HP Doubles Down On Partners Again, Aims to Leverage HP.com Online Shopping Site To Drive Sales Leads To Partners

HP Inc. is taking its all-out offensive to drive sales through partners to another level with a game-changing plan to leverage its HP.com online shopping store to drive sales leads to commercial partners.

Effective May 1, the HP.com online shopping store site will no longer be a stand-alone sales team measured on sales volume on the website but rather on the total number of transactions that it drives to partners in each of the regions.

The go-to-market shift eliminates HP.com as its own separate P&L battling for sales against partners and draws a "revolutionary" distinction between HP and its competitors, said HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler in an interview with CRN.

[Related: HP Inc. CEO Weisler On Moving Direct Accounts To Partners, Windows 10, Elite X3 And The 3-D Printing Opportunity]

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"We are definitely first-movers here," said Weisler. "Most dot-com organizations exist to sell directly to customers and that is not the mission for this team. It is revolutionary for the channel today. We grew up in the channel. We have such a great relationship with our channel partners. We don't want to be fighting against them. We want to be working with them."

In fact, Weisler said HP plans to leverage the HP.com talent to help partners become bigger players in the ecommerce market. "What we want to do is take that [HP.com] expertise and help partners become dot-com-enabled," he said. "That is how we are now goaling this team."

The formal announcement of the go-to-market shift was made by HP Americas President Christoph Schell in a Wednesday evening session at the first-ever HP Americas Executive Forum for commercial partners with 125 of HP's elite partners at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. "This changes the way HP Shopping goes to market," said Schell. "They will now put more emphasis on making sure they can hand over leads to partners."

Under the new omni-channel model, the shopping sales teams in each region will work to drive sales through partners in their respective markets. The 70-member Americas HP.com online shopping team, for example, will now be "partner-centric," chartered with generating leads into SMB and handing those leads over to partners, said Schell. "This is huge," he said. "No one else is doing this."

HP Personal Systems Business President Ron Coughlin said he sees the change in the online shopping model as the "ultimate expression" of HP's channel centricity. "This is a full-on, all-chips-in bet with our partners," he said. "We have a lot of confidence in our partners. We have confidence they will recognize that we are doing something no one else is doing and they will reward us for it."

The new HP.com online shopping model comes on top of a decision to make additional investments in an HP inside sales unit that was set up in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, last year to drive leads to partners. What's more, it comes just three weeks after HP Inc. moved 30 percent of its direct accounts -- about 1,500 customers -- to its partners.

"You either believe in the channel or you don't," said Weisler. "For us it is about not being a one-trick pony. If you are going to say you are channel-centric, then be channel-centric and have consistent proof points that you are directing business that way."

The HP.com business model shift makes the onetime 100 percent direct-sales-focused website more of a "repository" for information with the aim of driving more customers to a "trusted adviser," said Peter Larocque, president of North America Technology Solutions for Synnex, one of HP's top distributors. "HP is putting their money where their mouth is and investing more in the channel," he said. "They really know their end-user customer is best served by a local resource."

Larocque said he is not surprised by the plan to use HP.com to drive more sales through the channel. "HP Inc. has had a trajectory to use the channel more and more and more and more," he said. "The reason they are doing that is they know the channel is going to do a good job."

HP partners, for their part, said they see the company driving business model and product innovation at a breakneck pace as an independent company.

"The split has gotten HP more focused and energized," said Mont Phelps, CEO of NWN, No. 70 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500, which was named the HP Printer and Personal Systems Growth Reseller of the Year in 2015. "You can see the effort and the ideas."

NWN President and COO Skip Tappen said he sees HP going to greater lengths than ever before to leverage the power of the channel. "This shows HP understands the channel can add real value to the solutions," he said. "It is not just about the transactions anymore."

Partner say they see the HP product portfolio, including the new Windows 10 Elite x3 phablet, as cool and hip, driving a consumerlike experience with best-in-class products in the commercial market. NWN's Tappen said his "litmus test" is the reaction his teenage son had to the new HP products. "My son looked at the latest HP products and he thinks they are cool," he said. "That's a big change from his previous impressions."

Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point of Green Bay, Wis., No. 291 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500, said he is already setting up meetings with customers to show off the latest HP products including Elite x3 and PageWide printers. "I am pumped up," he said. "The products are so much better."

Chernick also applauded the stepped-up focus to drive more sales hand in hand with partners through HP.com and through the Rio Rancho force with lead generation for partners. "They are driving both business model and product innovation," he said.

Kelly Ireland, founder and CEO of Orange, Calif.-based CB Technologies, an HP Platinum partner, No. 258 on the CRN 2015 Solution Provider 500, said she is planning on investing more sales resources and talent into driving HP device and printer sales after seeing the product road map and vision from HP Inc. at the Americas Executive Forum. "This really resonates with our education, SLED and solutions focus," she said. "I am going to make a really big bet on HP devices and printers."