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HPE channel partners grapple with shift to consultative sales

Hewlett Packard Enterprise seeks to align its channel partners with consultative sales strategies as the vendor looks to expand sales for GreenLake consumption-based offerings.

As Hewlett Packard Enterprise invests further in consumption-based pricing models and offerings, the company and its HPE channel partners face a challenging transition for how they traditionally sell technology.

HPE has spearheaded its push into consumption-based pricing with its GreenLake portfolio. GreenLake targets growth-oriented customers that would benefit from consuming IT resources aligned with their changing requirements over time, thereby avoiding costly upfront infrastructure investments. While HPE believes GreenLake puts forward a compelling value proposition, especially for SMB customers, the vendor recognizes that its partners' sales teams must develop new consultative approaches to market and sell it.

"[HPE channel partners] need to evolve from talking about features and benefits, which is historically what we were doing 10 years ago, to [now talking] about the role that IT plays as … part of the core strategy of the company," said Paul Hunter, worldwide partner sales leader at HPE.

Hunter added that HPE channel partners must also learn to target their sales effort beyond the tech-oriented domain of IT departments and communicate with other lines of business within customer organizations. "The audience that [HPE channel partners] need to talk to is multiplying, and, therefore, to be credible in that world, they need to be using different language, they need different skills … and that involves our partners investing in the skilling of their salesforces," Hunter said.

Paul HunterPaul Hunter

The sales transition is easier said than done, as Hunter noted many partners struggle to align with pitching a business outcome versus an IT solution. For some partners' salespeople, selling a Capex bill is a quicker and easier route to go with than a consumption-based offer. He said that HPE's internal sales organization continues to grapple with the transition, as well.

Stepping up HPE partner enablement

HPE plans to support partners as they shift from traditional sales approaches to the more consultative strategies required for cloud and consumption-based engagements, Hunter said.

In addition to training, the vendor currently provides several partner-enablement tools, including Seismic, an online library of sales and technical information that HPE launched a couple of years ago. The library provides a single set of sales and technical information for both HPE's internal staff and channel partners. HPE also recently introduced three online forums -- the Tech Pro, Marketing Pro and Sales Pro communities -- to foster collaboration and information sharing among partners and HPE internal teams.

Hunter said HPE will soon introduce an on-demand digital learning platform for partners to help develop their sales approaches. The platform contains an educational series on sales techniques such as whiteboarding, for example, and has already been rolled out to HPE's internal sales teams.

"What we are doing is we are writing and scripting what we think 'good' looks like," Hunter said of the platform.

For Compugen, a solution provider and HPE partner based in Richmond Hill, Ont., the digital learning platform could be a game-changer. According to Harry Zarek, president and CEO of Compugen, on-demand training is a critical tool for the company, "because it is hard to pull people out of the field and get them dedicated. This way we can proactively better manage when they can … do this work."

The world is evolving to one where our partners need to be able to talk about business outcomes.
Paul HunterWorldwide partner sales leader, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Compugen is in the midst of training its sales organization to better engage customers with consumption-based offerings. The company, which also partners with Microsoft, has already gained expertise in selling cloud services but still has work to do.

"We are already well-versed on cloud workloads and the consumption models and how those are being purchased today by a lot of customers," Zarek said. "We do have enough folks in our organization to carry on those conversations -- not at scale, not across hundreds of customers yet -- but we can do that with a hand-selected … set of customers. As with all these things, we are all learning on the job, so to speak."

Zarek noted that HPE has been investing in training Compugen's teams on how to position GreenLake and align the portfolio with customers. The company has a couple of GreenLake opportunities in the works but still considers its involvement in the GreenLake portfolio at an early stage.

Is there still a role for traditional sales strategies?

Although Hunter stressed the importance of HPE channel partners adopting consultative sales approaches, he said the traditional way partners have sold products and services won't necessarily become defunct anytime soon.

"Not everything is going to be sold like [GreenLake]. It will be a much bigger part of our mix … and it will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. That is not to say there is no more reseller or typical solutions being put together. There are, and there will continue to be," Hunter said.

HPE channel partners, however, must reckon with how customer expectations continue to change, he added. "The world is evolving to one where our partners need to be able to talk about business outcomes. … [Customers] want to talk about how you are going to connect them with something that enables them to produce new services, reduce costs faster, move more quickly. … Therefore, it is incumbent on our partners to connect technology with business outcomes. … [Customers] are expecting people they can trust, that they can give them meaningful advice on their future."

As a national solution provider, Zarek said Compugen seeks to align its sales strategy with the maturity of its individual customer accounts. Compugen has customers on either side of the spectrum. Some customers are at the front end of transformation and look to Compugen for leadership and support on its transformational journey, while others embrace a traditional model, he said. To meet a mix of customer needs requires Compugen to have a mix of salespeople who are adept at conventional sales as well as the more consultative, business-oriented approach that HPE is zeroing in on.

"What we have to do is … identify how we scale and transform our salesforce so we are … just a little bit ahead of customers [so] that we can pull them along, but not so far ahead so that we get disconnected. If we are too far behind them, they will think we are irrelevant," Zarek said.

In the last six to 12 months, HPE has taken "the right strategic long-term thinking about how they need to operate against this maturity model," he added.

"I don't see that from other [vendors]," Zarek said. "Other [vendors] are saying you go all in into the new and forget about the old. I think that is a very dangerous proposition for a large business, which is what we have, and a large set of customers. The journey … that HPE is sharing with us allows us to get onboard in a very planned, predictive way and be able to optimize where we are along that journey."

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