VARs Welcome HP Exclusivity DiscussionBy Sharon Linsenbach | Posted 2008-02-27 Email Print
VARs' heads turn as HP channel chief Adrian Jones talks about HP exclusivitiy in his keynote at the vendor's partner conference.
Partners have expressed surprise at Hewlett-Packard’s willingness to discuss the issue of exclusivity among its VARs.
Adrian Jones, HP's vice president and general manager of the Americas Solution Partner Organization, addressed HP channel partners on the second day of the vendor's annual partner conference, held Feb. 25-28 in Las Vegas.
Jones asked Tom LaRocca, director of partner development and programs at HP, to talk about the "exclusivity issue" and to assuage partner fears that HP wants all of its partners to only sell, service and support HP products. LaRocca told the audience that the strategy is not to ask partners to be exclusive but to recognize that partners who make significant investments with HP should receive significant rewards and returns on that investment.
"As you add HP products to every sale, we want to reward you. As you increase your commitment with us, we are going to increase our reward to you," LaRocca said, causing a few heads to turn.
"When Tom LaRocca said that HP wasn't pushing partners to become exclusive, I couldn't believe it," said Brady Flaherty, president of Altos Technology Group, an HP exclusive partner. Flaherty said that regardless of HP's open-minded claims, he feels that if he decides to add EMC products to his company's portfolio, for example, he'd certainly get the cold shoulder from HP.
Flaherty said, though, that he feels being an HP exclusive partner has helped him win deals, since his customers know that he and his engineers are experts on HP's products and services. Customers can trust that dealing with one vendor is the right choice, rather than having to choose among many vendors with similar offerings.
"It's hard for a customer to make a buying decision when you go in with, 'This is a good product and a great vendor … and so is this and this and this,'" he said. Standing behind one vendor's products makes his sales team's efforts that much more effective.
Bobby Thomas, area sales manager for Logicalis, an HP partner based in Georgia, said for his company, there isn't necessarily a benefit to being an exclusive partner, since there aren't additional rebates, higher margins or better vendor support. He did say, however, that while he sells multiple vendors' products, he makes sure product lines do not overlap one another to avoid losing face in front of his customers.
"HP and IBM are two different product areas we offer. We have to separate them because we can't have credibility suggesting something to customers if we're spread too thin with product knowledge," he said.
Both Thomas and Flaherty said, despite the repetitious nature of Jones' speech to last year’s conference, both are pleased with how their HP business is doing. Aside from a few hiccups around direct sales and channel conflict, and HP's need to better gather, listen to and act on partner feedback, both Thomas and Flaherty said that HP simply needs to make minor adjustments to a successful program that is very healthy for its partners.
Flaherty said partners are ultimately responsible for their own success, and while HP as a vendor isn't perfect, the blame shouldn't fall on HP if channel partners don't succeed.
"I don't know what partners really expect from a big vendor. Partners have to go out and make themselves successful—that's their job. HP certainly isn't putting anyone out of business," Flaherty said.