HP doubles direct sales force

HP doubles direct sales force

HP wants your customers. The computing giant announced last week its sales reps would sell into and have greater "touch" in customer accounts over 1000 seats as part of its new go-to-market strategy.

Aiming to lift its current revenue of $750 million to $1 billion by 2001, HP will move forward with what it described as a "hybrid business model".

It will double its direct sales force to enable it to sell into these accounts and will launch electronic mechanisms of communicating with end customers.

"Customers are demanding flexible buying options and a simplified way of doing business with HP and our resellers," said Chris Greigg, general manager of HP Australia's Commercial Channels Organisation.

Greigg was at pains to point out, however, that unlike direct vendor Dell, orders would still be fulfilled through the channel.

"We need our resellers to fulfil and integrate third-party products. I don't want to do that.

"Why would I want to duplicate the existing skills we already have in the channel?

"But at the same time, some customers are demanding that HP becomes accountable," he added.

HP's biggest resellers were unfazed by the announcement.

"We don't feel threatened by it," said Jon Johnson, managing director of Centari Systems. "No vendor will ever be able to do what we can do for our customers."

Johnson believes it's a smart move on behalf of HP, which he claims has to generate more business because "[some] channel people are pretty lazy and will just take the orders" rather than go out and create more business demand.

Although confident it will "not have a big impact" on Centari's business, Johnson claims it may cause some conflict for companies servicing higher-level customers of 5000 seats or more.

Nick Shaw, senior sales consultant for integrator Netbridge, claims "HP has been gearing up to do this for some time, but there has been no indication to us that they will go direct". Shaw said HP has to compete with the likes of Dell and "if they work direct on the top 10 deals, then at the end of the day you just have to live with that".

Its direct sales presence will work under the banner of HP Prime. It is one of three go-to-market models and will formalise the engagement between HP, the reseller and the customer.

Its traditional channel model has been branded HP Partner Prime, while the third leg is HP's Online Store, which will be officially announced later this month and become operational on July 4.

Despite this direct customer online focus, HP's Internet initiative has drawn a favourable response from resellers.

"We're very positive about the concept of e-commerce providing a more streamlined way of doing business with HP," said Greg De Laine, NSW manager of large HP reseller Leading Solutions.

Netbridge's Shaw also said he was "pleased to see HP implement a good e-commerce initiative, which is more than other major PC vendors are doing".

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