IBM is eliminating channel field sales representatives in its Personal Computing Division and instead will assign telesales reps to U.S. solution providers, a move partners say could damage their relationship with the vendor.
"It's always sad when a company moves away from its investments in one-on-one relationships, particularly a company like IBM," said Debbi Milner, president and CEO of Jade Systems, a Cold Spring, N.Y.-based solution provider. "But we have a good relationship with the IBM client account representative (salesperson assigned to end-user accounts), and we will make things work for the client."
An East Coast solution provider, who requested anonymity, said the move could prompt solution providers to consider other vendors now that Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard and even Dell Computer will have more field sales reps than IBM. "I'm afraid IBM will lose account control," he said.
The move comes on the heels of IBM's $17 million fourth-quarter 2001 loss in PCs and printing systems on a decline in revenue of almost 32 percent. For the quarter, IBM had sales of $2.9 billion in PCs and printers, compared with $4.3 billion a year earlier.
"IBM appreciates your continued support in this dynamic and challenging business environment," the company said in a memo to business partners announcing the move. "As our shared markets continue to evolve, the IBM Personal Computing Division is taking steps to ensure our competitiveness in the marketplace."
Channel sources said about 20 field representatives nationwide will be affected. Those reps called on IBM's largest solution provider accounts in the United States, and those accounts will now be handled by telesales reps located in Toronto, they said.
"We believe that the combination of our end-user field reps, who will be engaged [with solution providers on a transactional basis, and our telecoverage teams, who will have business partners assigned to them, will give us a more comprehensive coverage to all of our second-tier partners than we had in the past," said Frank Vitagliano, vice president of worldwide distribution channels for IBM's Personal Computing Division.