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Hello, I just called to say . . .

Rumours that Compaq is moving towards direct sales, have been creeping around the channel for some time. Last week Compaq revealed it had appointed a new type of reseller - telemarketing specialist T Direct - to fill the gap between the retail channel and the corporate dealer. ARN's John Costello spoke to Compaq's Terry Scerri and Ian Penman about the moves behind the move"We were getting complaints," said Terry Scerri, Compaq's director of customer support and services. "Some customers were saying they were having difficulty buying from Compaq.

"This was specially so with options like additional memory.

"Let's face it, for many dealers, selling a few meg of extra RAM can sometimes be a hassle," said Scerri.

"We also believe there is an emerging market for people who prefer to buy over the phone."

The complaints, and the belief in an emerging market for selling computers by phone, led Scerri to put together a plan for Compaq to set up a telemarketing operation.

"To do this properly would mean a huge investment so we decided to search for a partner that could meet our needs."

The search led to TM Direct, a company founded in 1982 and part of a successful telemarketing group whose combined revenue now totals more than $160 million a year.

The group includes the thriving direct wine sales operation, Cellarmaster.

"But we're not new to computers," said Martin Deane, general manager of TM Direct. "We've sold software in the past, but the arrangement with Compaq is our first in selling hardware," said Deane.

Neither Scerri from Compaq or Deane would be specific about how many people would be employed in the sale of Compaq machines, or about the value of sales over the next year.

As well as selling direct, Compaq resellers will be encouraged to use TM Direct to fulfil small orders from end users.

TM Direct will only be handling Compaq's notebooks and desktop systems.

"Each time we get an enquiry from a customer, we'll be asking if they want to deal with their nearest authorised resellers or with TM Direct. But it will be up to the customer to make that decision," Scerri said. "The fastest segment of the market is SOHO," said Scerri. "TM Direct is ideally placed to tackle that business."

"We don't know how this will work," said Ian Penman, managing director of Compaq Computer Australia, referring to the appointment of TM Direct as Compaq's telemarketing arm. "We'll just suck it and see.

"I've been sure for some time that telemarketing has a big future in selling computers.

"Some of our resellers have already been doing business this way for some time," said Penman. "TM Direct will supplement those efforts.

"The company won't be taking business away from our channel. It will be creating more business," said Penman.


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