Tristan Landi has been heading up Sontay’s sales operations in France for the past year. He has had what he called an ‘interesting year’ adapting Sontay’s business model in France, because of Brexit, and building strong client relationships despite the pandemic making travelling, even for business, nearly impossible. But the pandemic and updates in government policy has also created new business opportunities for Sontay in France, as sensors are put at the forefront of the revolution of modern building management systems.
So how did Brexit impact Sontay being able to establish itself in France? “We had to change our business model,” explains Tristan. “There were new regulations placed on imports, so we had to rely more on our distributors, but it has been working out well. The transition was essentially a forced adaptation, but I have been able to build some really strong relationships with our primary distributors in the past year and help promote the Sontay brand across France despite the initial difficulties.
“My role going forward is to expand our client portfolio in France; form new relationships with distributors and customers alike; and to grow our inbound leads.”
Tristan remains positive about the potential that the huge French market can offer Sontay. He said: “France has a massive economy; it represents huge potential business growth for Sontay. The pandemic has meant we have seen a huge rise in demand for our CO2 sensors, as clients look to control their building’s environment around the clock to ensure it is safe and comfortable for its occupants. The smart buildings revolution has been enabled by ‘The Internet of Things’, which has facilitated a plug and play application, making installation incredibly simple. We have seen an exponential rise in demand for these systems and Sontay is currently in development of its own range, which I believe will play a large part of our growth in the French market.”
But the pandemic also made it harder for Tristan to travel to meet clients and build new relationships. “Travel was extremely difficult during the pandemic even for business purposes,” Tristan recalls. “Recently I have enjoyed being able to travel to France regularly to meet people face-to-face. Interacting with people and building relationships is the best part of my job. I have been lucky to form some really positive business relationships which means working is more enjoyable and I can make sure that we are all on the same page. Communicating key information in a concise manner and understanding pain points in an account is important to me and my clients,” he concludes.
It is easy to see why Tristan’s standout moment in the past year was a trip to France with Sontay’s Managing Director, Mark Newton. “I got to prove myself and to also see the results of the relationships I had built.” Tristan recalls. “It was great to see that the Sontay brand was so strong and that clients were happy with us and the level of service we offer them. It was also good to see new opportunities opening up to us in the regions.”
The French government is currently making a huge drive towards a net-zero future. As a result, it put a windfall tax on oil companies and large businesses that produce a great deal of emissions. “This has really helped out our industry,” explains Tristan. “The government has used the tax to make grants available to encourage people to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Sensors play a valuable role in managing a building’s environment 24/7, so we have seen a rise in enquiries as a result of this policy.”
Working in France is similar to working in the UK but there are some differences, explains Tristan. “The working protocol differs slightly and the bank holidays are across different days. The email etiquette is also slightly different but being bilingual, because my mum is French, I am lucky to be able to understand the various nuances and the cultural differences, but even I had to learn new industry terms at the start!”
Despite the steep learning curve from the beginning when Tristan had to be taught about all of Sontay’s products, he believes the Sontay work culture made it easier. “The team at Sontay are incredibly supportive and really believe in their products, so it made it easier to pick up all the information and be inspired by their passion for what they do.” Tristan enthused.
Looking to the future Tristan is keen to continue to work hard to establish the Sontay brand in France. He also hopes to expand his team. “To grow the French business and my team is my real ambition. I think the French market has huge potential so there is a great deal of work to do which I am excited about. Establishing a brand in a new market is always challenging but I am ready for it and so is Sontay.”