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HP: We will never sell 100 per cent through the channel

But execs plan to push more business towards partners

HP's EMEA boss Peter Ryan can't foresee a time when it will sell entirely through the channel but has "no problem" if the level of business transacted directly with the customer shrinks considerably.

His comments come after CEO Meg Whitman told folks attending last week's Global Partner Conference that she will not tolerate channel conflict and that where it does take deals direct there must be "no mystery".

The former bigwig at eBay, which ironically built its tat bazaar empire by cutting out the middlemen, also called HP staffers into a private session at GPC to give them the hairdryer treatment guidance to ensure they understand the "importance of the channel", a spokesman confirmed to us.

Ryan, HP's joint boss in EMEA and head of the Enterprise Group, stressed the renewed channel focus.

The tech giant has a list of global named accounts that sells to directly, but "even in those areas I say to my team you need a partner strategy, in the largest account we'll go in with partners", he told The Channel.

"Vendors don't shape the world, customers decide [where they buy] but we want to make sure partners are knowledgable so there is a value [for the customers dealing with them]," he said.

The way to ensure this, he said, was with certifications, a tried-and-tested method.

Channel partners account for 70 per cent of HP's turnover, but Ryan said if this increased to "80 or 90 per cent I'd have no problem with that".

As revealed this month, HP has devised a Rule of Engagement template to clarify the situation for employees. Whitman wants incidents escalated to the most senior execs within the vendor.

Those inside HP's internal sales team that pinch deals from resellers will be lobotomised "educated", the big cheese said.

Historically, HP sold directly to PC customers in the corporate enterprise until 2005 when it said it could not compete alongside channel partners when coming up against Dell's aggressive pricing.

But after the latest CEO churn, HP's love for the channel was diluted, according to its partners, and server, storage and services deals were whipped from them.

Ryan told The Channel there is a place for direct sales in HP - when it launches an entirely new technology that requires evangelisation.

"It's unfair to ask partners to make that investment with an unpredictable return," said Ryan.

Then of course "there is a clear sector of the market that wants to buy directly from the vendor. But if there is an opportunity that a partner is engaged in, we'll make sure they get paid even if the we transact the business", he added.

The feedback from partners has been overwhelmingly positive - large swathes of the audience cheered Whitman's speech.

But one large partner in Blighty reserved judgement, telling us: "HP has a plan that it is working to. The proof is in the pudding." ®

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