Hugh Scholaert, Aastra’s chief executive and regional group president, says while the company has a ‘huge’ installed base in New Zealand – including New Zealand Police – and good revenue is being generated here, ‘the New Zealand market share is not where it should be. We have to go back and adopt the strategies which have made us successful elsewhere,’ he says. Those strategies, he adds, include having staff on the ground locally, and being ‘more aggressive’.
Scholaert is one of Aastra’s founders and sits on its board of directors. The Swiss-based Canadian says he was appointed regional president four months ago in response to the growing importance of Asia Pacific. "We should be one of the top two suppliers in New Zealand but we have not focused on the region a lot and it’s time we did pay very close attention to it.”
Tony Warhurst, director of sales and marketing for Aastra Australia and New Zealand, says the company has already undergone a major restructure in the region. "We have more sales and channel people on the ground and more direct touch with the channel and with customers, both new and existing.
"We are dealing with a new wave of exciting products dedicated to SMB and enterprise markets and need to get our partners involved to benefit from the new technology and eager to add incremental growth to their business,” Warhurst says.
"Aastra needs to be more involved in the channel market education and the creation of sales opportunities and therefore we need to expand our channel while continuing our strong relationships with current partners.”
Warhurst says the company will be working closely with the channel on more technical and sales training. "Our new channel strategy also includes full marketing support, technical training, special product training, loyalty discounts and sales programmes. To help our channel partners we also need to be involved in qualifying activity, implementing process and technical support with their customers.”
Aastra has employed Phil Morgan as the New Zealand channel and sales manager, based in Wellington, and has simplified its previous channel partner programme to create a new programme which is ‘more adaptable’ and abandons the previous ‘one size fits all’ attitude to cater to a range of partners from small to large, with different entry levels. "Those dealing with small to medium businesses don’t need the same level of skill sets as those dealing with large organisations,” Warhurst says.
A new distribution deal is expected to be announced soon.
Scholaert says Aastra will launch three new products into the New Zealand market in the coming months, including two products for the small and medium business market, the Aastra 400 unified and collaborative communications system, and the Aastra 700 IP, mobility and unified communications solution. Meanwhile the Aastra BluStar mobile phone, which Scholaert says is a ‘true collaboration tool’, is also undergoing certification for use in New Zealand and is expected to enter general availability by the end of the year. The desktop phone ‘combines true HD video conferencing quality with unified communications and business applications’.
"New Zealand offers a lot of potential for us,” Scholaert. "Every country is important to us. Some of the most important in Europe have been Switzerland or Sweden. They’re not large, but they’re important. I think New Zealand could be the same for us.”