3Com wants to appoint between 200 and 300 resellers and integrators across Europe to help it return to the large enterprise networking market from which it controversially pulled out three years ago.
The vendor is now considered a major player only in the small and medium networking market after it burnt bridges with customers and resellers when it axed its CoreBuilder large enterprise line.
3Com has now admitted that its original decision was "poorly handled".
Speaking at its annual channel and customer conference in Frankfurt last week, Pax Andersson, vice president of sales at 3Com, explained that the company still has around 68,000 resellers for products at the lower end of the market.
But it is now targeting large customer sites in all the major European countries.
"We have no intention of becoming a direct seller to customers," said Andersson. "We are interested in signing major resellers and integrators to sell to, and allow them to deal with the customer."
3Com is focusing on the finance, government, health and education sectors.
"Our operation internally is naming potential accounts in each country, and it has been a large process in selecting them," said Andersson.
He added that the company is now chasing "showpiece customers to use as reference sites, and this approach will help convince both customers and resellers that we are seriously back in the large enterprise market".
But 3Com must now convince a sceptical channel that it is serious about re-entering the market.
Andersson claimed that 3Com had little choice but to withdraw from the market three year ago. But he called on resellers to consider seriously the company's large enterprise products.
"I will say to potential resellers that they should try giving us 20 per cent of their business in certain product lines and see the extra returns they will get from our products," he said. "Overall, allowing 3Com back into this channel will see benefits all round."
Alexandra Power, marketing director at Westcon, explained that 3Com's decision to drop CoreBuilder had hurt business, but opened another door in its relationship with Extreme Networks.
"Some resellers will remember being hurt by 3Com pulling out of the enterprise marketplace and will say 'no, not interested'. Others will look forward to them coming back and some are new, such as those moving from voice into the data world," she said.
The past, according to Power, would not necessarily have negative bearings on Westcon's future deals with 3Com.
"3Com's vertical market strategy sounds very positive. It is emphasising business benefits and how to solve problems, not how many ports a product has," she said.
However, Richard Foskett, chief executive at networking consultancy Rhetorik, insisted that 3Com has a lot of work to do.
"They have lost a lot of credibility pulling out of the corporate marketplace," he said. "Why should the channel, which was let down in the past, go out and train sales and support people in selling 3Com solutions given what has happened before?
"It is not an insignificant investment to make, memories are not that short and there is a lot of competition in the core switching market."
Mike Gill, chairman at reseller European Electronique, said: "We didn't stop selling 3Com when they got rid of the CoreBuilder products.
"They have other products which universities and councils use at the outer edge rather than at the core. Lots of organisations use them on the edge."
Gill indicated that he would be interested in hearing whether 3Com "has a good story to sell new offerings at the core".
A new router line that targets telcos and blue-chip organisations was also announced at the conference. It consists of the router 5000 series, which is squarely aimed at taking business from Cisco.
3Com has set modest sales targets for the large enterprise market in the short to medium term.
Andersson said the company would regard "a few percentage points from Cisco's sales" in the market that it dominates "as good progress".
It is currently expending its sales force in the enterprise division and is looking to appoint more network consultants, sales managers and sales executives.
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