Dell Sales Boss Bill Scannell: ‘Build Credibility’ With Partners ‘Then We Win’
‘If we build better trust with our partners, and if we’re out in the field, arm in arm with our partners, working, building that credibility in front of our customers. Then we win,’ Dell Technologies head of worldwide sales Bill Scannell tells CRN. ‘And when you win, that gets you trying to do it again and again and again. And that’s what you’re looking for.’
There’s a simple rule that Dell Technologies’ Bill Scannell has laid down for his organization.
“I said I want you to spend as much time in front of partners as you do in front of customers,” the president of global sales and customer operations told CRN this week. “I don’t really care if you come into our office, as long as you’re in a customer’s office or a partner’s office. At the end of the day, that’s where the action takes place, and you don’t build trust over the phone or over Zoom. You need to get face to face.”
Scannell, who started his career with EMC 37 years ago, said he keeps the same rule for himself, spending some weekends with Dell channel partners near his Boston-area home, when not having them into the office during the week.
“I spend every bit as much time with my channel partners as I do with my end user customers because I know how it can change the trajectory of our business,” he said.
Dell sales last year reached $102.3 billion, better than the year prior by $1.1 billion, when the global leader in IT infrastructure enjoyed its most successful year in company history. Of those sales, Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) revenue accounted for $38.4 billion for the full year, up 12 percent from the prior year.
Scannell — who took Dell’s top sales job when Marius Haas retired in 2019 — is once again on the hook for a big number this year, and said the only way he knows how to reach it, is through the channel.
“If we build better trust with our partners, and if we’re out in the field, arm-in-arm with our partners, working, building that credibility in front of our customers. Then we win,” he said. “And when you win, that gets you trying to do it again and again and again. And that’s what you’re looking for.”
He offered to talk with CRN at Dell’s offices in Massachusetts earlier this week. Scannell was just coming off a second-place finish in the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am championship where he was paired with professional golfers J.T. Poston and Ryan Palmer, as well as Dell customers Dan Frey and Jay Snyder.
“We were in first place until the very last group came up. They made a birdie net eagle, and we made a bogey net par. If we had made a par net birdie, we would have won,” he said.
In his biography, “Play Nice But Win,” Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell wrote that as a child he looked a flagstaffs in front of sprawling corporate headquarters around Houston and wanted a building like that of his own someday. There are three flag poles outside of Dell’s offices in Hopkinton, Mass. They carry the U.S. flag, the Massachusetts flag, and a white flag with blue letters that spell Dell Technologies.
Inside the building, just past the front doors and on display along the walls of the common areas are sleek, black Dell server cabinets illuminated from within by blue LED lights. More of the servers that are sold around the world carry the Dell logo than any other brand. And the reason they do is due in no small part to the man upstairs.
“Our plan has always been No. 1 in everything we do,” Scannell said, seated in a conference room above the whirring servers on the first floor. “We want to be the category killer … There’s nothing that can compete with this technology from performance, to availability, to integrations with all the hyperscalers. That’s one of the unique advantages we have.”
The opportunity before Dell seems to grow every year.
The world’s data centers, where Dell dominates, were already expanding quickly. In March, IDC predicted that while there has been a dip in unit demand, the server market grew 15.3 percent year over year and it is expected to grow by 7.7-percent over the next five years. The emergence of generative AI seems to have only accelerated the demand from businesses to deploy high-powered, IT infrastructure like Dell’s Project Helix, which pairs its PowerEdge Xe9680 servers with eight of Nvidia’s H100 Tensor Core GPUs.
“It’s still early days, but we expect to be No. 1 in that space as well as far as being the infrastructure provider of choice for these AI farms that are popping up,” Scannell said. “Companies want to build AI into their built their businesses. We are very focused on building unique solutions, unique partnerships with Nvidia, and still a lot more to come.”
Here is more of what Scannell had to say about the opportunity for Dell’s partners with APEX, AI, and Dell Technologies.
Where is Dell pointing partners in terms of driving opportunity around APEX. Where do you see the greatest chance for them to win with Dell?
As I look at the landscape, this economic cycle we’re in right now. It’s challenging. Every customer I meet with is not saying, ‘Hey, Bill, I want more and more vendors partners to work with.’
It’s more strategic and they’re all looking for who is in our ecosystem of partners, and what can we collect that we bring to the table? And I would say our portfolio has never been stronger. So whether you work remotely or from the office or hybrid, our message is resonating really well.
And when you think about our multi-cloud strategy, you can’t have a multi-cloud offering without having
flexible consumption models, which goes into your question around APEX.
APEX is the answer for that. If they want to do a fully managed service. We can do that with APEX.
Early on it was like anyone else, we had to kind of figure out the market, and the channel partners are saying ‘How do we play?’
Now I think if you talk to channel partners, they say, ‘This is awesome, because we can offer the full, end-to-end APEX offering.
We allow them to do the services if they want to do the service and they’re capable. If they don’t, with Project Harmony, which we announced at Dell Technologies World, they can actually sell it to us and we can deliver the services the managed services for them. There’s no difference for partners whether they sell it lease it or do an APEX model.
[Dell Technologies later clarified that with Project Harmony partners will ‘maintain total control of the customer relationship and Dell acts as an extension of their teams by delivering the managed services for them.’]
One partner wanted to know how much of the APEX opportunity is being driven by the channel?
It’s like anything else? Early days, I expect my sales organization and pre-sales organization to be better equipped to position the offering.
So if the partners don’t know how to do it yet, we’ll bring them along for the ride. If they say, ‘Hey, my particular customer wants to subscribe to the infrastructure, but I don’t really understand APEX.’
We say, ‘Bring us along. We’ll help you articulate the value proposition. Make sure we understand what the customer is looking for. And then we’ll write it up on your paper.’
What is Dell’s strategy to position PowerFlex to the mid-market and are there any other integrations planned with any other technology partners?
Our plan has always to be No. 1 in everything we do. We want to be the category killer. So if you look the position of Power Max and V Max before that. It’s been the number one product if you look at our scale out, our file product with Power Scale, number one in the category. If I look at PowerFlex, our software defined storage, number one in the market, if I look at PowerStore, we expect to be number one in the market.
So it’s a platform. It’s built on containers. We can quickly do enhancements to get it integrated with other people’s IP. It’s a flexible architecture that no one else has yet. It’s a multi controller architecture and it’s we think it’s a great product and we continue to see incredible results year over year, quarter over quarter.
At the show you mentioned the opportunity around AI and it was a call to action to partners. You were saying the deals for AI are coming in and they are big. How has it been going since then in terms of momentum?
We’re winning in the market every day. Whether it’s our PC that’s AI-enabled, whether it’s purpose-built servers that we have the 9680 server that runs with Nvidia GPUs.
As I said, every customer is doing something they’re either talking about it or making moves to leverage AI. So whether it’s a medium business they’re doing, they might go use AI as a service from a service provider. If it’s an enterprise that looking to do their own thing, and I even throughout some of these transactions, some of these opportunities are $25 and $50 million, but there’s also several in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
So it’s still early days, but we expect to beNo. 1 in that space as well as being the infrastructure provider of choice for these AI farms that are popping up. But companies want to build AI into their businesses. We are very focused on building unique solutions, unique partnerships with Nvidia and still a lot more to come.
Whether its HPE, VMware or Nutanix, everyone on the infrastructure side of the market is talking about interoperability, and if you go with us you can avoid cloud-lock in. How is Dell cutting through that to get to the channel partners say and this is this is why you need to come with us?
You have to look at the portfolio first of all. If you think about the architecture, I mentioned, some of the products, things like PowerFlex. It’s software defined. It’s built to run on prem, or in the cloud. So I can move workloads. I can create a virtual storage array and run it in one of the hyperscalers.
So you want to talk about workloads that burst from on prem, to the cloud during peak periods of time? We have that on PowerFlex. The growth of this PowerFlex businesses, you talk about disruptive technologies, it’s incredible!
The largest financial services in the world are standardizing on this. We’re benchmarking against everybody. There’s nothing that can compete with this technology from performance to an availability from an integration with all the hyperscalers.
That’s one of the unique advantages we have.
Second is we build appliances. So a lot of the hyperscalers have customers that don’t run it want to run their workloads in the cloud, they want to run it on prem. So we build a stack for Azure so you can run it on prem or in the cloud and move workloads back and forth. Likewise, we’re building appliances for Google and for AWS.
So if you really want a multi cloud offering, we can build it.
Cloud is all about ruthless standardization. It’s not about having one of everything. So if you’ve got to pick a partner to really standardize with for your multi cloud strategy, there’s nobody better than the market leader Dell Technologies. We’ve got the right portfolio. I mean, we don’t have one widget that we try to pigeonhole into every use case.
We have the right tool for the right job. So we can help them standardize their on prem workloads, and then facilitate moving workloads to the hyperscalers, and moving them back.
The last five years, all you heard about were about these workloads going to the cloud. Now people in the cloud are saying, ‘Holy smokes. This is expensive. Can someone find me a more cost effective solution?’ So we working with some of the biggest and smallest and midsize customers in the world who are saying ‘Hey, Dell, can you model what it would cost to run these workloads on prem versus the public cloud?’
And generally speaking, it’s about 40 to 45-percent less expensive to run it on prem, or in a colo of your choice than in the public cloud. However In many cases, it’s 50 to 60 percent less, in some cases it is close to 70 percent, less expensive to run it on prem, than from public cloud.
So we work with the hyperscalers, but at the end of the day, we want to work with our partners and our customers provide the right solutions at the right price point for their workloads.
And that’s where I think the biggest opportunity is: helping people really figure out what workloads should run in the cloud, which one is better service on prem? Because there is a place for public cloud in for workloads to be in the public cloud. But likewise, there’s a big opportunity for on prem workloads.
Dell’s infrastructure sales were down last quarter, but some of the partners I talked with said they haven’t seen that softness in their business. How much of that business is coming through partners?
Some partners have windfall deals, very large deals, and that can mask a lot of sins. Others they may have done a couple large deals last year at this time this quarter they don’t repeat that and they’re seeing a little bit of a challenge. But I would say generally speaking, our partner sales still account for approximately 50-percent of revenue.
And if you look at what we did for revenue last year, I mean, just do the math, that’s a pretty big number going through our partners.
I was on with two different partners this morning. They’re doing great and love their partnership with us and they want to double down with us because again, that message around fueling more strategic partners and our customers don’t want to buy products, they want to buy solutions and outcomes. And the markets are all kind of coming our way.
There is so much motion in the market, what is the opportunity that is in front of Dell’s 240,000 partners? What keeps them in the Dell ecosystem?
We’ve got a great reach into the market. They’re hearing the same thing from their customers, our customers, our mutual customers. And that is, ‘Hey, don’t come try to sell me a product. I’m looking for outcomes. I’m looking for solutions. I’m looking for strategic partnerships.’
So the opportunity for us to go win with them in the space.
I spend every bit as much time with my channel partners I do with my end user customers because I know how it can change the trajectory of our business.
I mean, in life, if people like you, they start to try to trust you, if they trust you, they want to work with you. And whether it’s a customer or whether it’s a partner, I have the same philosophy, which is if we do right by them in good times, and in tough times, they’re not going to have a short memory.
I tell my global sales organization the same thing. I said I want you to spend as much time in front of partners as you do in front of customers. I don’t really care if you come into our office, as long as you’re in a customer’s office or a partner’s office. At the end of the day that’s where the action takes place, and you don’t build trust over the phone or over Zoom. You need to get face to face.
You want to build these trusted relationships because in the long run when our customers see us interacting in front of them, arm in arm, delivering the same message, talking about the same outcomes, it builds credibility. And there’s nothing that tops credibility in front of customers.
Partners have talked publicly about how much they like the incentives around APEX and moving that product. How do you stay competitive against an established player like an HPE, which in some cases shares partners with you and you are competing for the same mind share?
We don’t make it more lucrative to sell APEX versus an on you versus a purchase or lease because we want our sales teams and our partners to do the right thing for our customers provide what they’re looking for.
Don’t incent someone so much that they sell someone a square peg for a round hole, right?
So now whether it’s APEX, or a traditional purchase or a lease partners make the same money, they can provide the same services. It’s very lucrative front end and back-end rebates. Right. And that’s how we try to look at all of our offerings to say, if we do this, and we build this trust with our partners, and we have the credibility with our customers, magic happens in the field.
If HPE is on the other side, they’re calling up the same folks, how does that work? That just seems like almost an impossible situation.
If we have a better portfolio, and if we build better trust with our partners, and if we’re out in the field, on and on with our partners working, building that credibility in front of our customers. Then we win. And when you when that gets you trying to do it again and again and again. And that’s what you’re looking for.
I do have kind of a tough question here, which is how did you do in the Travelers Pro-Am?
I actually played with a couple of great customers. Yeah, I would say I played a little bit better than normal for me and we came in second place. We were we were in first place until the very last group came up. They made a birdie net eagle and we made a bogey net par. If we had made a par net birdie we would have been in first.
Closing messages to the channel?
Yeah. I love the channel. Dell Technologies loves the channel. We want more and more people coming our way, buying into our value proposition, finding opportunities.
It goes back to my early early EMC days, and I had some pretty good success by surrounding myself with great, we call them VARs back in the day, but channel partners. At one point in time, I think I was responsible for half the company’s revenue. And it was because of the channel partners I worked with on Long Island and Westchester County and Brooklyn, Queens, and so I’m pretty passionate about the channel partners and I think the time for us to really double down has never been better.