Channel Gung-Ho Over Microsoft's Dell Investment


No matter what happens, Axis Business Solutions' Estes says his company will continue to become more strategic with Dell, which has become an enterprise channel solutions power under Dell CEO Michael Dell's leadership. Axis has been a Dell channel partner since 2007 and has seen its business soar as the Dell CEO has transformed the company from a channel antagonist into a seasoned channel partner with a product portfolio that runs from the desktop to the data center.

"Michael has been critical to our success" said Estes. "He has reshaped the company. In the early days it was difficult. Dell had to overcome that direct-only mentality. Michael repeating the mantra of Dell being channel focused has really changed the company. Without his vision it would have failed because that direct mentality was so ingrained in Dell. He made sure the direct sales force got the message that Dell needed to embrace the channel. And it has been good for Dell and for Dell's partners."

Key to Dell's success is a broad and deep engagement strategy with robust field engineering and sales talent working hand in hand with Axis to deliver a full enterprise Dell solutions suite. "Dell has put its money where its mouth is" said Estes. "They have quality field reps. We aren't talking to somebody in Oklahoma or Austin or Seattle. We have storage and networking engineers we work with and other local resources with a great channel management team coordinating all the resources. With Dell behind us, we have been able to deliver a much wider range of solutions. Michael Dell has made sure VARs like us have knowledgeable and experienced technical, sales and channel resources that are essentially part of our team."

Estes said his Dell relationship is much more strategic than his relationship with other vendors that often tout their channel commitment. He sees a potential Microsoft investment in Dell making both Microsoft and Dell more focused on working hand in hand on consultative/solutions sales with partners. "It allows both of them to be more consultative versus narrowly focused on transactional sales," he said. "It should definitely improve margins."

FutureTech's Venero sees the potential Microsoft investment in Dell as a big win for Dell, Microsoft and their partners.

"This gives Microsoft an investment that will be very profitable for them," he said. "It's a great investment. They are supporting one of their largest OEMs. Every Dell system comes with a Microsoft operating system and business software." Dell is also one of Microsoft's Large Account Resellers (LARs), a select group of Microsoft partners that sell enterprise software licenses. "Dell sells a tremendous amount of Microsoft software," said Venero. "I think it is awesome that Microsoft is willing to step up and sees the value of investing in Dell's model. Microsoft generally doesn't make this type of investment. Generally Microsoft would make an acquisition rather than an investment. But, I think this is going to be very profitable for them."

Venero, who has met more than once with the Dell CEO as he has built up his Dell business, credited Michael Dell with the vision to make Dell a much stronger player in the enterprise solutions market. "Michael Dell has always had a strategic vision beyond the next year or two's business," said Venero. "Michael is always thinking about how to move the business forward. He is always willing to look out into the future and adjust and change the business. Look at what he has done in the channel. He believed in the direct model and then he made an adjustment because it was good for the company."

Dell may be the only legendary founder still active that is driving his company to the next level. "He isn't satisfied with the status quo," said Venero of Dell. "He is making changes and adjustment to grow his company."

PUBLISHED JAN. 22, 2013