Zeacom New Zealand channel manager Zlatko Filipchich has had a career that has taken him from pizzas to photocopiers and finally to Unified Communications.
He once managed an Italian pizzeria called Numero Uno in Auckland’s Takapuna at night while working in the copier industry during the day.
“I loved [the pizzeria] because of the people you got to meet. When you’re feeding people you see a different side to them. I used to see arguments, marriage proposals and weddings. If you want to get into sales I think feeding people is a wonderful way of getting to know them.”
Filipchich ran the pizzeria for six years. At the same time he worked for copier companies Konica Minolta and Ubix, remaining in the copier industry for 12 years.
Of Croatian ancestry, Filipchich was bought up in Henderson, Auckland. “My heart is in Croatia and I love the culture and the people. I’ve been back many times but not recently, as my children are aged seven and six — they’re not yet ready to travel and appreciate it.”
He has been with Zeacom for nearly nine years in sales positions, saying the jump from copiers to unified communications wasn’t too hard. “I was approached to join Zeacom for my sales skills, because I had a good grasp of the IT networking side of IT. Technology-wise, [Zeacom] was a bit of a leap, but customer-wise buyers are buyers so it didn’t really make much difference solution wise. You have to know the benefits that it is going to bring to the customer.”
Filipchich enjoys the personal interactions he has with resellers. “I get to travel up and down the country to our resellers, as we have a number of them across the different sectors. From a resellers perspective what I have found is that I’ve become more engaged with them and enabled them to sell our applications.”
He says with the staff turnover at resellers the company can never fully ‘enable’ them.
“They’re never going to become proficient in specialised fields such as [unified communications]. So we’ve worked very hard on getting the trust within our suppliers to our resellers that enable us to be introduced to customers.”
Filipchich says, from what he sees, customers these days are a lot more educated. “Unified communications used to be something that only the large contact centre customers could buy. Now it’s a product that’s available to the SMEs, as well. There’s market acceptance of the sort of services we can provide because the resellers bring us in. They don’t want the customer to perceive they know all the answers. So they bring us in as specialist consultants.”
Dialtone is dialtone
In the time he has been with Zeacom, Filipchich says a critical issue he has noted is that resellers should invest in good staff. “They need to start having specialised people within their organisation that can get out and promote or uncover these opportunities. Dialtone is dialtone — whether it’s IP telephony or TDM [time division multiplexing]. What we bring is the added efficiency gains from a more visual perspective.”
Filipchich says unified communications remains strong, in spite of the current economic conditions. “But you’re going to find a number of resellers who are going to fall behind or just exit the market. It’s already happening as their management doesn’t see that customers want a lot more detail and understanding from their salespeople.”
According to Filipchich companies that retain good quality staff will survive. “A lot of companies are looking at what they’re taking to market and if they are doing that product justice. If they have a range of five or six telephony products they can sell them, but the problem is where’s the backend support?”
He says resellers are starting to narrow their product range down to one or two lines and thus keeping things simple for the salespeople. “The guys that have survived with an average 12 months worth of sales are going to do extremely well, because they’ve positioned themselves to be specialists in that field and you’re going to see some key players coming out in the marketplace.”
The company has never been busier, he reckons. “Our prospects are higher and our resellers are pretty happy with what is going on.” Though decision-making on purchasing hardware is taking longer, he says.