Dell Kicks Off Channel-Friendly Program With A Bang

It's a new dawn for Dell channel partners, according to channel chief Cheryl Cook.

Dell kicked off an ambitious new channel program Monday that incents Dell Direct reps to push 200,000 direct accounts to channel partners in a bid to fuel the newly privatized company for fast growth in 2014.

Cook said Dell Direct reps already are rolling up their sleeves with hundreds of partners, discussing how they can work together to crack open new accounts and boost Dell's footprint in existing companies. The move, said Cook, who was promoted in November to vice president of global channels and alliances, is a conscious effort to change channel dynamics to move the needle on partner sales in seven key growth areas, including networking, storage, software, security, PowerEdge VRTX, thin clients and workstations.

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"The channel has expertise and reach that Dell needs. We have started a dialogue with the channel and are proactively planning with partners. Gone are the days of reactive engagement. We want to work jointly with partners on territory planning, account mapping, and developing a strategy to grow together."

Dell had said in December that it would massively change its channel strategy and would officially begin moving 200,000 to 500,000 previous Dell Direct accounts into the channel starting Feb. 1, where they will be managed jointly between partners and Dell Direct reps.

Part of that channel push also included Dell Direct incentives such as a 20 percent "compensation accelerator" for the direct reps to generate new enterprise business with Dell channel partners in areas of business Dell has targeted for growth.

"We are absolutely encouraged by what Dell is doing. Already, we are working more closely with direct reps. As far as increasing business, we haven't seen it yet. But we anticipate to grow our Dell business," said Michael Butz, owner and CEO of UltraLevel, a Detroit-based solution provider and Dell partner.

"Dell's new channel strategy is a huge game-changer. Dell has burned the ships. There is no going back. And that's why I'm so excited about the Dell opportunities ahead for our business. Because Dell has doubled down on making this channel initiative work, so have we. We have more confidence to make bigger investments in Dell," Butz said.

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UltraLevel, Butz said, has hired solution architects, project managers and implementation consultants in anticipation of Dell business that he anticipates will grow by an order of 10 to 15 times this year. "As far as we are concerned, the Dell planets have aligned. Our relationship with Dell Direct is fantastic and is already paying dividends."

Bob Skelley, executive director of Dell's Global Certified Partner Program, said the new channel approach is "the most impactful cultural transformation that I've witnessed in the industry."

"Dell has great sales specialists and a wide portfolio of products. But in the end, the channel has been bringing solutions together for the customers for a long time. Dell Direct working together with the channel is a win for customers bringing more expertise into each new deal."

As part of the new channel approach Dell, which won a $24.9 billion hard-fought leveraged buyout battle that turned it into a private company, said it will open primarily midmarket accounts and some lower-end large institution accounts. Dell has described these accounts as "new opportunity" businesses.

"They have our confidence, and we like what Dell is trying to do. Cheryl Cook is an impressive channel chief and if she follows through with everything she outlined it's going to make my Dell business a lot more profitable," said the CEO of one of the top Solution Provider 500 companies in the country, who did not want to be identified. "Right now I lead with Hewlett-Packard. But clearly Dell's top brass is making channel part of its DNA. It's clearly not a hobby anymore for them and becomes a core go-to-market strategy. When they execute on that vision, I might not lead with HP anymore."

Frank Vitagliano, vice president of channel sales at Dell, said the Round Rock, Texas, company wants partners to invest and be aggressive with direct sales reps and foster engagements. "We want to be strategic with partners. Our share of wallet isn't what it should be in the large-market enterprise for what we bring to the marketplace. We don't want Dell to be just a line item for partners. We want Dell to be what they lead with when talking to companies."

The rollout of Dell's revamped partner program initially is targeting its top-tier 2,000 certified partners. But as the rollout continues, Dell Direct reps will reach out to partners with the expertise to help sell Dell solutions targeted for growth, Vitagliano said.

To help lure partners to the table, Dell also said it will quadruple the money spent on its Dell PartnerAdvantage sales incentive program, significantly boosting rewards and points used to motivate partners. Part of Dell's push includes making a five-fold increase in new investments in the number of demo units, seed equipment and lab hardware available to partners.

"Kudos to Dell for upping its channel game. Who doesn't want to make more money with Dell, HP or Cisco? But I want to know more about the 200,000 accounts. Are they prospect accounts or existing lines of business? I'm sure they are not low-hanging fruit," said an executive at a midsize solution provider and Dell partner who asked not to be identified.