Coaching swimming for a decade before jumping into IT might sound like a big switch, but Express Data’s product and marketing sales manager Phil Presnall says coaching has given him communication skills that prove useful in his current career.
“I spent 10 years coaching 18-month-old babies [through] to elite-level triathletes. As a coach you have to be a good communicator and I think that’s something that helps when you’re in any type of sales or marketing role.”
Presnall’s move into ICT was bridged by a job he took up in 1998 to sell health supplements.
However, in 1999 IT came knocking, in the form of a product manager role at Express Data.
“I looked after Nortel, MailMarshal, RSA and NetGear. It was jumping in the deep end.”
He worked there for five and a half years before moving into the vendor space at Microsoft.
His roles there included SMB channel manager, partner account manager and enterprise managed partner team member.
Presnall says it was a great place to work as he got exposure to product innovations.
“When you’re a reseller or in distribution, you’re getting a product when it comes to market. However, when you’re in the vendor space you get a look at products early on and you start seeing things coming down the pipe that may influence the way the industry is working.”
He says he got early insights into software as a service, how products tie together in unified communications and which organisations are forming partnerships.
“You also get to work with a lot of smart people that you can learn a lot from as well. I’m not saying that you don’t get that in other areas. But in [Microsoft] you get people who have spent time in different parts of the business around the world. There’s always someone you can learn from, whether it is business or technology related.”
Presnall adds that although his time with Microsoft did not involve overseas postings, working for a vendor does provide such opportunities.
However, Presnall moved on and in 2008 became NetGear’s country manager.
He was the company’s sole local employee. “That was quite a different experience to Microsoft, in that with NetGear you’re working in the SMB market. Being the only person was quite different. I’m a social person and like coming into the office.”
Presnall also found working from home took some getting used to. “It’s that fundamental of going out the door to work instead of waking up and getting straight into it. That’s not a reflection on the company, because the people in the Australian team were great to work with.”
After a year with NetGear, he came back to Express Data in March 2009, when general manager of sales and marketing Paul Plester told him there was a job on offer.
Presnall was excited about making another foray into distribution.
“If you look at the vendors we represent in the market, we look after the top one or two vendors across the market. Working in that space held great appeal.”
This excitement hasn’t diminished after his first few months in the job. “I think there is a lot of opportunity for growth and we’re having a good year, despite what is going on in the global financial crisis. Express Data across ANZ is doing well and it is good to be able to contribute to the direction of where we are going and how we are doing it.”
Presnall appreciates the different perspectives offered by the distribution and vendor spaces.
“Having been a partner person in distribution, you get to know the guys’ businesses and the challenges they have with vendors, either through direct or indirect feedback. It does help when you’re talking to vendors about what you think partners might need from them and conversely, you can talk to partners about where vendors are going and where the opportunities are.”
Presnall has an industry-honed insight into the challenges faced in vendor-distributor partnerships, such as having the right stock in the country. “Every vendor wants to make sure they can service their markets well. So can you [as a distributor] always deliver that?
“Some [vendors] want distributors more involved in the sales and marketing process and some just want logistics. We have to figure out how we are all things to all of our vendors, within our given set of systems and warehousing.”
An increasing focus by partners on services means the types of conversations Presnall has with resellers is changing.
“Some products that don’t have such great margins attached to them for the partners, still have great service opportunities attached to them. Going back in time, from a distribution view it was ‘how many boxes can you get out the door at what margin’?”
After 10 years in IT, Presnall has observed greater demand for the value that can be extracted from technology.
“[Customers] expect everything to work and be secure, whereas 10 years ago you could try and fix something that didn’t work.”
Market consolidation, such as Ingram Micro buying VAD and Vantex, is something Presnall says will continue.
“I think that points to where the future is. Once the product that you’re delivering becomes ubiquitous, it becomes a matter of becoming larger and buying everyone else. As software as a service in IT becomes more ubiquitous, that’s going to drive even more consolidation.”
Presnall is pleased with the opportunities for growth at Express Data and is happy to remain in the role.
“I think there’s a ton more [sales] we can squeeze out of this business and now in the role I’m doing, I think there is a lot of upside we can deliver to our vendors and the resellers. I don’t have any further aspirations other than doing a good job in this role and making sure we hit our numbers and keep our customers and vendors happy.”