Brad Hahn - NCR

Brad Hahn

Sales Channel Strategy

Given the growth in business-to-business (B2B) online ordering as well as increased search engine efficiency, many companies are assessing their sales channel strategy. NCR Consumables, the printer supplies division, is no exception. Brad Hahn, Director of Global eCommerce for NCR Consumables, is charged with developing the eCommerce sales channel ( “Success requires incremental investment as well as an adjustment in channel strategy,” said Hahn.

Traditional Sales Channels

Conventionally, manufacturing companies establish a direct sales channel where account representatives are assigned to high volume end users or distributors. Resellers or distributors then sell to lower volume accounts. In some cases, distributors provide value-added services such as equipment installation or maintenance. In other cases, distributors sell products with no additional services. In this chain, the manufacturer sells to the distributor after adding a profit margin. Then the distributor also increases the price of the goods to add profit on sales to end users. So, if the manufacturer could sell directly to lower volume end users, then it would have an inherent cost and price advantage over the distributor. Until recently, the manufacturer lacked the ability to reach the lower volume buyer. However, a combination of growth in online ordering, improved search engine efficiency, and falling manufacturer profit margins has supported an environment more conducive to online B2B sales where manufacturers can sell directly to smaller volume end users.

eCommerce B2B Sales

When a manufacturer such as NCR Consumables invests in a stronger eCommerce presence, channel conflict may result in some areas. “When considering a change like this, it is important to understand the customer base and potential impacts,” shared Hahn. “Some of our customers are likely to be impacted while most others are not.” Many steps are involved with building a successful B2B eCommerce presence such as:

  • Assessing customer needs/capabilities required for the online channel
  • Comparing current web site capabilities to those required
  • Soliciting proposals from leading providers as well as from your internal information technology team
  • Developing the cost benefit analysis for each alternative
  • Selecting the best alternative; building the business case; and securing funding; &
  • Completing the implementation

Brad added, “We are well into the latter stages of this process. But of course the most important part of this project will be the implementation timing, pricing strategy, and communications. Within the company, we’ve got to be on the same page in terms of our strategy and its impact on our current customer base.”

Global Expansion

Additional benefits of investing in a B2B eCommerce sales channel include the ability to expand into new markets and to better manage pricing/account administration for lower volume customers. “We operate in some countries where we do not currently sell through distributors. Local leaders from these areas have reached out to me to request support in building the capability to grow sales online,” said Hahn. With respect to managing lower sales volume accounts, the online channel also provides greater pricing discipline and lower cost than traditional B2B sales support organizations.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

In reviewing NCR Consumables’ customer base, Hahn also identified an opportunity to grow online sales while simultaneously improving relationships with value-added equipment resellers. “When you consider the sales cycle for point-of-sale (POS) system supplies, the most valuable time to secure a new customer is during the installation or ongoing maintenance of their equipment,” noted Brad Hahn. In return for sending their customers to the NCR web site to place orders, equipment dealers will be offered ongoing sales commissions. Several dealers have expressed interest with a trial to begin soon. “It works for our dealers and it’s great for NCR as well,” said Hahn.

Change Agent

Prior to joining NCR, Brad was engaged by AT&T and National Linen Service to drive change. “Very few people are comfortable with change,” said Hahn. Over the years, Brad has been increasingly adept at leading and implementing successful projects such as:

  • Introducing electronic billing and eCheck payment capabilities at BellSouth,
  • Extending the customer acquisition order flow within AT&T to increase access line orders by 25K per month, &
  • Building a new Healthcare line of business for National Linen Service

When asked about the single most important aspect of being a change agent, Brad shared, “You’ve got to learn how to use the ‘snake’ as opposed to the ‘hammer’ as your tool of choice.” Nearly everyone has used a hammer. And as you know, a hammer is a very direct tool for driving home a point. The sewer snake on the other hand is a less direct tool used for clearing clogged pipes. It travels in and around obstructions to eventually clear the path. Even the best solution cannot be effectively implemented unless delivered in the right way at the right time to the right audience.


Brad wanted to share a few closing thoughts regarding sales channel strategy:

  1. “Given the recent updates in online ordering and search engine efficiency, you may want to consider B2B eCommerce sales in support of your company’s growth.”
  2. “Before, during, and after making a potential change in sales channel strategy, make sure to fully engage all of the right people within the organization including sales, channel, and business leadership. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!”
  3. “Assess the potential impact on existing customers as well as on new sales.”
  4. “It never hurts to build and maintain a strong B2B eCommerce web presence. Pricing, product, and promotional levers can then be used to support your company’s unique channel strategy.”

"Atlanta Trend wishes to express its thanks to Brad Hahn for sharing his thoughts."


Staff Writer

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