CPU Sales and Service Frustrated By Compaq's Strategy

'Five years ago, I would rate Compaq as an 8 or 9 on a 10-point scale as a partner. Right now, I would give them a 5. -- Todd Barrett, Networking Sales Manager, CPU Sales and Service.

Todd Barrett, networking sales manager at CPU Sales and Service, a $15 million, Waltham, Mass.-based solution provider, has one word to describe Compaq's channel strategy: chaos.

Executives at CPU Sales and Service have been so frustrated by Compaq's direct-sales activities that they are reluctant to inform Compaq account reps about potential deals, fearing the vendor "may want to present programs that hurt rather than help us," Barrett said. That's a far cry from a few years ago, when CPU Sales and Service considered Compaq one of its top partners. "Five years ago, I would rate Compaq as an 8 or 9 on a 10-point scale as a partner. Right now, I would give them a 5," Barrett said. "What really kills us is we are going out advocating them as an SMB partner, and we don't know if they are going to pull the rug out from underneath us."

Other solution providers also are questioning their relationship with Compaq. In a crn.com Quick Poll in December, 24.7 percent of the respondents said their relationship had deteriorated in the last year, 22.9 percent said it had disintegrated and 18 percent said it had stayed the same. About 34 percent said their relationship had improved.

CPU Sales and Service is evaluating vendor alternatives to Compaq, according to Barrett. "We have to. We can't put all our eggs in this basket of uncertainty," he said.

While Compaq has stepped up efforts to lure SMB accounts to buy direct, Barrett said some customers have shared a few "horror stories" about the service pitfalls of dealing directly with vendors. "Do you think Compaq is going to be able to set up a 25-person shop and keep them happy?" he said.

Still, Barrett hopes CPU Sales and Service can improve its relationship with Compaq. One good sign: CPU Sales and Service is bidding on a large amount of servers and is trying to close the deal under Compaq's Advantage referral program. "Check back with me in a month or two, and I will let you know how it goes," Barrett said.

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