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Greg Davis Speaks Out on Dell and the Channel

"Give us a chance," says Dell's VP and general manager of global channels. His aim? To change Dell's culture and show resellers the company is serious about the channel. By James E. Gaskin

Greg Davis, Dell’s vice president and general manager, global commercial channels, knows resellers may still not trust the company that rose to fame on a direct sales model. “Give us a chance,” says Davis, from Dell’s headquarters just north of Austin, Texas. “You’ll be surprised, and you’re missing out if you don’t.”

Davis was president of Dell’s Canadian division, but moved to Austin in May 2007 to jump-start the Partner Direct channel program. It rolled out in December 2007 in the United States, then February 2008 in Canada and Western Europe. The Asian program went active six months later. There are now more than 60,000 registered partners in 140-plus countries, and the reseller portal is available in 19 languages.

“I am very focused on changing Dell’s culture,” says Davis. “That’s simple in theory, but hard in practice.” After all, more than 10,000 Dell employees sell direct. Big changes were needed to show potential reseller partners Dell is now serious about the channel.

“We neutralized compensation so the direct sales no longer compete with our partners,” says Davis. “Everything Dell sells is open to the channel, including our ProSupport suite of professional support services. We’ve delivered over 40,000 training sessions online to our partners, giving them the same information Dell employees receive.”

Dell’s deal registration process is a work in progress, and both resellers and Dell need to learn how to better use the system. Davis is starting to see real sales opportunities in the pipeline, but too many deals are now just “wishes on sales.” As Davis notes, “We now approve over 70 percent of the deals registered by our channel partners.” Account registration will be added in the future.

When Dell acquires companies, their channel members are grandfathered into Dell. “One hundred fifty or so partners came to us with EqualLogic,” says Davis. The two sales programs were merged, and where EqualLogic paid higher rates than Dell, Davis increased the Dell compensation to match. “We now have four times as many partners selling EqualLogic storage.”

Advanced storage, blades, and other data center products need advanced certification. Dell has certification programs now in managed services, servers, storage, data management, and networking. “We continue to look for partners in those areas and train them,” says Davis. “There are now over 2,200 global certified partners.”

Channel Business Growth

Davis doesn’t track sales by verticals, but by market segment: SMB, enterprise, and public (government). “Our channel business is growing in all three areas,” says Davis. “The number of partners is growing in all three areas as well.”

Ultimately, Dell just wants customers to buy Dell products. What’s changed is that the company, or at least Davis, no longer cares whether the customer contact is direct or through resellers. “The channel is my customer,” says Davis. “I want to help them win.”

An example of Dell’s culture change is the company’s decision to work with distributors like Ingram Micro Inc. and Tech Data Corp. “We like to go direct from Dell to our resellers, but partners wanted to buy standard things through distribution. Products are available for standard and registered resellers,” notes Davis.

“Our channel business is growing rapidly—multiples of overall market growth,” he says. “We’re a global company, and the reseller program is global, more or less.”

Dell still has a way to go. The company’s “Take Your Own Path” program that identifies “heroes” among Dell customers brought 10 customers from around the world to Austin for meetings with the press. None of the companies does business with a Dell reseller. “True,” says Davis. “But some of the next group of heroes you’ll hear about do work with resellers.

“We can’t do everything some of our competitors do,” continues Davis, “but we do some things they don’t. I promise we’ll deliver on what we say we’ll do. When we as a team say we’re going to do something, we do it. Look Dell in the eyes and trust we will do what we say we’ll do.”

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