Barry Tuffs’ explanation of what he does day to day is concise and to the point. “Channel partners are my business,” he says.
As VP of Channel Sales UK&I at Unify, Barry has played a pivotal role in reorienting Unify closer to the channel. While the UC software vendor used to rely on managing its own sales and marketing, and, it has to be said, built a significant global brand doing so, recent years have seen a conscious shift in its business model. For Barry, the benefits are obvious.
“Without [the channel’s] support, investment, dedication and loyalty, Unify would not be in a position to grow its market share and reach its customers,” he says. “Through close work, we have created a virtual sales team. Without that collaboration and immense dedication, we wouldn’t be on the journey that we are today.”
For Barry, that journey towards embracing a fully channel-centric business model has become the defining feature of his professional life. Describing himself as someone who “stumbled” into comms by taking a job in residential billing at BT, Barry eventually worked his way to the sales side of the industry, first in customer services at Mercury Communications before climbing the ladder into an account management role.
Ahead of schedule
That understanding of sales has served Barry well as he has embarked on reshaping the Unify strategy. “We are now an organisation with greater than 70 per cent of business going through partners, which we achieved in just five quarters,” he said. “[We managed this] through a relentless pursuit of a channel-centric model, making the necessary changes to our internal team and continued investment in tools and processes.
“The best part is that our partner satisfaction is up six per cent, from 76 per cent to 82.8 per cent in the last year alone.”
As an accomplished distance runner who has clocked a half marathon PB of 1 hour and 34 minutes, Barry is used to viewing targets and goals as benchmarks in a longer race. Comfortably ahead of schedule in Unify’s transformation towards the channel, he is already aiming for bigger things.
“Running more than 70 per cent of the business through partners was a goal of ours to achieve by the end of 2018 – so we’re pretty happy with our progress thus far! But we will continue the momentum. We want to be generating 90 per cent of our business through the channel now.”
Communication is key to Barry, and this applies to his own colleagues at Unify as much as it does to partners in the channel. He rates the contribution of Unify staff very highly in driving through the changes to its business model. Asked about how he goes about creating a positive culture and retaining quality staff, he said: “[It is about] making them feel welcome and ensuring they are part of a shared, common goal. Working with them, providing coaching and supporting their development – as well understanding their aspirations – are all key to keeping them in the business.
“My secret is that it’s important to be honest, and communicate properly.”
But with one eye always on the next milestone, Barry is now looking beyond communication – both in terms of Unify’s business model and its internal workings. He says the company wants to make concerted efforts to expand its offerings in the cloud market, and also to focus more on collaboration products. As well as being a core product strategy, Barry also sees these developing areas of UC as offering opportunities to improve how Unify works, especially in terms gaining even more value from the channel.
“In the industry, we still only communicate, and don’t collaborate effectively with customers and partners like we could,” he explained. “The opportunity in the next five years is to change how we deliver services to allow more people to work closely and far more efficiently. The challenge of this is the industry itself, since the development of a simple and flexible application that enables this collaboration is far from straightforward.”