[credit provider=”AP, Business Insider”]
Chris Weber retired from his job leading Microsoft’s big business sales last September, after 16 years with the company.He planned to take a well-earned rest, maybe do a bit of consulting on the side.
Instead, he got tapped by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop — who left Microsoft a month later — to run Nokia’s North American sales group.
He started on February 11, the same day Nokia chose Windows Phone for all its future smartphones.
In an interview today, Weber explained how Nokia and Microsoft together can “write one of the greatest turnaround stories in history.”
Here’s the plan:
- Work with carriers. Nokia used to bypass mobile phone operators in North America and instead sold unsubsidized phones straight to consumers. This will end. Instead, Nokia will work with all the major carriers to sell subsidized phones at very competitive prices.
- Flood the market with different phones. Nokia plans to release Windows phones in many forms at lots of price points — including some that will undercut the cheapest Android phones out there, which is “the quickest way to gain market share.” Weber reiterated that Nokia hopes to have a Windows Phone out this year, but won’t really begin shipping them in bulk until 2012.
- Seed retail stores. Windows Phone has very high customer satisfaction scores and low return rates — when people get a chance to use it, they love it. But the carriers have buried it at their retail stores and have been guiding users to Android handsets instead. Weber wants to change that by making sure that there are lots of Nokia Windows Phones in stores for customers to test. He also wants to influence clerks — whose average age is 26 — to “carry one on their belt.” He also said Nokia is talking to Microsoft to see how it can work with the 75 stores Microsoft plans to open in the next two or three years — perhaps Nokia can help with logistics and customer support for its phones, for instance.
- Advertise the differences. Weber said every analyst he’s spoken to thinks that Windows Phone 7.5 is competitive with the iPhone and Android (we agree). But Nokia and Microsoft have to do a better job explaining why consumers should check it out. That means spending more money on marketing than Nokia has ever spent before. (Some of that marketing money comes out of the billions Microsoft paid Nokia for the deal — but Weber didn’t know the exact breakdown.)
- Be where the action is. Weber’s predecessor controlled North American sales and marketing out of Nokia’s office in White Plains, New York, but other functions like logistics and customer service still reported to the home office in Finland. Weber will get direct control over those other functions, and will operate out of the new headquarters in Sunnyvale — right in the heart of Silicon Valley — because that’s where the talent, customers, developers, and competitors are.
- Make a stealth play for businesses. Microsoft has focused Windows Phone marketing on consumers, but the platform has a lot of strong features for businesses as well, like a top-notch email client and integration with Office 365 (Microsoft’s cloud-based business suite). Meanwhile, Research In Motion’s slow-motion collapse is loosening its grip on the enterprise market. Nokia will work with the enterprise sales forces of carriers, as well as the Microsoft enterprise sales force that Weber used to lead, to push its phones to business customers and IT departments.
- Get really close to Microsoft’s platform plans. Microsoft is eventually moving to a single platform and “ecosystem” for PCs, tablets, and phones. Weber said that Nokia is not only “plugged in” across that ecosystem, but is influencing it as well. Reading between the lines: don’t be surprised if Nokia puts out a Windows 8 tablet. (Weber declined to comment on Nokia’s tablet plans, however.)
Weber isn’t starry-eyed about Nokia’s chances — he admitted that the company has a lot of hard work and could still fall apart on execution.
But he also thinks that Stephen Elop was smart to realise the mobile war is a war of ecosystems — hardware, software, services, and carriers. It’s not just about having the best phones or software platform.
He contrasted Nokia with Research In Motion, which is stuck with a decade-old platform built for communications rather than a full smartphone ecosystem, and HP, whose WebOS seems to be bogged down by a lack of partners.
By teaming up with Microsoft, Nokia at l