Dell Creates Premier Partner Level For Top Solution Providers

Dell has restructured its PartnerDirect channel program, splitting the former certified authorization level into two new levels as a means to reward solution providers who invest more in the company, according to Dell executives.

Dell's certified solution providers will be divided into Premier Partner and Preferred Partner levels, with each level getting its own benefits and minimum requirements to qualify, said Paul Shaffer, Dell's worldwide channel marketing director.

The majority of certified partners will become Preferred Partners, Shaffer said. Preferred Partners must hold at least one Dell certification and reach a minimum annual revenue threshold, which varies depending on the product category. New benefits include 120-day terms for deal registration, including extended deal registration for storage products and more access to Dell-generated leads, according to Dell.

About 10 percent of the certified group -- chiefly those with two or more Dell certifications -- will become Premier Partners, Shaffer said. In addition to holding at least two certifications, Premier Partners must reach a higher volume requirement to qualify for additional benefits. Those benefits include 180-day deal registration, new rebates on qualified products, access to the Product Incentive Program, unlimited concurrent deal registration, access to Dell-generated leads and priority access to Dell's Resource Desk.

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In most cases, certified partners needed to report about $200,000 in annual revenue within their certification areas, Shaffer said. Under the Premier Partner level, VARs must sell about $750,000 in products and services, Shaffer said. Dell's Authorized Partner program will see no changes, Shaffer added.

Dell is slightly modifying its certifications under the new program. The networking and security, systems management, and managed services certifications remain the same, at least for now. Enterprise architecture will divide into two certifications -- storage and servers. Those certifications will continue to evolve and Dell will likely offer additional certifications as its portfolio changes through new offerings and acquisitions, Schaffer said

"Over time, I see our managed services certification evolving into more of a cloud services and solutions certification, more advanced and deeper," he said. "It depends on where we see the market going. We get a lot of questions around certifications for different product areas and verticals. We'll build the structure on what makes sense."

Dell created the new Preferred and Premier Partner levels in order to better identify and reward solution providers who were making more significant investments with the company, Shaffer said.

"With [the certified level] it's been difficult to differentiate who our top partners were, even talking to our own sales organization when we try to find out who is the right partner to bring in," Shaffer said. "This makes it a little bit clearer in that sense."

While about 10 percent of Dell's certified partners will automatically become Premier partners, Shaffer expects about another 5 percent to reach that level in short time because they're very close to the higher requirements.

"We think it will happen fairly quickly. With the additional benefits it makes sense to get on board," he said.

Next: VAR's Reaction

Peter Kennedy: founding partner and chairman of Kraft & Kennedy, a New York-based solution provider and member of Dell's partner advisory council, said the new structure is a reward for VARs who are growing their business with the vendor.

"It's recognition that as the Dell channel program matures they're trying to add more benefits and differentiate the partners making commitments to sales and technical support," said Kennedy who was briefed on the program last week during a partner council meeting in Austin, Tex.

"The biggest impact is with the Dell direct sales force. They will be able to recognize those making contributions and investments in Dell vs. other partners who do not have as much depth."

In particular, Kennedy said the 180-day deal registration program will help with clients with whom the VAR has built strong relationships. "We have relationships that are not single transaction type things so 180 days is definitely beneficial," he said.

The new partner levels are not intended to get Dell solution providers to sell only Dell-branded products and solutions, Shaffer said. The vendor will retain its open-architecture strategy when it comes to leveraging third-party products into solutions, he added.

"We're not taking away anything from anybody. Our feedback on PartnerDirect was that it was harder to differentiate the more committed partners. Having a top-tier category and additional benefits helps differentiate them. It doesn’t change how we want to work with partners. We're not looking for exclusivity as part of it," Shaffer said.