Chiswell Street's The Brewery in London was awash on 3 July with the biggest fish in the UK profession for the third CRN Sales and Marketing Awards. Whether or not industry professionals succumbed to CRN's playful sea creatures quiz in advance, the event itself can be said to have gone swimmingly.
Popular Northern Irish radio presenter and sports host Colin Murray agreed to compere the glittering event for the second time. He treated just under 500 leading lights of the channel and their guests to his special brand of warm and individual humour.
In fact, Murray (pictured, right) this year also chose to give out his own unique set of awards in advance of the main ceremony - including special gifts of deluxe liquor for the hottest male guest and best dressed on the night.
Attendees were asked to roll up at the central London venue at 7pm for a complimentary drinks reception, where they were greeted and moved upstairs to the Porter Tun to enjoy the conviviality and socialise at the carefully decorated venue. Following drinks, guests were invited to be seated for a four-course dinner of Niçoise tart, followed by belly of lamb and seasonal vegetables, soft pear cake with pear sorbet, and tea or coffee with petit fours.
Then the event proper began. The CRN Sales and Marketing Awards is intended to recognise and reward the achievements of both individuals and teams who are responsible for making the UK IT channel truly great.
Successful sales and marketing is a keystone of the IT channel; quality customer-facing teams and individuals are the directors of business expansion.
Yet these teams and functions are not often specifically singled out for recognition. Quietly - or not so quietly, perhaps - they perform above and beyond the call of duty in systems integrators, resellers, distributors, vendors and the whole gamut of technology solution providers across the nation.
Sales and marketing professionals may sometimes suffer from not being understood generally as a creative, core function - yet innovation, evolution and continuous development and redevelopment are critical to the success of sales and marketing - as many of the best IT channel companies recognise.
So it is these qualities in particular that the CRN Sales and Marketing Awards aim to underline, support and compliment more publicly, with an audience of appreciative peers and colleagues, once a year.
During the past three years, CRN has seen this latest awards programme - which complements its long-standing Channel Awards - continue to expand.
Understandably, sales and marketing professionals appreciate the chance to stand forth and be applauded for their skill, creativity, integrity and aptitude. It has already carved out a niche within an industry where awards programmes are diverse and plentiful by leveraging the objective scoring and carefully considered judging procedures, using independent judging panels, that have helped make the Channel Awards stand out.
"We can, not without some pride, confirm that the systems and procedures used to confer the prizes at the CRN Sales and Marketing Awards are as unbiased and fair as we can possibly make them," says Sara Yirrell, CRN editor and head of the judging panel.
"And on top of that, we are always assessing and reassessing what we do, making changes when and if they are needed, to go on ensuring this quality of service."
Spearheading the drive to trumpet the capability of the channel sales and marketing function was channel support services provider Comms-care, whose generosity was also supported with assistance from distribution leader Exertis, distribution giant Ingram Micro, networking OEM Cisco Systems, security vendor Espion, and security software vendor AVG.
Entries in each category have been of ever-higher quality and more difficult for the panel of judges to decide between, especially as the competition has heated up with many of the categories being more fiercely contested.
Vendors, resellers and distributors vied for top spot in 18 categories - some restricted to different types of channel company, some eligible for all to enter.
Particularly hotly contested were the Best Partner Programme and Best Channel Marketing Agency gongs, with 11 and eight companies on the shortlist respectively. In shortlist terms, Best Sales and Marketing Support Team and Best Marketing Campaign also enjoyed very high standards among the entries, with six and seven companies shortlisted respectively.
We would also suggest that the category Best Company to Work For might have been avidly attended to by guests and visitors alike in these highly competitive times.
At 1am, taxis arrived to take those keen to party on - or commiserate - to the nearby Beduin Bar nightclub in Smithfields for some late-night drinks and dancing.
We look forward to seeing you all again in 2015!
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