Dell's Greg Davis: Training Is Key To SonicWall Integration


Dell's channel plan for its acquisition of SonicWall is very similar to its plan for previous acquisitions, said Greg Davis, Dell's vice president and general manager of global commercial channels.

Dell took great steps to ensure that partners coming over in the company's EqualLogic, Compellent and Force 10 Networks acquisitions had a painless transition, Davis said, adding that channel sales of all three companies grew after being integrated into Dell's PartnerDirect program.

"What I'd like to tell current Dell partners and existing SonicWall partners is, 'Look what we've done to make you feel comfortable and bring the best to bear for you,' " Davis said. "There is opportunity for channel partners to engage with Dell, grow profitably with Dell. Our intent is to offer the same opportunities to [SonicWall] partners through this acquisition."

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Dell and SonicWall will spend the next few weeks ironing out program details for partners and then several more weeks integrating that strategy, Davis said.

"We still have a lot of due diligence and work to do prior to everything being finalized. Over the last several weeks, we've been very involved in understanding their technology and channel. We will learn a lot about their programs, partners, etc., that we don't know today," Davis said. "Having said that, SonicWall has a great reputation in the channel with 15,000 partners and a program that is very similar to ours."

The key to a successful transition between the two sets of partners will be offering the appropriate training, both sales and technical, to partners, Davis said.

"We've made significant investments in the channel business and training our partners and our own sales teams on all the new technologies we've [acquired]. That ensures that partners have the skills to represent the products well and become experts in front of the customer. That's been the cornerstone of our [PartnerDirect] program the last three or four years," Davis said.

Dell delivered 135,000 training courses to solution providers last year and has a goal to deliver 250,000 this year, Davis said. The strategy involves going deeper with existing partners -- training 10 sales reps as opposed to two within a solution provider organization, but also expanding the solution portfolio, he added.

While some solution providers grouse about the amount of vendor training courses they're required to take, Davis said Dell's sales numbers tell them the most successful partners are those that are engaged in training.

"I completely understand that investing in training is expensive for partners. It's time out of the office; it's potential billable hours lost. But well-trained partners are growing the fastest. It's incumbent on me and the sales team to communicate that. And we don't charge for training," Davis said.

After the acquisition closes, Dell will begin marketing SonicWall training toward legacy Dell partners.

"It's another exciting opportunity for us. Our intent is very similar to [other acquisitions], to integrate their programs and value-add into Dell's value-add and create even better solutions for partners," Daivs said. "Channel partners continue to ask us to bring us new opportunities to grow and make money. We see this as a great opportunity to do that."