‘It Is Win Or Die Trying,’ Partner Says Of Dell’s Revamped Channel Leadership

“It’s clear that Denise has that EMC-DNA where best effort doesn’t matter. Winning matters. It is win or die trying,” says Dell Titanium Partner and Advizex CEO C.R. Howdyshell of Dell’s New Channel Leader Denise Millard.


Just days into her new role leading Dell’s channel, Denise Millard was at the center of a partner advisory board meeting where some of Dell’s largest resellers had gathered for their annual chance to talk directly with corporate leaders about what is working and, sometimes, what is not working for their shops.

C.R. Howdyshell (pictured), CEO of Dell Titanium partner Advizex who was at the table with Millard that day, said it was clear that Millard was listening.

“For her, it’s not about words it’s about actions. People like to talk about what they’re going to do for the channel,” he said. “Denise has literally taken action and the partners are already seeing that in her short time in the role. She’s executed on a commitmcrent to the partner community.”

Millard has delivered on takeaways around compensations and enablement that came out of that meeting, he said.

“It’s clear that Denise has that EMC DNA where best effort doesn’t matter. Winning matters,” Howdyshell said. “It is win or die trying.”

[RELATED: Dell Sales Boss Bill Scannell: ‘Build Credibility’ With Partners ‘Then We Win’]

Millard came to Dell through its 2016 acquisition of Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC. She was a rising star in that organization shaping the storage pioneer’s first channel program in 2008. The same 2016 deal brought Dell its current global head of sales Bill Scannell, who Millard reports to, as well as Millard’s second-in-command Darren Sullivan.

The home of Richard Egan, the late EMC co- founder, is visible from the conference room in Hopkinton, Mass., just over Millard’s shoulder as she and Sullivan talked recently with CRN about moves they are making to Dell’s channel.

“I would say from a program standpoint we continue to hear that we are best in the industry,” Millard said. “The level of predictability and consistency with respect to how our partners are engaging with Dell is continuing to get better.”

However, Sullivan said nobody is resting on plaudits from partners. He and Millard have been fine-tuning the program with input not just from the partner’s sales teams, but from their operational units as well.

“How can we be easier to do business with? How can we drive more automation? We try to get a 360-degree view of the partner by engaging on a regular basis with the different roles so we get a technical aspect, an operational aspect, a selling aspect, an executive,” he said.

Dell has digitized the engagements with the partner all the way through distribution and direct resell to drive automation and simplicity.

“We’re limiting touch in the process, driving velocity and simplicity, and making it as frictionless as possible,” Sulilvian said. “This is something that will never stop.”

Millard added that Dell will appoint teams to handle partner requests then have those teams talk to the partners about the progress that was made.

“We use those forums to keep us honest,” she said. “We start each one saying ‘OK, here’s what we heard last time and here’s the progress that we made.’ “

One area in which partners wanted better deals was around PC sales, one of the only technology sectors where Dell trails in market share.

To that end, under the new channel program, metal-tier partners that reach their sales gate with Dell PC peripherals will receive a 5x base rebate kicker, and a 2x kicker when with workstations, displays, rugged laptops.

Insiders say Dell is also stepping up Dell’s Apex commitment with compensation of 22-percent paid after the deal closes in contrast with HPE, which last year moved away from the 17-percent, up-front rebate on GreenLake Flex custom on-premises deals that have been in place for the last five years. In the U.S., HPE has also shifted the GreenLake compensation model from monthly to quarterly.

At VirtuIT, a Dell Platinum partner in Nanuet, N.Y., CEO Gary McConnell said he has been encouraged by the channel approach that Millard and Sullivan have put together.

“As a partner, all we can ask for is: a chance to showcase our skillset from selling through fulfillment; and access to incentives that motivate our teams,” he said. “We seem to be experiencing a combination of the two here so we are very optimistic.”

Howdyshell said where Millard and Dell’s Darren Sullivan are focused on steering Dell’s channel, Gregg Ambulos, Senior Vice President, North America Channel Sales has been on the front lines driving the relationship with its biggest partners. Howdyshell said with Millard leading, the strategy is working.

“The first thing she brings is relevance,” said Howdyshell. “She understands the channel. She’s been part of the channel. The other part she brings is a clear vision of where she wants to go. She knows it’s going to take time. And the third thing is a plan to execute on behalf of the partner community.”

Even as the global technology leader in infrastructure sales, Dell is turning to partners to increase that share with programs like Partner First For Storage, which incentivizes Dell’s direct sales force, called its core sellers, to move through partners to close deals.

Additionally, Dell quadrupled the number of partners of record inside storage. So as opposed to taking accounts direct, Dell is incentivizing its sales force to work with partners in 99 percent of its accounts

“I would say our program and our focus on this ecosystem is working,” Millard said. “What we launched last August with partner-first strategy for storage, as part of that we made over 99 percent of our customers and perspective customers partner-first. We quadrupled the number of accounts eligible for this, the partner of record status, and then we pay our sales teams more to work with and through partners. We are seeing massive collaboration and all of our KPIs are trending in a really positive way.”

Over the past four quarters, partners have contributed about 50 percent of Dell’s net revenue. Partners have provided Dell with 60 percent of new and reactivated buyers, Dell said.

Millard took over shared responsibility for the channel in October when former channel chief Rola Dahger left Dell. She then inherited more work in December when president of global channel, Diego Majdalani, announced he would leave Dell in March.

Dell’s global channel sales teams now reports to their respective regional sales leaders, working closely with Millard’s partner strategy and programs team to build the partner experience, the company said.