Finance solutions moving quickly up the agenda for telecoms resellers

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Martin Ardern, Sales Director of the businesses Telecoms Division at BNP Paribas, says the telecoms industry, like most sectors, has not been able to escape unscathed from the financial shock waves that continue to cause uncertainty and stagnant growth across our shores and other regions globally.

“Today, many telecoms resellers are finding that customer demand is weak, with a distinct lack of available funds often cited as the barrier to investment. This was noted recently when BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions exhibited at the Summit South Convergence event. We experienced significant interest from both new and existing partners who responded to our theme for the event which revolved around a ‘Tired of hearing no budget’ message.

Not only is customer demand pulling back but there has also been a marked shift in the type of projects that are being implemented. Whilst companies are still purchasing business critical technology, big-budget projects that drive long term growth and underpin business strategy aren’t seeing the light of day, understandable given the massive uncertainties prevailing in global markets.

The challenge for telecoms resellers is to help their customers continue investing across all economic cycles and being able to demonstrate how it’s possible to squeeze maximum value from limited budgets. In a solution-based sales environment, it is essential resellers have every base covered and this includes payment. By choosing to leave payment solutions out of the proposal, reseller salespeople are vulnerable to price or budget related objections during negotiation phase and at risk of diluting their influence in the decision-making process.

Integrating a finance offer in to the sales process has been on the on the rise in the telecoms sector for a number of years now, primarily because in our opinion, it helps to relieve barriers to investment and accelerate the sales process. It also helps to increase reseller profitability and improve key performance ratios (for example debtor days). Since 2009, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions has experienced significant growth in the number of resellers who now actively offer finance as a means of securing and taking control of the sales process. We have seen finance revenues grow by 316% in our telecoms division since 2009 and new partner recruitment goals have exceeded our expectations having risen 400% in the same period. The footfall at Summit South Convergence event suggests these trends will continue well in to 2012 and beyond.

For the end user the benefits of asset finance are compelling. It helps to reserve cash for other core strategic activities, an essential consideration for all business in an illiquid environment. As bank lending retrenches, access to capital is restricted. BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions provides bespoke project financing enabling businesses to capitalise on opportunities and deal with threats quickly and decisively as they arise. A key message for resellers to impress upon their customers is to point out the opportunity cost of having the most precious business commodity i.e. cash, tied up in technology assets when viable alternative procurement options are available.

At BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, our philosophy from day one has been to work closely with our partners and aim to become a true extension of their sales force. We know finance can be viewed as a black art in some quarters and that unless the business customer requests a finance quote, reseller sales often do not lead with finance. The risk with this approach is some control of the sales process is immediately lost as the important subject of “budget” has not been addressed.

We work with our partners to overcome some of the prevailing perceptions and ensure they have the confidence to lead with finance. Our sales team are trained to simplify the quotation process for partners and add a ‘people’ dimension to the relationship allowing for flexible working rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Helping partners to generate new demand and increase sales is also important for us – we do this by developing innovative, affordable payment promotions that can be co-branded and offered to business customers. In short, our approach is to help partners deliver extra value to their customers as part of an overall proposition.”