Samsung Mobile Channel Chief On Getting 'Tremendous Traction' With Solution Providers

Samsung's B2B Push

With the launch of three new Galaxy S10 models—and a fourth, 5G-enabled model on the way—Samsung is solidifying its position as the most channel-friendly smartphone vendor out there, said Samsung mobile channel chief Mike Coleman. The reason? Not only is Samsung working closely with a growing number of solution providers to offer new opportunities in building mobile practices, but the new S10 phones feature a number of B2B-focused innovations that business users should appreciate. Samsung is not just going after consumers anymore when it designs new phones, Coleman said, and the company is also working aggressively to build out its channel capabilities further in 2019 following "tremendous traction" with partners last year. "We believe that this is the new frontier for many partners that would like to extend or expand their business, both on the security side and on the mobility side," Coleman said.

What follows is an excerpt of CRN's interview with Coleman.

What are the key features for businesses with the Galaxy S10?

The real idea here is to take what we've learned in the consumer world, and then build on that as a feature stack that will enable businesses to really take advantage of the phone and the new features. For example, the camera—with the wide angle and the close-up—that is really compelling for many businesses including health care, retail, manufacturing, warehousing. And public safety is a huge play for us with some of the new devices, which you'll see even more of forthcoming that will be specific to public safety, for example. So we're actually building more and more business-specific features into the phones.

I think that you'll find that the 5G-enabled phone would be the next wave. That's mostly for businesses, though I think you'll see some early adopters on the consumer side as well. The 20X speed factor is powerful and compelling.

Is having four different models, instead of just two, partly a business play? So that you can now hit more different use cases with businesses?

Yes, absolutely. The 10e was designed specifically for use cases around cases, because without the curved edges it's much easier to put a case on it and use it in a ruggedized environment. So the objective here is to have models that fit customer needs, at different price points, different feature sets, in order for us to really be able to cover that spectrum of customer needs. Business customer needs, from our perspective.

What sort of growth is the channel business seeing at Samsung?

In 2018 we doubled the business over 2017—which was doubled versus 2016. So we are growing the business triple digits year over year. This is my mobility channel business here in the U.S. And so we are seeing tremendous traction with many, many resellers. We've created a subgroup called MSPP—Mobility Solution Partner Program—that we launched last year, and that's been tremendously successful. We've seen the partners that became MSSP-authorized, with direct contact to our selling force, have almost tripled their Samsung business as a result of that. And in many cases they're either building mobility practices or strengthening their mobility practices with Samsung. Much of that's because of the public cloud and how that's affecting many of the resellers, where much of the server, storage and networking business will be migrating into the public cloud. And so as a result, we believe the mobility practice is a really good hedge for the partners. We're seeing really interesting growth from partners that are building Mobility-as-a-Service practices. It's an enhanced carrier-like experience where they can kit, stage and configure a device for specific business cases, for specific verticals. It's taking their business to a whole new level, and we're enabling that through a direct connection with our sales force.

What sort of investments is Samsung making into these channel efforts?

My sales force has doubled again last year over the previous year. And with that level of coverage, we've been able to get to more and more partners and tell the story, and in so doing we find that there's really good traction, really compelling interest. We've seen our NSP business grow, but we've seen our geo [geography-specific] group grow even faster. What the partners are looking for as they build out these mobility practices is devices that can help them differentiate their solution and tell a story to a business customer.

Is Samsung the most channel-friendly smartphone vendor out there right now?

Absolutely. We are very channel-centric. We focus on enabling and empowering our channel partners to embrace our technology and create solutions. We're partnering with other complementary partners to build solutions for scanning, for example, and we're competing with embedded competitors that have been doing that for a long time. We have what we believe to be a better, more complete solution, with a price point ROI analysis that we believe is even better and more compelling. We're partnering with channel partners that have that interest, and we've seen good early success there.

How are you looking to improve partner profitability in 2019?

The channel will embrace vendors like Samsung if there is not only a story to tell, a solution to offer, but it has to be profitable at the same time. What we're finding is that what I call the ‘circle of margin’ is what we're using to teach partners how to be profitable with mobility. The device itself has a margin associated with it, but when you start to wrap kitting and staging services, integration services, software loads, break-fix, 24/7 help desk support. And when partners build that mobility practice, they are excited about the aggregate margin that they see on a device like that. And, in some cases when they partner with the carriers, they get incentive credits to supplement that even more, especially on tablets. And that becomes a very compelling story from a mobility perspective.

The Galaxy Note series has always been more business-centric than the Galaxy S series. Do you feel like the S series is become more business-oriented?

I would say absolutely yes. We obviously have tremendous success in the smartphone market globally, and we've learned a tremendous amount about customer usage patterns. And we know based on that experience what consumers are looking for, and we are continuing to learn what businesses need. The line has blurred between the business use and the consumer use for the phone. And so our objective is to offer a compelling story for both the consumer and also the business—so that Samsung becomes the device of choice for companies that allow their employees to bring their own device, or for what we call corporate liable, when they essentially issue a phone. I think our design, our functionality, our security, our flexibility and some of the business enhancements that we've added, I think that creates a very compelling story for many of our business customers. And the channel partners are starting to see that and then position these devices as such.

What else is ahead for the channel efforts this year? Are you looking to continue recruiting partners? Are you looking to increase certain types of incentives?

Yes and yes. We are expanding the team again this year, we'll have more and more coverage in the field. We're always looking to recruit more MSPP partners. We're at a point now where we've got some very collaborative partners that have built businesses on the MSPP program, leveraging the MDF that we offer, the direct-facing sales force that we dispatch to them, the collaborative engagements we do at customer events, access to all of the Samsung facilities, all of our R&D efforts—they get to really understand the technology and the solutions. As a result of that, we've been very successful with the ones that we've signed, and we're always looking to add new ones. Because we believe that this is the new frontier for many partners that would like to extend or expand their business, both on the security side and on the mobility side.

Are you expecting to double the channel mobility business again this year?

Yes, we have line of sight to doubling the business again this year, which is incredibly powerful. And not easy. But you'll find that with the products we offer, the innovation, the solutions we're providing, the vertical applications that are being developed, the business problems we're solving for these businesses—that's where we're seeing the traction with the partners.