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Dell’s Distribution Leader, Channel ‘Evangelist’ Jim DeFoe Retiring

‘One of the most rewarding aspects of my career was as we started our channel program, being able to develop trust and relationships with channel partners,’ says Jim DeFoe, senior vice president of Global Distribution for Dell Technologies.

After 23 years of driving channel growth and leading Dell Technologies’ global distribution business for the last three years, Jim DeFoe will retire on April 4, 2020. DeFoe was instrumental in changing Dell from a mainly direct sales company into a $50 billion channel partner powerhouse.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my career was, as we started our channel program, being able to develop trust and relationships with channel partners,” said DeFoe, senior vice president of Global Distribution for Dell Technologies, in an interview with CRN. “From a company who primarily was a direct manufacturer to opening up a channel business, there was a bit of skepticism from our channel partners. For us to develop that trust and relationship and build that business to where it is today means a lot to me. There are a lot of partners and distributors that I would call personal friends of mine.”

DeFoe joined Dell in 1996 and soon became vice president of global commercial channel sales and programs. For 23 years, DeFoe held a variety of executive leadership roles within Dell, spearheading the company’s efforts around building out Dell’s channel field sales organization and its PartnerDirect program.

[Related: Michael Dell To AOC’s Remarks On Billionaires: ‘You Are Incorrect’]

DeFoe served as vice president of North America channel sales where he led the sales charge for years across the channel -- from national and regional partners to distributors.

Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Waltham, Mass-based Dell Titanium partner, said DeFoe was “always a friend of the channel.”

“He was an evangelist for the channel,” said Winslow. “He really helped to build the channel program at Dell. He was always very gracious with our customers when they were in town. He always was looking to grow the channel business at Dell and always looking for a win-win. He wanted Dell to continue to grow, but he was always looking to the channel to be part of it.”

Over the years, DeFoe pushed for increasing incentives to drive new Gold and Authorized partners, provide more opportunity to distributors that invested in Dell Technologies and increased rebate percentages in its storage portfolio to distributors. He has consistently been recognized by CRN as a top channel chief for years.

DeFoe also played a critical role in seamlessly integrating and restructuring Dell’s channel sales and distribution strategy with EMC, VMware and Pivotal Software after the companies were acquired by Dell in 2016 for $67 billion.

In 2017, he was appointed as senior vice president of global distribution, responsible for strategy, sales and management of Dell’s global distribution business. DeFoe spearheaded the company’s massive undertaking to consolidate the number of Dell distributors following the merger with EMC.

“If you look at the amount of distributors that we had, we ended up with well over 350 distributors worldwide. We looked at that and wanted to make sure we had the right set of distributors – both from a local standpoint but also from a global standpoint. So we went through a rationalization strategy and really focused on getting a set of distributors that were both local and global that could really train and enable our partners, specifically Gold and Authorized status partners, to be able to sell the complete end-to-end solution from Dell Technologies,” said DeFoe. “So we went through a rationalization strategy. That 350-plus distributors is down to less than 180 today. … It was quite an undertaking.”

DeFoe is set to leave Dell after a 23-year tenure in April. Dell has yet to announce his replacement.

In his retirement, DeFoe plans to spend more time in Colorado playing golf and hiking with no plans on reentering the job market. DeFoe said he achieved his personal goal of retiring at the age of 60.

“I have no plans to really do anything. People ask me, ‘Are you going to go back to work?’ Who knows? Maybe someday I decide to do that. But I can tell you, if I did decide to do that, it would be something that is complementary to Dell Technologies,” he said. “Anything I do would be complementary to Dell Technologies. … I’m pleased and proud of my tenure at Dell and wish nothing but the best for our partners, distributors and Dell.”

Winslow said DeFoe will be remembered as a “gentleman” and a “warm business leader” that made Dell Technologies’ channel into what it is today. “All the folks that are channel partners of Dell have benefited from his leadership,” he said.

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