Progress Report on Dell’s Channel Initiatives

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Cheryl Cook speaks at the Dell User Forum in MiamiWith summer in full swing and about six months under our belt since we launched big changes to our PartnerDirect channel program, I thought now would be a great time to give you an update on the progress and momentum we’re experiencing.

The Dell World 2013 series of announcements and program updates received considerable buzz in leading industry publications such as CRN, TechTarget/SearchITChannel, and Channelnomics. While the stories and supporting partner commentary were enthusiastic, each also mentioned they wanted to see where the rubber meets the road, meaning let’s wait to see the execution of the plans.  We’re continuing to hear great feedback, and even more importantly seeing more engagement from both Dell and the partner community, and I wanted to share some observations since launching the updates.

On February 1, which is the start of the fiscal year at Dell, we formally instituted the financial incentives which encourage our direct sales team to work with channel partners, aligned our coverage models to foster collaboration with these partners, and increased our investments in partner rewards and expanded access to Dell equipment. The momentum in our overall direct business and indirect business are both healthy.  Our goal is to keep growing channel share and revenue and outpace overall market growth. In calendar year 2013 we were at 2-3x market growth and so far this year we’re on a pace to double that. In North America and EMEA, the uptick in growth has been universal across all key partner types experiencing double digit growth and Distribution partners experienced triple digit growth. North America partner revenue also saw double digit growth with the same ratio of gains in Client/End User Computing, Enterprise Solutions and Software.

One of the ways we measure partner engagement is through deal registrations, and in Q1 hit a global record high of over 87,000. This is an increase of 22 percent from last quarter and ~15 percent year-over-year. In Software alone, deal registrations were up more than 55 percent! With our deal registration approval rating staying constant around 70 percent, this means the overall activity and traction is up substantially.

Other gauges we used are around partner rewards and enablement activities. Partner rebate pay-out is up over 40 percent year-over-year, which means partners are selling more. Partners are also engaged in training and enablement activities with the number of students completing courses growing 6 percent and the number of partner companies completing training at 12 percent year-over-year. Substantial traction is also showing up in software training and competencies. Software training course completions are up 126 percdent and partners completing software competencies is up over 62 percent.

If I had to grade our efforts over the past six months I’d give Dell a B. We made some very real and strong improvements in the predictability of partners working with us. We also delivered financial incentives to show we’re “walking the walk” and to encourage behavior and culture change, and rolled out the program across Europe.  But we have not been perfect and there’s always room to improve – the program rollout was not consistent for all partners in all segments, and we still hear of unequal engagement levels between the Dell salesforce and partners in different regions of countries.  Dell is a very large global company and any new change is not always a linear process, but we’re working day and night to make any tweaks required to ensure a great experience for customers and channel partners alike.

Finally, more recently, we made some organizational changes that maximize our channel DNA. Long time Dell channel exec Bob Skelley, was promoted to run North America Channel Sales. Replacing Bob in his previous role of running Global Channel Programs and Training is is Michael O’Brien. In addition to leading his former Global Systems Integrator (GSI) business development team, Michael now leads the PartnerDirect Programs and Enablement teams that include Global Training and Enablement and the Partner Resource Desk. These changes enable us to align our resources to provide maximum support for our partners.

It’s best when we can find out directly from our partners what they are experiencing in their businesses and in the field.  Here is what some of them had to say:

“We have seen exponential growth in Q1 and Q2 this year with Dell. With Dell’s transition to align the channel and direct sales teams, we’ve been able to add incremental clients resulting in new Dell category sales, including networking and Dell Wyse. The growth has been substantial, putting Dell on a trajectory to compete for the top OEM by revenue category by the end of 2014.”  – Bob Bogle, SVP, Sales, En Pointe Technologies

“We recently met with a client who expressed interest in looking at all Dell product lines, despite purchasing HP workstations and servers for decades. Thanks to Dell’s increased investment in their channel program to provide partners with demo equipment, we were able to bring in all the laptops we received so our clients could experience them hands-on. The client audience went from just the IT staff to a company-wide event where each executive, manager or department chair was able to come in and choose which laptops would work best for them. I believe this changed the customer’s perception from Centre being a Dell reseller or partner to being an extension of Dell’s sales team.”  – Chris Pace, CEO, Centre Technologies

“With the support of Dell’s Global Channel team, Avalon Technologies continually tweaks its business model to more fully align with Dell initiatives and leverage available resources.  When Dell announced all the enhancements to their channel program, we created a full-time position so an Avalon liaison could be immediately responsive to Dell technical and sales resources. Through frequent conversations with Dell, our reps identified a significant opportunity at a local school district.  We immediately engaged the decision-maker and brought the client to our executive briefing center that is supported by Dell seed units.  Avalon reps were able to demonstrate specific Dell product capabilities that matched the client’s objectives, moving the conversation from the conceptual to the tangible, and for this client, seeing was believing! Due to the collaboration between Avalon and Dell and our collective speed to market, we ultimately earned this $1.25M client win and this customer has subsequently recommended us to other colleagues.”  – Brian Flynn, President, Avalon Technologies

Since we launched the PartnerDirect program seven years ago, we continue to build it out based on partner feedback and today, that is no different.  Please continue to send us your comments, thoughts and suggestions either through your Dell representative or in the comment section below. You’re also invited to engage with me on Twitter via @CookCherylS.

Crowd at the South Asia Dell Channel Partner Summit

A crowd of partners at the recent South Asia Dell Channel Summit learns about new technology solutions.

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