Pity the poor supplier

A brief peek inside the engine room of ICT sales company IDNS, by Wireless Division Manager, Stuart Small

Adrift in a sea of targets, expectant customers, demanding Managing Directors, whimsical couriers and sweaty, desperate manufacturers, the daily grind can be a harrowing experience for even the most cheerful salesman. Welcome to the fraught world of the ICT sales company.

Welcome to IDNS Ltd, and a brief peek inside the engine room. To increase the pressure, technology is moving buying patterns and trends towards a silent, clinical process that seems to be eliminating the human aspect and replacing it with a joyless and transactional approach. Whilst this might be useful in the consumer arena, it is a genuinely unhealthy shift that could leave schools wide open to lazy procurement methods and the dreaded over-spend.

Of course, a busy bursar, head of IT or Business Manager does not have the time to spend all day on the phone trying to get a fiver off the price of a laptop. Equally, however, as much time can be spent browsing any of a thousand websites which becomes completely self-defeating. Many schools know this and do have a good supply chain in place, or use local authority frameworks to provide best value on their behalf. However, many schools have turned to the relative comfort of the web – understandable of course, and a well thought out website is appealing; IDNS have just invested an eye-watering sum of money into a new one and it is a very necessary piece of any company’s jigsaw. 

But, there is still the traditional option. One which IDNS in particular cherishes above all others.

That supplier I mentioned, sat at his desk with vast clumps of hair scattered around the floor and a litre of caffeine in his system by 10am? He’s not just some hawkish trinket pedlar searching for a fresh victim to bleed dry; nor is he a smug-faced, grinning chancer destined for his five minutes of fame being outed by Anne Robinson on Watchdog. Really. 

Using my own company IDNS as an example, most ICT companies are well trained, knowledgeable and largely friendly types who have a genuine service to offer and can actually introduce products that may well improve your school. A good supplier will do some research, find out what type of school you are and even tailor their approach to make sure they aren’t wasting anyone’s time – their offers are likely to be a good fit for your school’s ethos and roadmap. The internet is still some way from doing that, though Google are almost certainly working on it. 

There is one crucial element here that you may have guessed – it relies on a willingness to talk to suppliers, and even ones you ordinarily may avoid. For many, this has the same appeal as re-cabling your entire school on your own whilst being hit in the face with a rake, but it really can work. Even the most advanced websites won’t price match unless you are willing to pick up the phone – so why not just have the conversation to start with and save the time? IDNS has always thrived on this approach and it shows no signs of abating – if anything the increasingly crowded internet space is bringing people back to the landline…. 

Suppliers have manufacturers on bended knees at their front doors most days, eager to move their boxes of tin. As a leading provider of brands such as Casio, Clevertouch, CTouch, Toshiba, Lenovo and Samsung, IDNS have usually done the bulk of the negotiations even before you start the buying process. I’m trying to avoid the word haggle but in truth that is still an entirely valid way to get what you need and there is even a chance you might enjoy it. It sounds almost medieval in 2015 but the reliance on the internet always being cheapest is slightly dangerous, plus you may be missing out on those vital, value added extras that a human being can supply if it means winning that deal. 

It feels like I’m describing the death of a way of life, it’s not quite so dramatic, but that human contact is eroding and those who choose to ignore it altogether are definitely missing out.

Let’s talk. You never know…

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