in 2009?

Those are the two hottest things that we have going right now in terms of this calendar year. We do have a conference bridge coming as well, but I think that’s going to be third or fourth quarter.

Do you think those are going to be the hot sellers?

I think in total it’s the applied applications of the whole convergence space — providing the OfficeServ product, which is essentially the glue for the whole thing; providing the cellular aspect and fixed wireline mobile convergence; the Wi-Fi and WiMAX capabilities that will come, not only with the micro PC; and, of course, the unified communications itself.

In general what are challenges for dealers in 2009?

I think the hardest thing that the dealer/reseller communities need to do is establish a proper focus within their geographic capabilities and be able to empower SMB customer to meet the challenges they are facing today. Most of those challenges fall in the neighborhood of how do you give them time back, how to you improve their personal productivity, how do you make their decision making more empowered.

Most SMBs are either buying and selling, domestic and global. How do you help them with those opportunities? All of them need some form of office automation, but they may not understand what office automation is. So we have to help them understand the power of unified communications and how it helps improve resource productivity directly, how it centralizes monitoring and control within an organization so these folks without an IT staff become enabled to do better business. How it reduces their office costs and stops them from having to travel by having meetings on a collaborative basis to improve their productivity.

These are the things we have to help teach the distribution model and the distribution model needs to empower in the user community. Most of these folks, their businesses need to be scalable and they need to be secure in their environment. They can’t afford a full IS staff to help them do that. So, from a value-added perspective, we together — between Samsung and the distribution channel — need to be able to help make that happen.

And then, helping them with the financial barriers. I truly believe there are many ways to procure telephone systems. Just the traditional lease and lease-purchase are not it. You can look at managed and hosted solutions, and we can scale how people buy technology or add technology. If, for example, they need PCs or laptops or printers or full servers — those things could be empowered as you go forward in this opportunity.

What are the opportunities?

I think they will include being able to upgrade customers into the converged and IP space. I think it will be the ability to help them with office automation. I think it will be the opportunity to add multiple years of contracts and enablement in areas they may not have had before in terms of service and operation. We certainly can add the data services and products to the portfolio. We can certainly add audio conference and video conferencing technology. And, there’s certainly a full entourage of professional services that can be brought to bear.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I think one of the key messages is that Samsung is going to stay focused on the SMB space. I think we are going to stay focused on our distribution empire and provide the surety that’s necessary to improve the office efficiencies and effectiveness of the channel partners. Our goal comes down to the simple mission — leveling the playing field for the SMBs by making enterprise quality telecommunications more accessible and more affordable and permitting our partners the ability to stay in the game for the long term.

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