Q&A with Sharp’s New Head of Channel Sales —John Sheehan
On November 15, 2017 John Sheehan joined the U.S. Sharp Electronics Corporation B2B Channel executive team as VP of Channel Sales. Since then, he has logged countless miles meeting Sharp dealers and attending key events, such as the recent Sharp National Dealer Meeting that was held in November 2017. One month later, here are his impressions of the meeting and in what direction that Channel Sales should be moving.
As a first-time attendee, what was your overall impression of the Sharp National Dealer Meeting?
“Events like this are critical to the future success of any company. I believe our message of “Products for Today, Tomorrow and Your Future” resonated with our dealers and underlined our vision. We have a strong offering no matter where they are in transitioning their company. Our product message was strong as we introduced 20 new MFP products. We outlined the simplicity of our programs and defined our vision of a smart office in our industry. Our technology fair allowed more than 50 of our 3rd party partners to showcase complimentary products. On top of that, we had some great news to share in regard to Sharp’s financials and our partnership with Amazon Web Services. The feedback has been positive and dealers seem to be excited about partnering with Sharp in the future. I loved the camaraderie and the people I was able to meet in such a short period of time. I am excited to get started in working with the dealer community.”
You had the opportunity to speak with a lot dealers during the meeting. Were there one or two topics that came up more than others?
“There was a lot of conversation built around the smart office and how to facilitate that through our dealers. Dealers showed much interest in how our back-end logistics through distribution will give them a Sharp portal that can make this process easier — all the products on one invoice. These conversations led to more discussions on which training and education is needed to sell these solutions. This training will be a big focus for me and my team as we go forward.”
“The other comment I heard was the strong interest in our Veterans Hiring Program. It was a consistent message that dealers are struggling to find the talent needed to grow or enter new markets. People entering the workplace don’t see this market for the value it brings, and we are excited to provide this recruitment tool to our dealers. And, like before, the training of these new entrants will be critical. So that training focus comes back into play. In both issues, training is a key component. Sometimes we lose focus on what’s truly important and a well-trained and highly motivated team is what drives success. That will remain a key area for me.”
A lot was discussed during the National Dealer Meeting. Which topics resonated with you the most during the meeting, and why?
“My background is in the audio visual (AV) space. I have watched traditional AV dealers who sold ‘boxes’ move into advanced technologies and services to meet the needs of customers. This same shift is happening in the MFP marketplace. The topics of smart office and new technologies really took the forefront at the meeting. Sharp is positioned to accelerate the growth in these categories with the portfolio of products we have access to. We need to provide our dealers with the process, margin structure and training if we are to be successful.”
After attending the event, what challenges do you think dealers will face in 2018 and how do you think they will be able to thrive despite those challenges?
“A challenge the dealers and Sharp continue to face is price and margin erosion. The positive in this is that it is forcing us all to look at new revenue streams. I feel that we can have an immediate impact with our enhanced line of display products. Previously, most of the talk has been around the AQUOS BOARD® interactive displays, but we have a full line of Pro AV products that includes TVs, video walls and even desktop displays. Our relationship with Foxconn and our back-end operations with distribution channels will allow us to provide products that can fill all the new categories for our dealers. This is why we feel we are poised to be a leader in the smart office space as it is an area we know well, and our dealers are in a great position to expand their offering into this space.”
What do you believe dealers are seeking from manufacturers such as Sharp?
“Competitive products and programs are always at the top of the list, but I feel that dealers are seeing someone that they can trust and who is truly invested in their success. Every manufacturer has goals to hit and sometimes the perception from dealers is that manufacturer company goals supersede dealers’ goals. At Sharp, we have developed a “dealer first” culture by listening to our dealers’ needs, which has led us to develop the programs we have today. The programs we announced at our meeting reflect that mindset: recruitment, training and a demo contest, new products and transition products. They all originate with the mindset of the dealer — addressing their needs first, because if they succeed, we succeed. Moving forward, their needs will help us as we evolve in smart office solutions and any new opportunities to grow our mutual business.”