Sol's Sales Kickoff Manchester 2024

A personal account of Sol’s Sales Kickoff 2024, Manchester

Written from the perspective of Ryan Lloyd, Head of Marketing at Sol Distribution.

The morning

On the contrary to the first Sales Kickoff event we held in London last month, this time we woke up to a chilly, overcast morning in central Manchester. Despite the greyness overhead, the Sol Distribution team was bright and eager and thus, up early, putting into place final preparations for a day that would see the bringing together of Sol Distribution’s customers, vendors and partners.

This time the event was hosted at The Hilton Manchester Deansgate, based in the Beetham Tower – the second tallest building in Manchester (at a height of 169m or 554 ft).

At 10AM, registration opened and we welcomed our first arrivals. The conference room was ready; bags of goodies lay waiting for each arrival.

Like the teas that were being poured by the happiest, friendliest concierge you’ve ever met (kudos to The Hilton), there was a real buzz brewing. The conference room began to fill.

Around half an hour later, we ‘kicked off’. Graeme Sutton (Managing Director at Sol Distribution) welcomed Chris Derham from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE), who then took centre stage. Chris brilliantly introduced ALE as a company and their vision for the future, including WiFi 7 products. Chris is a fantastic character and thus, always great to listen to.

Secondly we heard from Joshua from CertaUPS who talked all things UPS systems, outlining their main benefits and the essential role they play in industries such as medicine and retail, helping keep essential systems online, even through power outages. It was a fascinating talk, helping the room understand the real threat downtime has on not only bottom lines, but people’s lives.

In a great change of pace just before a quick coffee break, Graeme took to the stage again but this time to spark a discussion on the current market climate, the current challenges those in the IT channel face and how everyone can come together to overcome these issues – a great addition that gave all the opportunity to involve themselves in discussion. Those in the audience voiced their concerns of the ‘overmarketing’ of vendor roadmaps that often leads to confusion regarding what is ready to be sold today, and what won’t be for years to come – a valid concern for a reseller due to the danger of overpromising and underdelivering.

We then heard from Erol from Coherent, who brilliantly presented their product lineup, and detailed how AI is changing our approach to building and maintaining network infrastructure.

Then shortly after, Graeme introduced Mark and Lauren from Sangoma, who introduced us to Sangoma, their expertise in Unified Communications (UC) and clearly communicated the urgent requirement to take action in preparation for the ISDN switch off. During this talk, Mark presented Sol Distribution’s Graeme Sutton with a certificate, formally certifying Sol Distribution as an official distribution partner of Sangoma – a nice touch, thank you both.

Graeme then welcomed back Chris from ALE to the stage, this time representing Versa Networks (a partner of ALE) to discuss how Versa delivers value to clients looking for Wide Area Network (WAN) solutions.

Lunchtime came, and all were pleasantly greeted with a variety of food options – notably, some of the nicest cookies I’ve ever had. I could justify having several of them having chosen salad as my main. It’s probably a good time to mention that I’m not a dietician. Lunchtime was also a fantastic opportunity to network, and in only 30 minutes, I had spoken to visitors from Softcat, Sangoma and more – mainly to keep them away from the cookies.

The afternoon

In the afternoon we heard from Jason from Weblib, who gave us a great overview of how they’re revolutionising hospitality with a digitised solution with their product Smilein among others. This sort of tech, as Jason rightly mentioned, is becoming increasingly adopted by modern restaurant chains such as Nandos and Wetherspoons, to help streamline the ordering and paying process. Something we all now have first hand experience with and can appreciate has changed the game, I certainly can.

The day then concluded with a presentation from Lantronix, who added a third dimension to their presentation with a hands-on segment, helping the room not only learn about out-of-band management solutions, but get hands on with the hardware itself. Thanks to Paul and Graham.

The evening

With a thoroughly informative session of talks now concluded, things began to relax as the sun began to set. A couple of drinks were shared by all in the lobby bar of The Hilton, but what lay waiting was the Urban Playground in the Arndale Centre, where headed for an evening of mini golf!

The evening was a spectacle of talent (talking specifically about Sol Distribution’s own golf pro Chris Hodges) and no talent (me). Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side, and we were both placed into the same group. I embarrassingly finished last place among my group in course one, but had redeemed myself (to second place) come course two. A solid evening of fun.

‘Putters’ is the name of the establishment and it’s an impressive place. Each golf club connects to each hole via bluetooth and is registered to a specific player. All of your points are automatically tracked, totalled and displayed on various screens as you make your way around each course. Impressive tech was on display, and not for the first time that day.

The day concluded with drinks in the local characterful pubs of Manchester city centre, where stories were shared and further introductions were made. It was a fantastic end to what was a successful day for all. This was only Sol Distribution’s second year ever hosting Sales Kickoff events, so the concept of future occasions is an exciting thought as I’m sure they will only get better and better every time.

Until then, thanks to all for a fantastic day out – the attendees, presenters, the organisers and The Hilton. I hope to see you again next year.