AS part of the A1 Comms family, the company’s b2b division has been overshadowed by the rapid growth of its larger brethren Go Mobile and buymobilephones.net. But all that could change in 2014 with plans that will see A1 Comms’ business division build a national network of b2b partners.
The strategy is being led by industry veteran and A1 Comms corporate sales director Tonia Baldwin, who joined A1 Comms as one of its first two employees 16 years ago when MD Paul Sisson set up the first of 14 high street stores in Derbyshire. Baldwin has played a pivotal role in the rapid growth of the company which has seen it become one of the largest independent high street and online retailers in the UK, with a sales turnover of over £100m a year.
Under Baldwin’s leadership the b2b division, which is known as A1 Comms, has been delivering explosive growth over the past few years. In the 12 months to December 2013, b2b sales and profits rose by 54% and 92% respectively, whilst the company’s business connections have doubled in the past two years to over 10,000. Much of this growth has been delivered by Baldwin’s
team which has grown from just two staff in 2011 to the grand total of seven this year. Now Baldwin is planning to boost business further with a major expansion of its franchise b2b partner programme. ‘The team has delivered 90% of the growth but we now want to grow the partner base too,’ she says, adding: ‘Our main focus is to grow the b2b business both locally and nationally helped by our b2b partners and our retail franchise partners.’
The company has so far signed up a handful of b2b dealers under its b2b partner programme in Oxfordshire, Exeter and Paignton.
Further partnerships are set to be sealed in Scotland, Manchester, Hampshire and Norwich. ‘I want to grow that by 100% this year,’ says Baldwin. ‘We have a lot of interest already and we will cherry pick the ones we think are suitable,’ also adding that all partners will have to pass a rigorous selection process. In return A1 Comms b2b partners receive support from a dedicated account manager as well as extensive marketing support, use of the CRM system for building quotes and a white label website.
Central to this strategy is the creation of a ‘local business’ ethos, with Baldwin keen to set up local b2b partners across the UK who will embed themselves into the local community, much as A1 Comms has in Derbyshire and its Go Mobile franchise partners have in their localities. ‘Our focus is to grow the business locally on a national scale,’ says Baldwin. Go Mobile franchise partners are also eligible for the b2b partnerships. Baldwin says the division already gets a significant amount of business referred to them by franchise partners who often have close links with the business community.
The bulk of A1 Comms' b2b connections are with EE, with customers taking anywhere between one to 500 connections, with customers ranging from SMEs to large corporate and public sector bodies. The company also connects with all five networks and is
an O2 Centre of Excellence partner and a Vodafone Silver partner. ‘We are truly independent,’ Baldwin says proudly, adding: ‘We never turn away any sale.’
Baldwin attributes the division’s rising sales largely to the company’s strong sales team. Baldwin said: ‘They are a very loyal and hardworking team with industry experience ranging from a minimum of ten to a maximum of eighteen years – so that is a lot of experience within the team.’ Other factors include a focus on customer service, the company’s close links within local communities, targeted marketing campaigns, and a growing demand for 4G and unifi ed comms solutions. The company has also recently installed a new CRM system which Baldwin says has made a significant difference. ‘It has been hard work setting it up but it is very cost effective and the quotes look 100% more professional which has certainly helped increase sales.’
A1 Comms’ close ties to the local community via its sponsorships of Derby County Football Club and Derbyshire County Cricket Club have also reaped rewards with the numerous related sporting fi xtures providing myriad opportunities to network with the local business community.
Pushing into Unified Comms
The rise of unified comms solutions has boosted A1 Comms’ cross selling activities as well as drawing in new customers. The company offers fixed line, broadband, vehicle tracking and M2M solutions. This year the company will intensify its unified comms campaign and launch a number of new unified comms solutions. Baldwin says: ‘We have been selling unified comms for the past three years so it is nothing new to us. However we haven’t been shouting about it, but that is about to change. One of our central strategies this year is to really push into unified comms.’ The company has also benefitted from the launch of 4G, which Baldwin says has driven ‘massive’ growth in b2b sales.