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Dell Commits To Partner-Led Commercial Account Strategy, Partners Cheer New Rules Of Engagement

Under the new system, Dell is evaluating its customer base going back three years, and customers identified as buying through partners will effectively become partner-led accounts indefinitely.

Dell is drawing a partner-led line in the sand, adjusting its rules of engagement to favor channel partners that have gained traction and loyalty in commercial accounts.

Under the new system, Dell is evaluating its customer base going back three years, and customers identified as buying through partners will effectively become partner-led accounts indefinitely, according to an executive at a large solution provider who’s been briefed on the change.

The move is a sign that Dell’s channel program will take on significant aspects of EMC’s successful program, which employs a hard deck, a system by which deals below a certain size are automatically handled by channel partners.

Dell closed its landmark acquisition of EMC Wednesday.

Related: Dell-EMC's New Global Channel Chief Talks About Pushing The Full Portfolio, Eliminating Channel Conflict And The Drive To Beat HP, Cisco And Lenovo

A partner-led strategy is an evolution for Dell, which has until now stood by the notion of customer choice, giving customers the option to work with either Dell sales teams or channel partners and leaving the door open to conflict between the two.

John Byrne, Dell global channel chief, declared his belief in a customer choice model in a July interview with CRN, while also hinting that the company was ready to make adjustments to avoid conflict between its sales force and its channel partners.

’I believe in customer choice,’ Byrne said, adding, ’How do we stop our guys from fighting over the same piece of business between direct and channel? We’re being very descriptive around, ’This is a route to market, this is the customer, this is how they want to buy.’ There’s no need to have conflict.’

A top executive at a large Dell solution provider said the partner-led strategy is a natural fit for what Dell calls the commercial market, essentially small and midsize businesses and perhaps small enterprise accounts.

’Letting partners lead is very cost-effective. I think it’s a logical model, and anything they want to do to support the channel is going to work really well for me. I have to give credit to them for enabling that,’ the solution provider executive said. ’It’s pretty clear to me that there’s a break point where above it they need to take it direct. There’s no way most resellers can handle that. The next segment down, say the Fortune 500, they’re not going to let a reseller in in most cases. It doesn’t make sense for them to give up the control.’

’This represents some really good work, some real thoughtfulness on the part of Dell, and some really good work by EMC to push those things they think were most successful for them,’ said an executive at a large solution provider that works with both Dell and EMC.

’It’s taken the Dell customer choice model, where there’s really no preferential treatment for anybody, and now you have a program that’s partner-led that puts emphasis on partners in commercial accounts,’ the solution provider executive said. ’It’s better than what we have today with Dell.’

In an interview with CRN just after the acquisition closed Wednesday, Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell said partners who have been briefed on upcoming changes have reacted positively.

’I’ve had the opportunity to see all this and talk with partners as they’ve gotten a preview of coming attractions, and they’re all quite excited and positive,’ Dell said. ’We’ve gotten strong and positive reaction.’

Dell COO and President of Enterprise Solutions Marius Haas said the company is trying to create a channel program that is predictable and that has ’program elements that partners can get excited about both on the front end and back end. These are all the elements we’re putting in place. [Upcoming changes] are absolutely positive, and partners will absolutely see that their voice is being heard.’

It’s apparent that Dell is ready to make sweeping changes in order to hit the ground running after the landmark acquisition. The transaction creates a more than $70 billion global IT behemoth with a portfolio that includes everything from budget PCs to high-end data center infrastructure and cloud services.

’The period between [Wednesday] and the end of January is critical,’ a top executive at an East Coast Dell solution provider said. ’That’s the period where they begin to communicate everything and try to gain confidence in the marketplace.’

Dell executives have said they intend to run the Dell and EMC channel programs in parallel until Feb. 1, when the company’s fiscal year begins. At that point, the programs will be fully integrated and ready to run as one.

STEVEN BURKE contributed to this story.

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