March 2009 | Volume 12/ Number 3
Talking with John Gaillard, VP of Sales & Business Development, Catalyst Telecom
By: Richard “Zippy” Grigonis
Catalyst Telecom (News - Alert) (www.catalysttelecom.com) is a value-added distributor of voice, video and data equipment to resellers. Catalyst is a sales unit of ScanSource (News - Alert) (www.scansource.com), itself a leading international distributor of specialty technology products, providing distribution sales and value-added services to resellers in specialty technology markets.
Catalyst is the place to go for Avaya (News - Alert) communications solutions. They’re said to be the only distributor offering Avaya’s full product line, along with Polycom’s video products, Extreme Networks’ data networking equipment and Juniper Networks (News - Alert)’ networking and security applications. Catalyst’s value-added service offerings regarding these and other products ensure include making sure that resellers get the education, training, technical support and financial services assistance they need to successfully grow their businesses or add new technologies to their portfolio.
We recently spoke with Catalyst Telecom’s John Gaillard, Vice President of Sales and Business Development, to see how the company was faring in the new world of convergence and unified communications.
Gaillard joined ScanSource in 2000 as a Business Development Manager within the Catalyst Telecom sales unit, responsible for recruitment of new business and growth of existing partners. He first took on his present job description in December 2003. When ScanSource Security was formed in October 2004, Gaillard was named President with responsibility for establishing the business unit, developing the business plan, and providing strategic direction for the company. He returned to Catalyst Telecom in 2008 to again take the reins as VP of Sales and Business Development. Gaillard graduated from Clemson University, with a B (News - Alert).S. in Financial Management, then served as an Air Defense Artillery Officer in the U.S. Army. Leaving the Army in 1990, he worked for Duke Energy as Manager, Market Development, a role in which he developed and implemented the strategic marketing and sales plan for key alliance relationships. Gaillard left Duke Energy in 1996 to work for General Wholesale Distributors where he managed the sales, marketing, technical support and logistics functions for a geographic region.
RG: What differentiates Catalyst Telecom from the rest of ScanSource?
JG: We’re one of two communications-focused divisions of ScanSource. Our main product line has been Avaya, one of the market leaders in converged communications. Going all the way to when they were Lucent Technologies, we’ve been a Lucent/Avaya distributor for ten years. We seen all of the changes that have been gone on over the years, from TDM-based telephony to IP telephony, and now of course the term everyone is using is unified communications. Things keep evolving. There been a definite dynamic environment over the last 10 years and there’s been a lot changes with the types of customers we sell to, the competencies we need to have internally to be able to support those technologies, and the resellers and what they need to do to be successful.
One thing we’ve always tried to do is, from the vendor side, understand what the solutions are that they’ve trying to sell, and then take that to the our channel partners and say, ‘What do we need to provide that manufacturers are not providing, to help you be successful selling these solutions.’ So we’ve evolved too in that, if you back five or six years, Avaya was the preponderance of our business — and it still occupies the majority of our business — but we are much more a converged distributor today than we were five or six years ago. By that I mean we offer the network switches to go along with the unified communications solutions, the security appliances through Juniper and Sonic Wall, and we have wireless technology from Aruba, Meru and Bluesocket (News - Alert) to allow our resellers to expand a voice or data network. So we’ve had to evolve ourselves as a distributor in the offerings that we carry so that we can effectively sell a complete, converged solution to our customers. The changes have been quite dramatic over the past few years, and yet I think we’re uniquely positioned as a distributor in the industry to be able to successfully take it all in stride.
The core of all this is being able to understand the Avaya solution very, very deeply, and understand all of the pieces that go together to make that solution work. And then we’ve added a portfolio around the Avaya solution that we think is best-in-class and we’ve had a lot of success with our customers, teaching them through education and training how to sell and position that total ‘converged’, if you will, unified communications solution.
There’s definitely more to this business than just selling a piece of hardware. We’re selling integrated solutions, whole environments, not just a box.
RG: Does this force you to become more of a ‘one-stop shop’? Did you have to take on many additional professional services?
JG: That’s what we’ve chosen to do, though I believe that nobody will ever be a compete ‘one stop shop’ as you say. But we definitely wanted to offer what we believe to be a complete solution, so if customers chose the types of functional components that we carry, that we would make sure that we carried the best-in-class to complete a converged solution. So yes, convergence has changed our philosophy on product sets and what we need to be able to carry.
JG: Yes, they’ve both got good solutions, but we’ve been with Avaya for a long time, so we want to see them succeed, obviously.
RG: Has this all become a major part of your sales?
JG: Oh yes. It’s a growing part of the business. We have seen very good sales growth regarding our converged platforms and although our current economic times are challenging in terms of technology spending by customers, we’re very optimistic about 2009. We believe that many of the products we sell are essentially efficiency tools as well. So if a company can use technology to extend their workforce or to make their workforce more efficient, or potentially allow their workforce to be mobile and not force them to be in the office to be in full communication with them, well, that helps them save money. We think that a lot of what we sell allows us the opportunity to provide return on investment for the end user. So we hope that that creates an opportunity for us, even in a bad economic time.
RG: It’s as if you’re not just a distributor, but a bunch of ‘super consultants’.
JG: I’m not sure ‘super consultant’ would be accurate, but we certainly act in a consultative role at times with our partners. Many times they come to us and say, ‘I’ve been carrying a voice solution for quite a while, but what do I need to offer now to round out my portfolio?’. We’re always ready to offer the proper suggestions.
RG: Many companies are interested in unified communications, but surprising few companies have worked out a clear migration path to install it. Selling it must be a lot more difficult than selling a box that performs one set of related functions.
JG: It is. Every organization knows where they want to go technology-wise, but many of them don’t know how to get there. One thing we do with our manufacturing partners is to advise them about how they should be communicating with their own channel partners to ensure that the dealers do understand the path from Point A to Point B. That’s not as easy as it sounds, became many times it takes multiple vendors to complete that unified communications solution, and sometimes that’s the role that we end up playing. We can bring all of the pieces together for the reseller. We do some roadshows. We stage our big conference every year for our partners, and one of the things we do at that event is to show them, through training and education, how they can pull all of the pieces together.
RG: Do you do system integration too?
JG: We have an integration center at our warehouse facility in Southhaven, Mississippi, where we’re able to burn testing, software loading, inserting IP addresses on the switches, though we can also do remote programming of the switches, and various things. When we ship, it’s a solution ready to install, so it cuts down on the implementation time, relieving the partner, and improving their cash flow, since they can now turn their project around quickly.
RG: Distributors always have to deal with ‘cut-throat margins. Though since more is involved with convergence solutions, and they tend to be software-centric, there’s probably more of an opportunity to achieve some real profit margins.
JG: Many times our costs are set by manufacturers. We always try to be fair with our pricing, and we position what we sell not just as a well-priced solution, since we bring there’s value that we can bring to the table too that can help our partners sell the solution.
RG: What’s your coverage?
JG: With this particular business unit, we sell to the U.S. only. However, we can sell some of our products into Canada. IT
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