HPE CEO Whitman: It's Time For Partners To Move From 'Farmers' To 'Hunters'

Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman said it is time for partners to aggressively shift from being "farmers" to "hunters" in a market that is moving at lightning speed.

"This is a tough industry right now, it is all-consuming," said Whitman, rallying partners to adopt a Silicon Valley startup ethos of aggressively acquiring new customers. "I think our industry, and all of us collectively, need to move from being farmers to hunters."

Whitman says the lesson from red-hot companies like Nimble, which HPE acquired earlier this year for $1 billion, is to go aggressively after every account as if it has no installed base.

[Related: HPE CEO Whitman - I Would 'Definitely Not Think About' Running For President, Next Career Step May Be 'Public Service']

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"Because there is no installed base for these new companies, they are by definition hunters," said Whitman in a question and answer session with The Channel Company CEO Bob Faletra before an audience of 300 top solution providers at the 2017 Best of Breed (BoB) conference in Atlanta.

"Because we have, collectively, a huge installed base almost by definition we are farmers," Whitman said. "I think all of us need to flip that model to be hunters. By definition, hunting is harder. Someone else is in there. You have to get yourself in there with a new set of technologies."

Whitman pledged to work hand-in-hand with partners to get in front of current customers, to break into accounts and win more new customers.

"I am now spending about 75 percent of my time with partners and customers," she said. "I will do partner roundtables, customer roundtables. We will host you and your customers in Palo Alto. I will do greenfield introductions for you."

Whitman even pledged to get meetings with CIOs that may be tough for a partner to access. "Almost every CIO will at least return my phone call," she said. "Then I can get an audience with that CIO … That is how you guys can use me. It is great fun!"

Whitman said she is committed to working with partners in underserved markets to win new business in areas like San Antonio or Oklahoma City.

Whitman, in fact, committed to visiting Camera Corner Connecting Point, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise partner in Green Bay, Wis., No. 323 on the 2017 CRN SP500.

CEO Rick Chernick said he was excited to get Whitman to visit Green Bay. "This is going to be one of the biggest things to hit Green Bay in 50 years," said Chernick. "She is dynamic and world-renowned."

"Meg understands the sophistication of the marketplace and how to engage," said Harry Zarek, CEO of Compugen, No. 63 on the 2017 CRN SP500, who said he his growing his HPE business at a double-digit clip. "She has positioned the company very well, and it is giving us a lot of confidence in HPE."

Zarek said HPE Aruba sales growth is off the charts. "It is a high quality, reliable technology that is easy to manage, straight-forward to install," he said. "It is a well- engineered technology."

Zarek said he was also impressed with the HPE Pathfinder venture capital investment arm, which is bringing hot new Silicon Valley technology to partners. "HPE is [using] their Silicon Valley heritage to look for the next set of businesses that partners can leverage," he said.