Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

IBM intends to recruit 5,000 new partners worldwide this year to drive opportunities in the midsize market.

The company has identified 5,000 SMB (small and midsize business) partners—1,500 in the Americas, 1,500 in Europe and 2,000 in Asia—that it will recruit this year to its PartnerWorld Program on a regional basis, said Donn Atkins, IBM’s General Manager of Global Business Partners.

The recruitment is designed to “touch a new set of customers,” especially in the midsize space and among partners selling competitive products in the SMB space, where many potential partners have simply been ignored to date, Atkins said.

“There are lots of partners out there who do not do business with IBM, who have great business models and great solutions,” Atkins told a crowd of reporters March 13 at IBM’s PartnerWorld conference in Las Vegas. “When I ask them, ‘Why don’t you work with us?’ the answer I get is, ‘Usually nobody talks to me.’”

Ziff Davis Media eSeminars invite: IBM is looking for a few good partners in the SMB space. Tune in March 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET, live on Sponsored by IBM.

IBM has stacked its PartnerWorld program with additional staff to connect further and deeper with these VARs, to help them develop their IBM business, IBM sources said. The company is also working with distributors to deliver support, Atkins said.

Atkins said he doesn’t expect conflict to arise with current customers, as, “These [efforts] are designed to reach opportunities we aren’t currently touching.” The recruitment will be geographic, mirroring IBM’s direct sales in the SMB market, he said.

IBM woos SMBs with price cuts and a bigger Express Portfolio. Click here to read more.

In his keynote address to 1,900 partners, Atkins identified the SMB space as the largest opportunity for market growth.

“They want the same solutions as the enterprise,” he said. “They are worried about integrating hardware and software, storage and nets. They have the same need to store and protect data. All the while, we see them overwhelmed by technical complexity.”