Delivering a Vision...
29 August 2021 10:49
DELIVERING YOUR VISION
We speak with Airwave Sales & Marketing Director, Paul Chambers, and talk about life within the Airwave sales function.
Who is Paul Chambers?
I live with my wife in a 17th century cottage near Fleet in Hampshire, the ceilings are very low but that doesn’t bother me as I’m vertically challenged. I’m a lover of Arsenal, classic jaguars, golf, animals and partial to the occasional Disarono on ice.
I’ve been Airwave’s sales and marketing director for just over 13 years and have enjoyed every second of my time here.
Talk to us about your path to Airwave?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work for several large technology companies, typically within the manufacturer and integration of display-based tech.
I’ve always been involved with sales and have sold many thousands of LCD displays to a number of clients - Apple, IBM and Telefonica to name a few.
I’m showing my age here, but led the global sale and implementation of the first LCD touchscreen into Xerox photocopiers. I was a key part of the project that introduced graphic LCD displays into the world’s first smartphones, and steered the design, sale and delivery of 28,000 LCD touchscreens within the National Lottery’s Camelot network of machines.
Of course, I’m still very much involved in the sale and integration of displays, but nowadays focus on the technology ecosystem, rather than the display itself.
What are the key challenges within hospitality tech sales?
The hospitality tech industry is a very dynamic place and becoming more so in line with an uplift in IoT adoption within hotels - technology is evolving quickly and becoming increasingly sophisticated. This translates to a significant degree of complexity within our proposal and quotation process and a marked change to the sort of business we were doing just a few years ago.
Essentially, the skillset of the hotel TV salesman has diversified and the role has become much more challenging and detail orientated.
Referring to Airwave’s sales function, we need to be proactive. I make sure I’m constantly challenging my team. Are you learning? Are you up to date with systems A, B and C? Do you understand how competitor D’s new platform works? And when you’re up to speed with all that, are you in tune with the interoperability of all this with the hotel’s PMS and Wi-Fi service?!
Naturally, we have a pre-sales team to guide us, but in order to keep the business agile, I do insist my sales team are technically proficient and have a solid understanding of everything we sell.
This requires a carefully structured schedule of training, and coordination with our technical team - not forgetting daily dialogue with the sales and technical functions at Samsung, LG, Philips, Otrum, Wifirst, Sky, WiFiSPARK etc.
It’s a dynamic, challenging environment! we don’t have quiet days, there’s no time to sit and reflect and we’re constantly processing items from a conveyor belt of information that never seems to slow down.
So, plenty of challenges. The life of a hospitality technology salesman isn’t easy, but it’s great fun! Every day is different, and each day flies by. When I drive home at the end of the day, I’m exhausted, but (usually) happy!
What attributes do you look for in a sales manager?
I try to be pragmatic when recruiting, I’m not always in a position to employ the finished article – our industry is fairly niche and there isn’t an endless pool of candidates to choose from.
So, I’ll keep an open mind throughout the interview process; experience and knowledge must be taken into consideration, but only in line with a candidate’s personality.
I think it’s stating the obvious to say passion, enthusiasm, willingness to learn etc are important. For me these are pre-requisites. If a candidate doesn’t seem effusive about the role or the company, it tends to be a short interview!
For the characters that are engaged and enthused, I do my best to unearth the person that hides behind the interview persona. For this reason, I like to keep things as relaxed and informal as appropriate.
For me, integrity is the most important trait. Airwave’s business is built on trust; we selI and implement sophisticated technical systems and must be regarded as a safe pair of hands. Trust should underpin everything we do, and I want my sales team to exude integrity and honesty.
So, I’m not impressed by smooth, polished characters that tell me they’d ‘sell their grandmother’ to hit targets. This might seem odd to say, but there’s more to sales than targets. I won’t let my sales guys make a sale and walk away, I want them to think about the long-term ramifications of what they do and recognise the benefits of this approach. It’s the simplest concept in the world - if you don’t look after your customers, they won’t return.
I’m more interested in finding an account manager, than a hunter – a person who enjoys nurturing relationships instead of numbers.
I suppose this all sounds a little strange, I’m looking for a sales guy that isn’t worried about numbers?! That’s not the case of course, like many things in life, it’s about finding the right balance.
I also think it’s important to have a sense of humour and I really look for that in my team. I’ll ask myself when interviewing, ‘would I enjoy having a beer with you?’ It’s a cliché but people buy from people, and I want customers to enjoy interacting with my team.
I also want my team to enjoy each other’s company! To not take themselves too seriously and to understand – it’s okay to have a bit of fun. We spend so many hours together, so need the odd release - if only to puncture the seriousness of what we do. The world of technology can be very earnest I’ll have you know!
I guess a good summary is, ‘employ the person, not the CV.’ Go with your gut-feeling. In 2010, I took a punt on a chap that arrived for an interview from the building trade. He had something about him, I employed him and he’s since sold more hotel TV systems than any other person in the UK….
What would you consider to be your greatest success?
Being part of a senior management team that has grown this fantastic business from a handful of people, to the UK’s largest hotel TV systems integrator.
Whilst, of course, this has been a combined effort - and I must mention the collective talents of Tim Worrall, Toby Hart and Julian Arnold – I’m deeply proud in the part I’ve played in Airwave’s journey.
People often talk about the ‘Airwave DNA’ or the ‘Airwave family’ – a representation of the togetherness we feel as a group of people. This culture remains a constant and has done so even since the company’s acquisition in 2017.
I see myself as a father figure, or more to the point, a grandfather figure. Old and decrepit, but playing an important part in making Airwave a great place to be.
I run a successful business and am part of a happy, engaged team. I can’t ask for more than that, and long may it continue.
What's next for Airwave?
That’s a good question. We’re still very cognisant of covid-19 and won’t let ourselves become complacent. However, we’re starting to resume a semblance of normality and this is allowing us us to resume the projects that were in full swing back in the early months of 2020.
We’re not purely hospitality centric of course, and have invested heavily in Airwave Healthcare, who are playing an active part in the industry’s move from pay-to-watch, to free-to-use patient entertainment platforms. From an ethical perspective, I’m extremely proud to be part of this initiative – of course, Airwave Healthcare has never implemented a pay-to-watch system so it’s great to see a vindication of this stance as the industry supersedes this method of delivery.
We continue to work closely with our sister companies within the SCCI Group, making best use of each other’s resources, knowledge and skillset.
And it’s with great delight that I can say we’re needing to recruit more people, not just within my team, but across the business.
Lastly, what makes you tick?
I’m very competitive! From a professional perspective, I’ll keep driving Airwave forward and want us to be the best integrator, not just in the UK, but across Europe too.
Personally, I want to beat everybody at golf and I’d like Arsenal to replace Patrick Vieira – I’ve been waiting 17 years and counting...