HP Enacts SMB Rules

Part of its new SMB sales engagement strategy, the move comes just weeks after the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor said it would stop making outbound telesales calls from its call center after years of bitter channel conflicts caused by telesales reps calling into solution provider accounts, often offering better pricing.

“HP wants to be out of the face-to-face business,” said Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner Connecting Point, a solution provider in Green Bay, Wis. “We are the guys who are fighting the fight, not the ones booking the fight,” he added. “If we can tell them how to win the fight, I think they&'ll win.”

Pete Busam, vice president and COO of Decisive Business Systems, a solution provider in Pennsauken, N.J., agreed that he&'s started to see a dramatic turnaround in how HP works with the channel on SMB accounts. “We&'ve just gotten e-mails all of a sudden from them [HP&'s call center] for customers that they&'ve made appointments with, and they&'ve asked us to handle the appointments,” Busam said.

Last month, HP promised that the call center would stop making outbound sales calls. As part of the new strategy designed to clarify rules of engagement governing HP&'s business class products, including PCs, workstations, industry-standard servers and business-class storage, the company also said that it would unveil a named-account list to identify where it will engage customers on a direct basis.

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Solution providers last week said they have been told by their HP reps that at least part of the criteria for the list, which is expected to be unveiled during HP&'s first quarter, which began Nov. 1, will be number of employees per customer.

Channel sources pegged the line of demarcation between direct and indirect at between 1,000 and 1,500 employees.

Jon Wayne, HP&'s manager of channel strategy, stressed that the named-account list was not tied specifically to changes in HP&'s call center operations but was an augmentation to the named-account list already in place for enterprise products.

He added that the criteria for the new business-class named-account list was not necessarily based on the number of end users in the account. “But that&'s as much as I can share with you,” he said.

Laurie Benson, CEO of Inacom Information Systems, a solution provider in Madison, Wis., said the new call center strategy coupled with the pending named-account list for business-class products already was yielding results. “Outbound calls to our customers have already shut down,” she said, adding that she could care less where precisely HP draws the line in its new named-account list. “You can move it later based on the success,” Benson said. “The important step is this is absolutely business that is being turned over to resellers and none of it, zero, is going direct [below] where they&'ve drawn the line.”

Added Steve Harper, president of Network Management Group, a Hutchinson, Kan.-based solution provider, “I think HP finally gets it, and they want to be back in the channel.”