HP launches charm offensive to woo its UK channel

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Meg Whitman, CEO of HP

It’s all about winning hearts and minds

After a tumultuous year in 2011, HP is embarking on a charm offensive to win over the “hearts and minds” of its channel partners.

At the launch of new HP workstations, Pascal Bourguet, Channel Sales Director for the UK, said that HP would be looking to work more closely with its partners.

“Our vision for the next year is to grow ten percent year on year on revenue, and the way that we are planning to do that is by taking HP back into the hearts and minds of our partners,”  Bourguet told ChannelBiz.

He admits that last year was a “tough year” with indecision over whether the PC unit would stay within the company’s portfolio.

There were big changes at the firm last year, not least the elbowing out of Leo Apotheker to make way for current CEO Meg Whitman, coinciding with a u-turn on plans to spin off its PC business as well as less than impressive results.

This “created a lot of disruption in the channel” says Bourguet, who was given the UK PSG channel role in January .  “Now there is a new CEO and we are very excited.”

With this, Bourguet was keen to assert that the PC business will play centre stage to its efforts in future.   Talk of a PC unit spin off had led to criticism from its rivals that it would lose out on its main connection with its channel partners, and would miss out on the potential to leverage of its scale of business.

Indeed, with details emerging last night that HP’s printer unit will now be encompassed into PSG it will be even more central to the organisation’s plans.

“Hardware business is core to HP strategy,” Bourguet says, “PSG is quite an important piece if not the most important.  We feel very proud to be at the core.”

With HP keen to regain the “pride” it seeks in the channel, he talks of a “different level of engagement with disties” in future.

“We are planning on being a lot more professional in the way that we engage with the disties and channel partners, bringing to them the best of HP.

“This also means bringing to HP execs the visibility of what they are doing, which may have not been the case in the past.”

Part of the strategy is to engage more closely with resellers, with more talk of winning over its partners with a more personal approach.

“Above all to connect with the telesales,” Bourguet says, “something that we could have done better is to emotionally connect with the telesales organisations and departments.”

“We are looking at specific plans to engage to with them much better than in the past.”

If HP can succeed with this then it can use its strong history in the channel to meet its growth targets.

“HP’s position in the channel is unique. We have got a lot of things that none of competitors have, the portfolio, financial stability, the people.”

HP has a lot of assets that can be marketed in a way such that eventual telesales people are recommending HP, he says, and not Lenovo for example.

“The biggest asset of HP is the portfolio, we have a portfolio breadth that is quite unique.  This is true for PC business, but also beyond, with services, printers, with software, servers.”

“That is unique, we are the only PC vendor which is able to propose that sort of breadth of portfolio with that sort of breadth of additional products and services beyond the PC.”

HP wants to return some pride to the channel, and Bourguet believes that HP can do so by having an edge on its rivals.

“Our second assets that we have is our business model, all of our PCs all of products are available in 48 hours, because of the distribution model.”

“Dell, they are taking two or three weeks to get delivered.  Acer or Lenovo do not have the level of stock we have in the channel because their business is not as big as our business.”

“We have the lowest return rate, we have the lowest return rate.  We acknowledged as having the best service of all PC vendor  – apart form Apple.”

With other firms indicating their intentions to grow in the channel HP is likely to see some strong competition in future.

Bourguet says that there are “no concerns” however that other rivals such as Dell or Huawei, continuing to grow in Europe, will move in to take its channel its partners.

“Today we are working with four distributors, and we are not looking to extend this.  In terms of partner base we are working with about 200 Gold Partners, around 500 preferred partners, and we are transacting regularly with 4,000 partners.”

“We are not planning to change the number of partners.”