There is growing evidence that IBM chairman Lou Gerstner?s much-admired re-engineering of the company means it is now ?listening to the resellers?.
Among the signs that IBM?s business partners can get their grievances heard are the new initiatives coming out of the channel organisation, and not least the new ?evergreen? Ts&Cs that business partners are now being transferred to.
?The old Ts&Cs made it difficult for our resellers to get out- side investment or do any strategic planning because those contracts came up for renewal every year,? said channel sales manager Steve Voller. ?We have made them evergreen so that they can reassure investors and customers of long-term viability. But it is up to them to maintain standards; we?ll go on monitoring that, and we will still have standard termination clauses.?
All of IBM?s channel partners now sign a core contract with a standard set of Ts&Cs. They then sign supplements, depending on which market segments they want to sell into ? PC, AS/400, RS/6000, printers etc. ?The new arrangements make it easier for them to sell a wider range of our products,? said Voller.
IBM?s new Partner Line (01256 344500) gives a single point of reference for any existing or prospective business partner to phone into the organisation and get product information. ?They can ring in and ask: ?What the hell is xyz and how do I go about selling it?,? said a company source. ?Before, it was difficult for dealers to enquire about what else was going on.?
Voller said: ?Partner Line is meant to make it easier to find out about such things as new initiatives. Many resellers might be interested in, say, our Internet services, but in the past didn?t know who to ask. Chances are they wouldn?t know Kathy Luck [channel manager for IBM Global Network], so now they?ve got a hotline to find out.?
Partner Info is a Lotus Notes-based system that gives sales and technical support, product info, configuration and ordering details. This also conveniently promotes the use of Lotus Notes among business partners.
Similarly, Partner Web will direct customers on the Internet from IBM?s product pages to relevant business partners from whom they can purchase products. The two services are in a final development stage and will go live by the end of February.
IBM?s channel is set for a cascade of co-operative marketing funds this year ? ?60 million soft dollars in Europe alone,? said one source. That will boost the promotion of channel businesses.
Voller said IBM is allowing for reseller ?aggregation? of marketing bonuses. ?Our partner rewards scheme allows partners to bring together their funds from all product areas, including PCs, printers and networking.?
The key to all of Big Blue?s channel changes is the increasing separation of marketing from fulfilment. ?Most of our partners wouldn?t have the financial ability to back a mainframe sale. We want to move to a position where they close the deal, our financial people find ways to help them finance it, and we?ve both sustained a big increase in business,? said Voller.
IBM doesn?t think it?s exposing itself to greater risk by loosening its accreditation procedures. ?We?re moving most of our business to two-tier ? most fulfilment will be done through distribution, and they?re geared up to decide a company?s creditworthiness.?
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