Proclaimed channel friend, yet direct-selling vendor Gateway has again performed major surgery on its Australian sales model.
The company announced last week it will incorporate its outwardly successful Gateway Associates (GA) channel program into its Business Direct division, and is ramping up the resources to go behind it.
The news sends at least two messages to the IT channel.
Either the GA program is not able to stand by itself without the support of Gateway's real sales department, or it has become so significant that the program is now recognised as part of the mainstream channel for the direct vendor.
According to two of the now more than 100 associates, it would appear that the latter is the case.
A spokesperson for network integrator Intec described it as being "happy with the progress of the program to date".
John Perkins, managing director of value-added reseller Balanced IT Services (BITS), described the program as very positive, although he hadn't seen any new integration business to date. "We've won business that we might not have won without Gateway, and when clients wanted a direct relationship with the hardware vendor," Perkins said, "but we've yet to see new referred business."
And that is what Gateway sales director Peter Lumsdaine has in mind. He said the GA program is set to focus Gateway's attention on what he describes as the very small business and small business enterprise markets. "Forty per cent of our existing business clients have needed the sorts of services that our channel associates provide, and one of the reasons for the change to the program is to deliver the leads for value-added services to our associates," Lumsdaine said.
He also acknowledged the achievements of former GA manager Tony Hughes who he described as instrumental in establishing the program, but has now left Gateway. "It was at Tony's recommendation that the program eventually be brought into the Business Direct division," Lumsdaine explained. He added that, by doing so, the resources of the Business Direct call centre can be applied and more staff are being cross-trained on the Associates program. This is on top of increased commissions for many of the product categories within the program.
While Lumsdaine was enthusiastic about the future of the GA program, he sounded a none-too-muted warning: "Unlike many other vendors, Gateway does not compete with its channel partners in the areas of network integration and services; we focus on hardware fulfilment and our partners leverage our strong brand to generate revenue and profit in solutions for joint clients."
From the first 100 associates, not a complaint has been uttered. The latest change puts the GA program fairly in the middle of that goldfish bowl called the IT channel.