Dell SonicWall partners are calling on Michael Dell to review the way the company sells its line of security appliances and make subtle changes to its direct sales model to fuel growth. Many longtime partners that have gone all in selling the SonicWall appliance line told CRN they now have to share the battlefield with the Dell direct sales force.
"It's not the worst partnership in the world," said Mike Hadley, president and CEO of Boston-based iCorps Technologies, who listened carefully to Michael Dell's address at CRN parent The Channel Company's Best of Breed Conference for signs that improvements were planned. "I was disappointed because I wanted to hear that he was going to focus more on the channel, but what I heard was that they understand the big portion of their business is direct and they intend to keep it that way."
Hadley's team was an early adopter of the SonicWall managed services offering and now manages about 400 SonicWall firewalls. He described business as good, but said that small changes could encourage faster growth. For example, the company could incentivize the direct sales force to work with partners on deals.
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Dell also could provide better discounts, Hadley said, specifically around its global management system, which is very expensive. MSPs use the software for reporting and monitoring of firewalls, automated configuration and patch management as well as applying antivirus signature updates to hordes of client firewalls.
For MSP Cerdant, the Dell relationship has been good, said Mike Johnson, president and CEO of the Dublin, Ohio-based company. Revenue is up 50 percent over the last year and a half, he said.
Dell SonicWall partners need to think of the Dell sales representative as a prospect, said Johnson, one who may need professional services and rely on the channel to provide that expertise. In addition, partners need to establish a relationship with their channel account rep, who plays quarterback for all sales. "We recognize that they are now our lead generation vehicle," Johnson said. "There's been plenty of business out there, but you have to work with the sales rep. There are circumstances where they can sell the hardware and the sales rep can still get the sale toward their quota."
For Tom Snyder, co-founder and CFO of Xantrion, revenue from selling firewalls is inconsequential. The vast majority of margin at the Oakland, Calif.-based company comes from services, Snyder said. Xantrion has about 5,000 endpoints under management, including about 500 firewalls that are proactively managed.
"We've actually decided that it's not worth our effort to meet Dell's certification because the discounts are negligible," Snyder said. "As far as I'm concerned it's a sign of poor channel management. We found that we could buy from Ingram for about the same price Dell sells it to certified partners at a discount." Marvin Blough, vice president of worldwide sales for Dell SonicWall, acknowledged that moving from SonicWall's program, in which 100 percent of sales went through the channel, to a hybrid sales model has caused uncertainty among longtime SonicWall partners. But, he said, those that have stayed aboard during the transition are reaping rewards.
Of about 15,000 partners that work with SonicWall, the company has about 6,000 active partners submitting sales each quarter, Blough said. About 900 partners are certified under Dell's PartnerDirect program with 600 of them in the U.S. and growing, Blough said, as Dell invests in additional training opportunities.
Epicor, which makes business management software for manufacturing, distribution, retail and services industries, has about 8,000 customers that use SonicWall and about 4,500 that use the appliance through the company's managed services program.
Mark Fair, vice president of customer services, said Epicor has been a SonicWall partner for more than a decade and that since the acquisition, "it's pretty much been business as usual." Epicor has stayed with SonicWall because of its market position in the SMB space, and it has 150 people trained on the SonicWall appliance, he said.
PUBLISHED NOV. 22