Hewlett Packard changes SMB rules

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Posted by R Dutt
Hewlett-Packard has announced changes to its channel rules of engagement for the growing SMB market, which include the vendor ceasing to make outgoing sales calls to SMB customers, and partners becoming more responsible for HP's growth in the sector.

The restructuring surrounds HP's business-class products, including PCs, industry standard servers and some business-class storage products. At the core of it is handing over management of the SMB space to HP's partners, said Tom LaRocca, vice president of Americas partner development and programs at HP.

"We're looking for growth and loyalty," he said. "There's a lot of opportunities in this space, and there are accounts doing millions of dollars there."

Perhaps the biggest change is a refocusing of HP's Colorado Springs call center. As HP hands over the SMB market to the channel, save for a collection of named accounts where it will retain the lead, the call center will transition from making outgoing sales calls to working with and for HP's partners in the space, and doing demand generation activity. LaRocca said this will eliminate one of the company's partners' most pressing aggravations with the vendor.

"One of the things that partners had voiced to us was that they'd go into an account and a day or two later, that end-user would be called by our call center," he said. "That infuriated them. Partners like us doing demand generation, but they want to be sure they can invest in an account without tripping over HP people in the process."

As a result of the changes, which also include a new system for escalating any conflicts that may arise with HP's direct sales force, LaRocca said partners would get a more "predictable" and "collaborative" experience working with HP.

The move also will see an increasing focus on "influencers" -- partners who do not actively resell HP products, but instead deliver the vendor leads, and deliver services for customers. As part of the reorganization, that influencer group will now be under the auspices of the Solution Partners Organization within HP.

Although HP declined to discuss the number or nature of named accounts it will retain the lead on, it said that the new structure would be similar to the enterprise sales engagement rules it laid down a year ago, and it said that partners are already working with these accounts, and will continue to do so.

"We know those accounts and we know those partners, and we'll work with them on a few different levels -- sometimes they'll lead the sale, or sometimes they'll fulfill the sale," LaRocca said. "We want to make sure that we recognize that the partner is there, and we want to understand clearly who's doing what in each case so that we're not tripping over the same parts of a customer."

LaRocca said that as a result of the shifts, HP will hold partners more responsible for its growth in the SMB area "because they really own the space for us," and that its partner business managers will be working with partners on sales and growth plans on a quarter-by-quarter basis.