D-Link Preps For Channel Program Facelift

Come the fourth quarter of 2009, D-Link plans to launch its all-new channel program, which Nick Tidd, D-Link's vice president of sales for Pan America and vice president of marketing for North America, said is "all about profitability at the end of the day."

The retooled D-Link channel program comes just months after the company underwent a massive reorganization that resulted in the departure of key executives and the promotion of Tidd to channel chief.

Tidd took the reins of D-Link's channel in May amid sweeping changes within D-Link that saw the phasing out of D-Link CEO and President Steven Joe and Keith Karlsen, executive vice president and U.S. channel chief.

Since taking over, Tidd said he's put a strong emphasis on marketing, helping D-Link and its partners shy away from a product-specific focus and dive deeper into solution plays for specific verticals and environments. To do so, he's created a team to train, facilitate and engage the channel and teach them to create demand for those solution sets. Taking a solutions-based approach, Tidd said, gives D-Link's channel stronger value, taking it out of the days of pushing product and into a more strategic role.

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A solutions approach, Tidd added, also eliminates unnecessary competition between D-Link and its stable of VARs for product sales.

"We have to sell through them, not against them," Tidd said.

According to Tidd, D-Link is near completion of its reorganized sales team, which now has sales resources allocated based on geography and partner size, so partners get the attention they require. To make that happen, Tidd has hired 17 people since May 4. And he plans on bringing aboard about 20 more by the end of calendar 2009.

Tidd said hiring is necessary for D-Link to continue growing. While the high-tech industry has taken a hit in the recession, Tidd said he's seen growth in key markets, a good sign of things to come.

"The message is starting to get out there -- by no means are we done," he said.

Now, as D-Link braces itself for the economic upswing, the Fountain Valley, Calif.-based company is looking to its channel organization to put the sandbags in place for the inevitable flood of business.

"We're absolutely taking advantage of preparedness for the economic turnaround," Tidd said.

For the new channel program, D-Link will have to move to a salesforce.com platform and launch a new tiered partner model, "not a flat, monolithic model that treats everyone equally," Tidd said.

Additionally, the new D-Link channel program won't be strictly revenue focused. It will account for verticals such as state and local government, health care and education. D-Link also plans to launch new lead-distribution capabilities and a new deal-registration program. Additionally, D-Link is responding to complaints that it's over-distributed by whittling down its number of distributors from 16 to five in a move to alleviate partner confusion. Part of D-Link's new distribution strategy will include a strategic deal with Tech Data, Tidd said.

Tidd said the new program will be a complete reinvention of how D-Link does business through the channel, comparing the company to a "22-year-old startup" that is well-funded and has a strong product sheet, but has to get into the mind of its customers, who are typically "brand agnostic and value conscious."

"The program will be centered around profitability, partner engagement and solutions, and be underpinned by vertical markets," he said. "We believe we're in a perfect storm and we're using this reorganization to create a channel-centric environment."

To make it easier for partners to ready themselves for the upswing and sell these new technologies and solution sets, D-Link is promising high margins without the financial restraints of cumbersome certifications and testing.

"Partners can make better margins," Tidd said.

Some of the program seeds have already been planted. Tidd said D-Link's marketing investment got the ball rolling, while an education-focused demand-generation program that offers access to grant writers and other resources helped forge a vertical niche.

And while Tidd couldn't put an exact value on the investment D-Link has made in the channel since he's taken his post in May, he said, "We are at an expense level equal to prior to the downturn."

Tidd admits that the new program will never be 100 percent complete, that it's a constant work in progress.

"Build it and they will come? That's not going to happen," he said. "Your program is never done."