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Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman left no stone unturned this week at the company's Global Partner Conference in her mission to make sure HP's top management, sales reps and partner business managers understand just how important HP's channel commitment is to growing sales.
Whitman met at 7 A.M. on the first day of the conference with HP's top vice presidents with a no-nonsense endorsement of the channel and then again at 7 A.M. on day two with HP partner business managers giving them strict deadlines on coming up with business plans to drive partner sales growth.
Behind the scenes, Whitman also met with solution providers, including a dinner with a select group of partners, hammering home the company's commitment to drive a simplified compensation and account engagement strategy aimed at ensuring that partners make more money selling HP's full portfolio than any and all competitive offerings.
If that wasn't enough, Whitman laid down the law on a strict new rule that prohibits HP direct sales reps from poaching customers from HP partners. That new initiative was one of several items that drew thunderous applause at a general session Tuesday during Whitman's keynote.
"Importantly -- and I want you to hear this from me -- we now have a very clear policy about taking business away from our channel and going direct," she said. "My message to you is this simply will not be tolerated. Everyone in the HP organization is crystal clear on the behavior we expect. And I am holding myself and our senior executives accountable for behavior that is befitting of HP and recognizes the value you have brought to this company over many years."
Doug Oathout, vice president, channel and alliance marketing for the HP Enterprise Group and a four-year HP veteran, said the difference at this year's partner conference versus previous years is "the [channel] commitment from the top from Meg, and she is personally enforcing it."
Partners that attended the conference see the changes in HP's partner model as a sign of reinvigorated channel charge. They praised Whitman's channel commitment as the key to driving dramatic increases in partner profitability and sales in 2013, but also stressed that they will be watching closely to see if Whitman's channel commitment leads to long-lasting changes in the sales trenches.
Rich Baldwin, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Nth Generation Computing Inc., a San Diego, Calif.,-based HP enterprise partner with $50 million in annual sales, said he was heartened to learn that Whitman is taking the channel message into the sales trenches.
"It feels like Meg is laying down a new channel law within HP," said Baldwin, who believes his HP business could double from $40 million to $80 million this year if the channel charge takes root with HP reps in the field. "She means business about engaging the channel. The message I have heard loud and clear here is they can't do it without us. Meg is going to hold her team accountable for driving more business through the channel. It's the new HP. They get the channel and want to work with us. It's a huge change. The pendulum has swung 180 degrees from what I can tell."