IBM plans to shift 25 per cent of its direct sales product force to its channel units as part of a slew of measures designed to boost its indirect business.
Speaking to 5,000 channel attendees at Partnerworld in San Diego this week, Buell Duncan, general manager of sales and distribution, said this would triple the number of IBM staff working with business partners. They would be paid solely on results, he said, with the aim of significantly increasing the amount of business IBM puts through its channel, particularly with small and medium size companies.
"In the last year revenue through business partners has doubled to $30 billion, one third of IBM's total business...we want that to grow," he said. There had been a collective failure, he admitted, to hit the sales growth target of 25 per cent set for 1999 but said single digit growth had laid a solid foundation for bigger growth in 2000.
The remainder of the direct sales force would concentrate on IBM's 1,500 biggest customers he said, and committed to passing on an increasing number of sales leads to channel partners. Key to this would be closer relationships with independent software vendors from which, as Sun does currently, he believed IBM would get a lot more sales leads in the future.
He cited Morse in the UK, one of Sun's biggest resellers, as typical of the kind of channel player IBM wanted to do more business with to strike back at Sun. Morse has just set-up a dedicated IBM division under divisional director Steve O'Meara, Duncan said.
A similar proportion of the existing channel sales force is also being moved across to new channel units dealing with what IBM describes as the 'Net Gen' business from Internet start-ups. In Europe this will comprise around 50 staff moving to the newly created Partner Development Unit under Vincent Zandvliet.
Meanwhile, the newly formed Web Server division, which combines the Unix division and the Numa-Q business from the Sequent acquisition, is to create 200 new pre and post sales positions immediately, with plans to expand the post sales services arm later in the year.
From this week, Numa-Q products will be sold through IBM's channel for the first time, with what the company claims to be "significant" price cuts, although it will not detail these publicly for competitive reasons, said John McAdam, newly appointed general manager of the division.
"We are doing this for growth, to gain market share at the expense of Sun. If we take it from HP as well, that's fine," said McAdam, echoing the recurring theme of the conference that Sun was IBM's principal target in the year ahead.
IBM's newest ad campaign, "The soul of ebusiness", which began in November in the US, will debut in Europe this month. The company has also announced a low-cost leasing program for system integrators to help them acquire new IBM technology for pilot projects and development work. This scheme will principally apply to server and storage products.
It also launched the Total program for financing ebusiness projects. This provides a single source of global financing to all its channel partners.
IBM said it would also begin paying for ebusiness certification for employees of channel partners on a 'you pass we pay' basis and was planning to introduce an ebusiness certification for companies alongside the existing individuals scheme.
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