UC Drives Headset Growth

Comms Business talked to Jane Craven who joined Sennheiser in 2012 as Director of Sales for the telecoms division. Having spent her entire career in telecom sales this is her first experience of working with the channel.

When asked about the essential difference between selling direct and through the channel Craven commented, “At Sennheiser we have six distribution partners selling to authorised resellers. The real challenge is to win ‘mind-share’ with our resellers’ sales people. By that I mean getting them to remember to talk about the importance of headsets when they’re on a sales call. It’s winning that mind-share in the channel for headsets generally and then for the Sennheiser brand specifically that’s our biggest challenge.”

Craven joined Sennheiser to oversee the company’s drive into the business sector for headsets through the channel. “Sennheiser has an enviable reputation in consumer and pro audio market, with a legacy of over 65 years as experts in acoustics and audio technology. We now have to capitalise on that reputation to build market share in the business market. Sennheiser has a selective distribution policy that protects authorised Sennheiser distributors and resellers so that they benefit from our strong brand. Authorised resellers receive our seal of quality, which they can use in advertising to differentiate themselves from competitors.”

Sennheiser is driving for market share because the business headset market is set for massive growth as Craven confirms. “Frost & Sullivan the IT market research company, estimates that the global enterprise headset market is set to double in value from $1.1 billion currently to around $2.2 billion by 2019. This trend is driven by the uptake of UC because an estimated 50 to 70 per cent of companies that buy a full UC solution equip it with headsets.” The deployment of UC solutions is increasing rapidly says Craven. “The worldwide total UC capable market for premises-based UC was $12.2 billion in 2011 and is set to increase to $20.8 billion by 2016, according to a report by UC Strategies.”

Consequently it is in the burgeoning UC sector that Craven sees most of the potential growth. “While headset use in the contact centre space is almost at 100 per cent, the Frost & Sullivan research shows that penetration of headsets in the office environment is only 7.5 per cent and is expected to grow to almost 15 per cent in 2019. This is where the incremental growth in the market is coming from. In a contact centre the agent uses the headset they are given. But in the office market the individual business user will often choose the headset they want. And their priorities are quality, comfort, speech clarity, hearing intelligibility, audio safety – in short all the areas where Sennheiser has some significant advantages over competitors.”

The Frost & Sullivan research confirms that UC enabled headset shipments are expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 30 per cent over the next six years, which is why Sennheiser is investing in this growing market. Craven explains, “Unified Communications as a technological architecture is about to become a standard tool in many offices. In today’s office environment it is important not to be confined to a desk phone, but to have several communication possibilities instead. So by 2019 UC enabled headsets are expected to represent 37 per cent of the total market revenue.”

As a result Sennheiser is focusing its product development to meet the demand of the UC phenomenon says Craven. “With the evolution of the latest UC telephony systems allowing more flexible, agile working practices, people want to work remotely and across multiple locations. There is a need for a high-quality headset solution that can meet these demands and our latest Presence wireless Bluetooth headset meets that need. It’s a slim, compact device but it packs a lot of sophisticated technology and is the result of a significant R&D investment. For example to ensure speech intelligibility Presence headsets are equipped with three digital microphones and new SpeakFocus technology that detects the user’s voice and filters out background noise.”

Craven believes that the channel has a vital role to play in educating customers on the benefits of business class headsets. “Sales of handsets are in decline. Resellers need a revenue replacement that still gives them good margins. That’s why we aim to win ‘mind-share’ in the channel community, so that they offer the best headset solution for their customer’s UC implementation. To maintain margin, it’s crucial that resellers include discussion of headset requirements at the start of the sales process and not as an afterthought based purely on price.”

She concludes, “Sennheiser business headsets are designed specifically for UC optimisation and are at the cutting edge in terms of ergonomic design and health and safety technology. The professional UC headset market is now a huge growth opportunity for the channel and Sennheiser can offer our resellers a premium product with real margin opportunities.”



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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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