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Big Blue to sales staff: Go far and small

Looking to boost sales in smaller companies and internationally, IBM cozies up to business partners with dedicated sales force.

LAS VEGAS--IBM will dedicate 1,000 salespeople to its partners in an effort to boost international sales and sales to medium-size businesses.

The company said the sales personnel will work directly with partners to generate leads and close deals through regional systems integrators and independent software vendors, which build applications targeted at small and midsize companies. IBM announced the staff changes at its PartnerWorld Conference here Monday.

In the past two years, IBM has boosted its investments in partner-related programs. In 2004, for example, it said it spent $1 billion on efforts to recruit and work with independent software vendors.

Revenue through partners increased about 10 percent in 2004, reaching $32 billion out of IBM's total revenue of $89 billion. More than half of IBM's hardware sales and about a fourth of its software revenue come through partners, Donn Atkins, general manager of IBM Global Business Partners, said Monday.

This year, the company intends to have its IBM Global Services consulting arm work more closely with partners, Atkins said. Services represent nearly half of IBM's turnover.

In its efforts to sell to smaller organizations, IBM has developed a logo program for application providers that write their programs using IBM's infrastructure software. Big Blue's Express brand of products--which includes versions of its WebSphere Java server software, DB2 database and Lotus collaboration software--are designed to be less expensive and simpler to maintain than the higher-end versions.

The Built On IBM Express Portfolio will be available to qualified business partners and will be linked to an updated suite of Express back-end software, Atkins said. Access to the program entitles partners to marketing dollars with IBM.

Similarly, IBM said it will give some partners around the world access to IBM's advertising discounts for joint marketing initiatives.

On the hardware side, IBM introduced a program called SystemSeller, which helps partners more quickly acquire "competitively priced" servers and storage in configurations that appeal to midmarket customers, Atkins said.

SystemSeller will be available this year for IBM's TotalStorage line and its xSeries, OpenPower, pSeries and BladeCenter systems. It intends to extend the program to global financing, services and its Workplace client software later this year, Atkins said.