Intermec's Three Channel Tenets


Experience counts when building a program


It never ceases to amaze me how many channel programs are thrown together without so much as a pinch of channel smarts, strategic planning or even data aimed at recruiting partners. Some companies are willing to spend heavily to build a direct-sales force but, more often than not, look at the cost of building an indirect sales channel as an office expense like buying paper clips. That’s why it’s heartening when you see a vendor that takes a thoughtful, long-term and strategic view of the channel and is willing to make an investment to make it happen.

That’s certainly the case with Intermec, a maker of rugged industrial-strength mobile computing devices for specialized markets, which has tapped a number of Hewlett-Packard’s best and brightest channel veterans to take a direct-sales-dominated culture and build a world-class channel offering in only two and a half years.

The channel commitment, of course, starts at the top with President and CEO Patrick J. Byrne, a 24-year HP veteran who took the top job at Intermec nearly five years ago. Byrne has brought on board four top HPers with channel DNA including Vice President of Global Channels Scott Anderson, a 28-year HP veteran; Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing Jim McDonnell, a 26-year HP veteran; Senior Director of Americas Channels Laura Blackmer, an 18-year HP veteran; and Senior Director of Global Alliances Andy Stento, a 22-year HP veteran.

The Intermec dream team, led by Anderson, has put together a program that has channel business firing on all cylinders. Case in point: Intermec just posted its best channel sales numbers in its recent fourth quarter.

Anderson, who has worked virtually his entire career in channels starting with a role developing channels for HP calculators, took the concept of the old HP “hard deck” and implemented it at Intermec. That hard deck program prevents Intermec’s direct-sales force from quoting any deals outside the 135 top accounts and even includes a “hard coded” computer system to ensure it can’t happen. “It’s a barrier to tripping over our own two feet,” he said.

The Intermec program was built on three sturdy channel tenets:

Predictability: “We talk the talk and walk the walk,” Anderson said. “We are not going to change on you. This is a long-term thing. It not a six-month thing or something we are going to change every couple of weeks.”

Transparency: “We publish our policies,” Anderson said. “We tell you what they are and are not going to try to hide anything. If we have got direct accounts, we are not going to try to hide them. We are going to be forthcoming with them. Here is our policy and here is how we will work with you.”

Governance: That means living your channel predictability and transparency policies every day, in the sales trenches without exception. “If you don’t live by those rules day in and day out, you will fail,” said Anderson.

The sales growth that Intermec’s channel expertise and investment is driving is going to pay off for the company and its partners now and for years to come.

BACKTALK: What do you think of Intermec’s channel sales tenets? Contact Steve Burke at steve.burke@ubm.com.