HP Vice President of Worldwide Partner Sales Strategy Thomas Jensen is mounting an offensive to drive a strategic sales transformation in the channel with the launch of HP University.
HP University – which will be unveiled at HP's Reinvent Worldwide Partner Forum being held Sept. 11-13 in Chicago – is one of the $48 billion PC and printer behemoth's biggest investments ever aimed at getting partners to drive recurring revenue, multiyear strategic services deals rather than transactional hardware-based sales.
HP University, in fact, represents what may well be the first comprehensive move by a major PC vendor to bring a strategic selling course aimed at changing how tens of thousands of sales reps engage with customers.
"This is all about sales growth and how partners can capture the new [recurring revenue Device-as-a-Service] market," said Jensen, who has been working on the HP University program for more than a year. "There has never been anything like this in our industry. This is a massive effort."
The "revolutionary" training for the first time provides solution provider sales reps with HP's extensive catalog of sales training including strategic solution selling, fundamentals of sales, advanced negotiation and solution selling, said Jensen.
"Every vendor is bombarding partners with product knowledge and product training, but nobody until now has helped them with how to sell," said Jensen. "This is about helping partners adapt to the changing dynamics in the market. It is about the transition from transactional to services-led sales. This is about transforming the mind-set of a salesperson. Selling an annual recurring revenue stream is different than selling a product."
The course that could have the biggest impact on the channel is the strategic solutions selling training – a two-day, on-site course available immediately -- which is focused on driving highly consultative sales with CIOs and CEOs, said Jensen. "This is a radically different value proposition than what many partners have been doing," he said. "You can't go in with the old toolbox."
Up until now, no vendor has addressed how to actually transform the partner sales force to sell services and solutions, said Jensen. "Everybody in the industry focuses on products, certifications or how you market products," he said. "This is not about product. This is about how to sell."
HP has already completed the sales skills training with 4,000 members of its own sales force including its specialty sales force, end-user reps and about 1,000 HP channel sales reps. "We developed this training catalog for our own sales force so we made it available for our channel partners," said Jensen.
The sales training – which is not mandatory – came in part from partners looking for help trying to cross the chasm from capital-expenditure-based transactional product sales to strategic recurring revenue models. "Many partners have not had the finances or critical mass to go out and buy an expensive industry course like this," said Jensen. "This is what the channel has been crying for for a long time."
The training represents a sharp break from the traditional product speeds-and-feeds sales training that most vendors have done, said Jensen. "We are taking on this responsibility on behalf of the entire industry," he said.
Strategic sales skills training historically has resulted in a significant increase in the close rate of sales reps that take the courses, said Jensen.
HP sees itself benefiting from the close relationship it will develop with sales reps – even those that could potentially lead with competitive products. "We see these reps as an extension of our sales force," said Jensen. "We are willing to take that responsibility. Frankly, I think they are going to remember who delivered this training to them."
HP piloted the on-site, two-day strategic sales skills training with four solution providers with about 100 sales reps, said Jensen. The rating from partners that took the training are 4.5 and above compared with 3.5 to 4.2 in the past, said Jensen.
Overall, HP has piloted the training with more than 30 partners around the globe in Europe and the U.S. "We had partners going through the training giving us feedback before we designed it and signed off on it," said Jensen.
HP also is delivering for the first time a marketing training skills courses that includes elements such as social selling.That course is just being rolled out internally to HP's own employees.The marketing training skills course will be available over the next six to eight months, said Jensen. "The minute we know we have the right courses internally we will roll them out to partners," said Jensen.
The more traditional HP University elements include courses on certifications including Device-as-a-Service, managed print, vertical markets and product areas such as A3 or mobile computing. That said, HP has redesigned the training for the modern era with web- and video-based training methodology and additional content.
The new sales training includes traditional elements such as online video and virtual and web-based training, but also a comprehensive two-day on-site training for solution providers. There is no cost for the web-based or video-based training, but there will be a charge for the comprehensive two-day sales training, said Jensen.
HP has not yet priced the training, but stressed that it will strictly be aimed at covering HP's costs rather than as a profit center. "We are not in it to make money on training," he said. "What we are interested in is upscaling the industry so they can sell more solutions together with us. What we are going to charge is basically our cost."
HP University will be available via HP's Sales Central portal and its partner portal.
HP's aim with the breadth and depth of the training is to appeal to every segment of the channel, including millennial sales reps who may want to take the training in smaller content intervals, said Jensen. "We are doing all the elements of modern learning that you consume on the go with your cellphone," said Jensen. "You can do this online or off-line. This is modern education."
Jensen sees the training having a "massive impact" on helping the channel make the transition to recurring revenue strategic selling. "You need to change the mind-set of the sales reps to understand financing, balance sheets, Capex vs. Opex decisions, security, how you drive services over just products," he said. "That is not an intuitive shift, especially from sales forces that have traditionally been very product-focused, which is what we see with our partners and HP. This is going to have an impact on partners configuring their business. …This is about preserving the partner business model and helping them survive in the future. Partners need this to survive and transform their business model."