The future, most channel pros know, belongs to services. With active encouragement from ConnectWise and a host of other vendors, in fact, one-time hardware resellers are re-inventing themselves as managed service providers in steadily mounting numbers.
Yet along the way, many of those freshly hatched MSPs are encountering an unexpected fact: while they may be done with hardware, hardware isn’t exactly done with them.
Indeed, though many MSPs eager to leave hardware-related ordering and return hassles behind require customers to order PCs on their own, those customers regularly ask for advice on which PC to buy. That, in turn, often leads to a phone call from an MSP in need of information to an OEM with answers.
The trend has grown big enough to attract the attention of Dell, which has launched a program entirely focused on MSPs who influence rather than make PC purchases in response. Called the Dell Expert Network and introduced late last year, the new offering is operated by Dell’s small business sales organization, which fields all those incoming MSP calls, rather than Dell’s partner organization. In fact, the only requirement for membership in the Dell Expert Network other than being an MSP is not being a member of the Dell Technologies Partner Program.
“It’s like a second option for all those MSPs that we are seeing every day working with us in the small business queue,” says Lucas Chaya del Pino, who leads the Dell Expert Network. “We saw the need for giving them extra support, because they are a very high-value customer for us.”
Consider it a sign of changing times in the hardware channel, adds Mobolaji Sokunbi, who is head of strategic partnerships for North America in Dell’s small business sales group, and Chaya del Pino’s boss. “We’re simply listening to the market,” he says. “And, of course, we want [MSPs] to recommend Dell to their small business customers.”
Members get five main benefits for joining the Dell Expert Network, starting with a 3% cash-back reward on all end user purchases, provided their clients spend $6,000 per quarter. Those clients, meanwhile, get 3-6% back on everything they buy as well.
Dell also helps members finance sales by bundling services in with end user leases offered through Dell Financial Services. While Dell itself collects lease payments in monthly installments for multiple years, enrollees in the Dell Expert Network get their money in full within 24 hours.
“It’s good for the MSP because they can finance their services, it’s good for the end user because they can bundle everything together, and it’s good for us because we get more business,” Chaya del Pino says.
Other benefits include free expedited shipping and a dedicated account manager from Dell’s small business advisor program. “They get a single point of contact who is a Dell employee for anything they need,” says Chaya del Pino, who helped design the Dell Expert Network while an intern from Duke University.
They also get free access to Dell TechDirect, a self-serve customer service resource for filing support tickets, ordering replacement units, and more. “It’s a tool that saves them hours and hours on the phone when they need support,” Chaya del Pino says.