Sales-Engaged: HPE's Whitman Leads The Class Of CEO Sales Communicators


OPINION


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No CEO has done a better job of setting a channel sales strategy and then executing on it with clear and constant communication than Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman.

It's a leadership trait that has served Whitman, HPE and its channel partners well since she took the Hewlett-Packard helm five years ago. Whitman's leadership skills, in fact, have taken a sales channel that was grappling with chaos, confusion and uncertainty selling a long-in-the-tooth product portfolio and morphed it into a sharply focused and innovative next-generation software-defined infrastructure sales force firing on all cylinders.

That sales communication prowess just helped HPE deliver the first year-over-year quarterly sales growth in five years. In a cloud market moving at lightning speed, HPE's mainstay Enterprise Group just delivered 7 percent sales growth.

[Related: Decision Disconnect: Many Vendors Fail To Recognize The Partner Journey]

At the end of the day, the most recent quarterly results are about following through on the promises Whitman made to partners and investors when she laid out her five-year road map for the HPE turnaround. Along the way, Whitman has pulled off the biggest split ever of a Fortune 100 company -- without so much as a channel sales blip -- and put in motion a merger of the $20 billion HPE Enterprise Services Group with systems integration giant CSC.

It's worth mentioning that HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler is employing the same clear and constant communication channel sales strategy as he leads the company and its partners to higher ground with a super-innovative product portfolio that includes 3-D JetFusion printers and a next-generation Windows 10 smartphone, the Elite x3.

Other CEOs doing a good job of communicating amid treacherous cloud era market transitions are Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins and Dell CEO Michael Dell.

Robbins is moving to transform Cisco from an old-world networking hardware behemoth to an agile Internet of Things software power. The onetime application developer knows the importance of constant sales communication from his tenure as Cisco's North American channel chief and then as head of the vendor's sales force.

Dell has always been one of the most sales-engaged CEOs. In fact, the legendary entrepreneur's sales drive and passion have only gotten stronger through the years. He has employed his communication strategy to transform Dell from a direct sales PC power to a channel-savvy force -- even as he completed the biggest technology leveraged buyout in history. Now, of course, Dell is using his sales communications skills to navigate his namesake company through the $67 billion deal to buy EMC.

What distinguishes all of these CEOs is their knowledge of the power of the channel sales model to drive higher sales volume and better business outcomes -- leading to more satisfied customers. Another distinguishing characteristic is they are also good listeners, constantly meeting with customers and channel partners. Any one of these CEOs could be dropped down in the midst of any company in crisis and be successful at getting different constituencies to work together for a better future. So who are the worst CEO sales communicators? It's a long list, but that's a column for another time.

BACKTALK: Are you walking in your partners' shoes? Contact Steven Burke at sburke@thechannelcompany.com.

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