Building Strong Channels for Sustainable Growth

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CEO of 9mobile, Alan Sinfield

MARY NNAH writes that like most Nigerian brands, 9mobile is partnering dealers in various states to help get their products closer to customers

As a famous saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Drawing from this wise saying, it can be inferred that the partnerships a business develops across its various value chain will have implications for both growth and sustainability.

As a business, a mix of options abounds for getting your products across to final users. This may be directly through corporate outlets or indirectly through wholesalers, retailers or franchised and non-franchised dealers.

However, with a population of over 180million, 36 states and a federal capital territory and a vast land mass of 923,763 km² to cover, it is not surprising that most Nigerian brands partner dealers in various states to help get their products closer and across to their customers. This is often through a well-oiled distribution network. This network of dealers has direct access to the brand, get the products directly and then service wholesalers and retailers.

This explains why dealers and distributors are an extension of the brand and enjoy unfettered access to information and updates pertaining to the brand. They also provide the critical human touch through personal relationships with customers that help to build loyalty and ultimately promote increased sales turnover. Therefore, it is pertinent that brands support this vital stakeholder group to be successful as this will translate to better business outcomes for both parties.

The imperative of this symbiotic relationship was recently demonstrated by 9mobile at its annual Channel Partners Conference 2020 as it converged with its channel partners in Lagos to dialogue and synergise further for the future with an appropriate theme, ‘Facing the Future Together.’

While speaking at the 9mobile Channel Partner Conference, the CEO at Corporate Shephards Limited, Mr. Idorenyen Enang, stressed the essence of good partnership between a brand and its dealers.

Idorenyen Enang said: “Collaboration is very essential, there is absolutely no way you won’t win if everyone contributes their strengths to the common goal. Win-win is about winning together. The strength of partnerships is what makes things work and guarantee enduring success. It is clear that taking the future calls for more collaboration.”

Brands are increasingly realising that it is not just enough to have channel partners, it is also important to equip them with the right tools and resources that help them become stronger and more efficient businesses, more knowledgeable about the brand and become top sellers.

This was equally underscored at the 9mobile Channel Partner Conference by the Director of Sales at 9mobile, Mr. Oluwatosin Olulana, while commenting on the telco’s business outlook for 2020. He assured partners that, “there will be more focus on simpler propositions, staying through to our promise of delivering better service in terms of data quality and pricing. With the recent expansion of our 4G network, we have increased capacity, which means that we need to do more in terms of deployment. There is a huge potential that we can take advantage of, and we are very optimistic about meeting our expectations this year”.

Another noteworthy point in this discourse is that brands are better off when they welcome feedback and input from partners in shaping key business decisions. Communication as we know it is a two-way street, and it is important that brands listen and get valuable feedback from their distribution networks.

This valuable feedback system has been a strong part of the culture at 9mobile. In her remarks at the 2020 Channel Partner Conference, the Business Development Director of Vas2Net Technology Limited, Mrs. Teniola Stuffman said, “our deliberations have been very constructive and l like that the introduction was very focused. It is a step in the right direction for us and I have the confidence that with what we have heard we are expecting 2020 to be much better. There are some demands that we have made, and the brand has promised they will respond and there are some commitments from our own side as well.”

“It is teamwork and if we are both collaborating well, we should be able to achieve our target by the end of the year. Sustainability is very key, and the element of focus makes it obvious that we are all on the same page. Also, the fact that all concerns have been taken to mind is very key,” she stated further.

Another partner at the conference, the Managing Director of Sonite Communications Limited, Dr. Olajide Samson said, “9mobile has been resilient despite all the challenges and have come out stronger with a formidable management team who are receptive to the needs of its partners. They are innovative and proactive to the aspirations of dealers and customers. 9mobile is a company with a bright prospect”.

The event clearly highlighted why today’s brands must create opportunities for interactions with their channel partners so as to learn of their challenges first-hand and identify what support they need to be more effective. These stakeholders can be most successful when they feel valued and know that the brand appreciates that their contributions impact the overall bottom-line of the business.

The Managing Director, Clickatell, Samson Isa, restated the long history of his partnership with 9mobile as well as their supportive disposition. “It is one of the telcos that is customer-centric. They are concerned about the profitability of our partnership. We are here to strategize on our partnership, look for more opportunities for growth and align with the network’s business objectives.

“One of the things I appreciate about the management team of 9mobile is their honesty. 9mobile is constantly exploring better financing options to strengthen the business fundamentals, while prioritising network improvement, pricing strategy and improved service quality. I am convinced that we are on the right track and that 9mobile will bounce back strongly and do very well in the telecommunications market”.

The new CEO of 9mobile, Alan Sinfield, re-emphasised the rationale behind the Channel Partners Conference while highlighting the company’s resolve to foster value-driven relationships among its channel partners. “The idea behind this conference is to converge with our channel partners and dealers to create the energy and momentum that we need to grow in 2020 and beyond. We have fixed the challenges we had in the past, and now we are in the right trajectory to succeed,” he said.

“We have started on the right footing with the deployment of our infrastructure and 4GLTE across the country. We have also slashed down our prices, and people have realised that 9mobile is the preferred network. We have also created this new demand that will favour our partners and sales dealers,” he added.

The telco chief further outlined some unique customer propositions of the network. “We have the cheapest and best quality service. We also have a well-trained and effective customer care team that is second to none across all our touchpoints. We want to reassure Nigerians and our customers that we have more competitive products and services with the best value at the most affordable rate.

“We recognise that we need our partners and dealers to grow, and the reason we are sitting together with them today is not only to share our plans and vision but also to hear from them and strengthen our relationship,” he said.

With the expected trickle-down impact of 9mobile’s 2020 business plans on the operations of its channel partners across the country, stakeholders are confident of better performance outcomes in the year.