Resellers clash with HP over direct sales

Mid-market and corporate resellers have voiced frustration with members of Hewlett-Packard's direct sales team who they claim are pilfering deals, even those officially registered, and want to see the rogue element stamped out.

Mid-market and corporate resellers have voiced frustration with members of Hewlett-Packard's direct sales team who they claim are pilfering deals, even those officially registered, and want to see the rogue element stamped out.

The vendor has made no secret it sells PCs direct to corporate enterprise customers but an acquisition team appears to be hunting business, often at the expense of Gold partners, in various markets including servers and storage.

"We are now nervous about engaging with certain HP people, they have taken business direct even though the deal was registered and approached some of our longest standing customers," said Repton boss Greg Carlow.

The "overwhelming majority" of HP field sales are continuing to behave honourably he added but a group of people, which he refused to name publicly, had lost the trust of his staff following the loss of three orders, one worth £750,000.

The situation had been "creeping up" during the recession said Kelway's solution and services director Peter Stroud, "HP appears to be going on the size of deals whereas before it said it would only go after certain accounts".

"We can't stop it so you have to work with it but the situation has been frustrating," he said, adding that resellers needed to get "smarter throughout the whole lifecycle of products" to ensure they held onto customers.

Simon Aron, joint managing director at Eurodata Systems, agreed HP's strategy was an "increasing problem, the fact that HP is aggressively going after direct sales does not help anybody".

Twelve of the UK's top partners met with HP CEO Mark Hurd weeks ago when he told them that it only wanted to managed 1,000 of the largest global customers direct.

"Unfortunately the UK operation is not practising what Hurd preaches," said a disgruntled partner that attended the event with Hurd.

Philip Alexander, managing director at HP Preferred Partner Yes IT, said its business with the vendor was down 80% year-on-year partly due to customers demanding cheaper kit but also "the direct issue".

"We don't get straight answers from HP these days," he said.

Ironically, at a time when HP is most paranoid about Dell's channel building activities, some Gold partners have said that through its actions they are being driven into the welcoming arms of the one-time direct selling purist.

"HP's direct team are taking business from us and we have had no explanation or commitment from them, hence I speak more to Dell now because they are being incredibly supportive," said Terry Betts, managing director at CCS Media.

To be fair Dell has faced its share of criticism for not developing better links between partners and its direct sales force but this year moved to improve collaboration in an effort to reduce conflict before it completely lost credibility in the channel.  

Dave Poskett, director of the solutions partner organisation (SPO) at HP, pointed to the long standing relationship with resellers and insisted there was no change in its business model though he stressed he would look into any concerns.

"I am my [SPO} team work very closely with partners and if there are things that we need to look at and review, we will," he told MicroScope.

The acquisition team in HP was seeking to unseat rivals from customer accounts in the corporate space however this should not pose a threat to partners, Poskett added.



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