HP Pitches Free On-Site Sales Training for SMB VARs

By Sharon Linsenbach  |  Print this article Print

HP continues its aggressive moves into the SMB market by offering no-charge, on-site sales training to small VARs. 

Hewlett-Packard says its SMB-focused Channel Sales Training program is a huge success, and will double the number of small and midsize business resellers it reaches by the end of April.

The training programs are focused on providing small and midsize VARs with HP product and sales training, said Todd Owens, director of HP's certification and education programs for its solutions partner organization. Technical training, Owens said, is covered separately, under HP's certified professional certification programs.

Owens said his goal is to touch as many resellers as possible, but that HP faced a challenge in making partners aware that the program exists. 

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"Partners sell what they know, and we have to make sure they know HP," Owens said. He said focusing on sales training and product awareness could help partners increase their revenue by selling more effectively.

In turn, higher sales could propel smaller partners into the "Elite" designation within HP's PartnerOne channel program, which offers deeper product discounts, higher margins and increased levels of technical and sales support.

The program is another example of HP's increasing focus on VARs selling into the SMB space. HP CEO Mark Hurd told channel partners at the vendor's annual partner conference in February that he and his executive team would go to great lengths to help them close deals and upsell across HP's entire portfolio, including making phone calls and sending e-mails on partners' behalf to help close deals.

Hurd also said 35 percent of HP's revenues come from emerging markets and SMBs, a percentage that he said represented a huge opportunity both for HP and its VARs.

Hurd reiterated that HP was extremely eager to engage with partners to take advantage of those opportunities in the SMB and midmarket space where VARs had the greatest foothold and held greater influence.

Owens said HP has always employed about 20 to 30 training personnel in each sales region, but that in November 2007 it asked those trainers to focus on SMB resellers. The sales training programs are all free of charge for HP resellers, and are available at VARs' request, he said. VARs who request the training can choose to have HP trainers on-site, or can choose to have training delivered online or over the phone.

The program was tweaked to better reach small business VARs and equip them with the right knowledge to solve their customers' technological problems, Owens said. He said the major obstacle SMB VARs faced was moving from a transactional sales approach to a more consultative, "solution-selling" approach.

"End users are getting smarter about what they need, regardless of whether you are calling on SMBs or on larger customers. Partners need to be able to say, 'What is your business problem and how can I implement HP technology to solve it?'" Owens said.

Between November and the end of January 2008, about 15,000 sales personnel from more than 400 VARs took advantage of the program, Owens said. He said the program was on track to double that number in HP's fiscal second quarter, which ends April 30, and he expected to have between 700 and 800 small VARs take advantage of the training by that date.

Sharon Linsenbach Sharon Linsenbach is a staff writer for eWEEK and eWEEK Channel Insider. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Sharon was Assistant Managing Editor for CRN, a weekly magazine for PC and technology resellers. Before joining CRN, Sharon was an Acquisitions Editor for The Coriolis Group and later, Editorial Director with Paraglyph Press, both in Scottsdale, AZ. She holds a BA in English from Drew University and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her significant other and two neurotic cats. When she's not reading or writing about technology, Sharon enjoys yoga, knitting, traveling and live music. Sharon can be reached at Sharon.Linsenbach@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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