HP Opens Deal Registration To All Channel Partners

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The move by technology and computing giant HP is part of a strategy by HP to target the SMB market during the recession. HP will also create an SMB Elite certification.

Hewlett-Packard is placing a strategic bet on the SMB market in 2009 by opening its deal registration program to even its smallest channel partners, and separately creating an SMB Elite certification.

The maker of servers, PCs, storage devices, printers and other computing technology made the announcement during its PartnerOne conference today in Cupertino, California, and separately announced a raft of new services and products aimed squarely at the SMB market.

It’s a strategy that may leave some scratching their heads in confusion. Channel Insider’s recent Market Pulse 2009 survey of solution providers showed that SMBs have become the toughest customers out there when it comes to IT spending this year.

Specifically, the survey showed that of the roughly 200 solution providers surveyed, the small-business sector makes up 49.7 percent of respondents’ sales, and that 28.3 percent of solution providers, the largest percentage, identified that market as showing the greatest signs of a slow down in IT spending.

But HP says the SMB space remains among the strongest markets for 2009, a year when opportunities may seem hard to find.

“From our perspective we are still tracking SMB as a 68 billion opportunity in the US,” says Meaghan Kelly, vice president of channel sales development and strategy, HP Solution Partners Organisation for the Americas. HP created that market estimate by combining information from a number of market sources, according to Kelly. “It is easily one of the largest growth segments. We expect 4 percent to 7 percent growth in 2009 in SMBs. About eight out of 10 SMBs already own an HP product.”

According to Kelly, HP believes that SMBs will spend double what big business spends in 2009, and that’s why HP is putting so much of its muscle – both through its channel partners and through other sales channels – into courting SMBs and their business.

But that doesn’t mean HP believes selling into SMBs will be an easy task. For example, Kelly concedes that SMBs are having a tougher time accessing credit, and that may affect their plans for IT spending.

“Definitely the trend we see in the SMB space is that they are trying to do more with less,” Kelly says. “They are trying to figure out how they make it infrastructure more efficient moving forward…They are looking to where they stand to save costs.”

HP plans to tout to these SMBs the efficiencies and ease of taking a one-stop-shop, HP-standardisation approach.

And Kelly points out that over the past year HP has rolled out a number of initiatives designed to support channel partners and SMBs, from web-based training to zero percent financing offers.

The new deal registration extension is being cast as another major piece in the support infrastructure for SMB channel partners. As of March 1 all of HP’s 25,000 channel partners became eligible to participate in deal registration, giving them access to a host of front end and back end rebates. Previously only HP’s Elite and Preferred partners were eligible to participate in deal registration.

“Before, if you were an SMB partner, you were competing against a lot of other partners going for the same business,” Kelly says. “This now allows you to be more competitive.”

Minimum deal size eligibilities for deal registration vary with the type of product, according to Kelly.

HP has also created an SMB Elite certification. Partners who meet the requirements will be able to use HP’s Elite branding and receive Elite SMB sales support such as end user subsidies, expanded access to co-marketing funds, lead opportunities and SMB promotions such as enhanced partner locator support.

To receive the Elite SMB certification, partners must demonstrate a set of product competencies and complete training on business models that show profitability in the SMB space.