Back to basics

Back to basics

Gail Hollinshead, Mainline’s director of dealer sales

Gail Hollinshead, Mainline’s director of dealer sales

What makes Mainline different from other distributors is, says Gail Hollinshead, Mainline’s director of dealer sales, its attention to making sure the basics are right. Without solid foundations, a distribution business can not provide true value in the mobile channel, she claims.

Supporting the dealer is vital to the strategy of this Orange distributor, she comments: “It’s easy to look over doing the basics, but we do the basics really well and always have. We’re about a joined up, solid approach. We’re a dynamic company and the market now is very much about survival of the fittest, and we have strong ambitions for 2010.”

Vital basics

There are several areas that Hollinshead points to as vital in covering the basics. She explains: “In the current economic climate no doubt people are finding it challenging, but we never miss a payment to a dealer; we know cash flow is absolutely key and we support that. “Upgrades are increasingly important, along with new connections. Stealing customers from network to network is a fact of life, but we go out of our way to help dealers retain their customers.”

 

Mainline provides dealers with an automated database, called Data Share, of each dealer’s customers at the point of upgrade via its portal, iManage, to help dealers keep on top of potential upgrades. Also, it has a marketing plan to help retain customers that are up for renewal, the Proactive Contact Plan, and helps dealers with the processes and procedures of actually upgrading a client.

Marketing is important at this point, adds Hollinshead: “Given the climate today, where people are going out of their way to win new business, we have a very strong marketing team here. We don’t use a scatter gun approach, but vertical marketing plans.”

The distributor has a small telemarketing team that sets appointments and drives referrals for Mainline’s dealers. It sets up supported visits to enable dealers to pitch a strong story. To aid in verticals, it also offers Blue Print Marketing rather than general Orange marketing, which looks at what can really help dealers win business in different sectors, plus sales incentives.

 

Dealer support

From between the beginning of September last year to the end of November, the Orange distributor saw its number of new account enquiries treble, and more than doubled the number of dealers it would normally expect to sign up over the same period. “There are many nervous dealers out there at the moment,” said Hollinshead.

“The introduction of ongoing revenue share earlier in 2009 means that dealers have much more of their long term earnings tied up with their distributor, and they don’t want to see it disappear overnight. As a result, many dealers are looking for a safe pair of hands and Mainline fits easily into that category.”

Ongoing revenue share has meant that less dealers are bed-hopping from one distributor to the next, states Hollinshead. She adds: “Things in this market are changing at an ever-increasing rate of knots. People aren’t jumping around from distributor to distributor, particularly with the advent of revenue share; they want a safe pair of hands, and that’s what we’re getting calls on.

“People are reducing the number of networks they sell as well, reducing them to one or two,” she continues. “This approach means they can become experts in these networks. People have weighed up the options and now want to align themselves with a network. As we are part-owned by a network, we’re in a good position to be in, but we won’t become complacent.”

 

Orange and T-Mobile

While things do look positive for Mainline in this respect, the future direction of the business is unclear as it waits for the merger of Orange and TMobile to complete.

Hollinshead comments: “It’s early days yet on the Orange and T-Mobile deal. We see it as quite exciting. There is talk of consolidation and a reduced number of distributors in the market, and it is likely that there will be some consolidation going forward, but in the meantime we are continuing to work with our dealers on their long term plans, to win them a larger piece of ongoing revenue share, and retain customers with our support.”

Mainline is proactive in communications with its dealer community, Hollinshead claims. “We talk about reality and fact, rather than what could be. People want assistance with cash flow, which is why we’ve got so much interest in our Dealer Development Fund. We’ve got enhancements to our dealer programme, Business Mobile, coming this year. We’ve stripped out a few elements that haven’t worked and added new elements in that reward dealers. There’s a lot happening here.”

 

Future challenges

The next 12 months in the mobile channel are set to be good for Mainline, says Hollinshead: “It’s no doubt been challenging for people in 2009, but as the top Orange distributor, we want to build on our success and not stand still. We’re building on Business Mobile and we’ve got some big plans to build on our B2B programme with new sales and marketing techniques also.

“While our customer retention is strong, we will not be complacent. We will use better, stronger strategies to help our dealers going forward, and identify the best opportunities for them,” she concludes.

 
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