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Dell will pay direct sales team to move more deals through partners

Dell CEO Michael Dell speaks to attendees at Dell World.

Dell's Cheryl Cook

Dell’s Cheryl Cook

AUSTIN, TEX. – Cheryl Cook is wasting no time putting her own mark on Dell’s Partner Direct partner program. Just a few weeks after taking over from former global channel boss Greg Davis, Cook used the Dell World conference here this week to make a series of announcements that move Dell deeper into the channel than ever.

Cook took over as Dell’s vice-president of global alliances and services in mid-November as part of a wider restructuring and executive shuffle that sees the channel organization integrated more tightly into Dell’s regional sales organization to allow for more a more coordinated go to market with Dell’s direct and indirect sales forces.

No stranger to the channel – before joining Dell three years ago she led North American channel sales for Sun Microsystems – Cook said she wanted to hit the ground running with a series of changes – effective February 2014 – to drive partner engagement, and give partners clarity and predictability. She added these weren’t changes that were already in the works; rather, they were driven by her new team.

Some of the enhancements are basic: Dell is expanding its investment in its demo pool program for partners by 500 per cent, for example, to give partners more access to new Dell technology to assist them in the sales process. “It’s intended to be a catalyst,” said Cook. Partners will also be offered richer incentives to align around key strategic solutions.

To drive that deeper alignment between Dell’s direct and indirect sales teams, direct sales reps will get a net new 20 per cent compensation accelerator for any sale of PowerEdge VRTX, storage, networking, software, thin client, workstations and SecureWorks solutions that go to a new customer through a channel partner. “It’s to foster teaming and alignment around key solutions … I’ll now have alignment in my incentives to Dell direct sales reps and partners,” said Cook.

Dell will also be carving out more territory and accounts that are going to be partner led, moving towards a co-selling approach with the channel in many cases. While Cook said she doesn’t believe in hard decks – say, carving out all accounts under a certain size to be channel-led – Cook said she does want to give partners more clarity and predictability from Dell.

Customers will still have the choice of how they want to work with Dell – that won’t change. There will still be competition, and deal registration remains in place to help avoid direct/indirect conflict. But Dell is taking a major step by identifying 200,000 key North American accounts that will be partner led where there’s opportunity to move the customers into new and adjacent Dell lines of business.

“We’ve identified a list of the right target opportunities, and we haven’t done that before at Dell, this sort of proactive planning to mutually align with the channel,” said Cook.

Today, about 35 per cent of Dell’s commercial revenue comes through the indirect channel. Cook hasn’t been given a target for growing that figure and, if she has one for herself, she’s not disclosing it. But she does have ambitious growth plans.

“I’m outpacing market growth. My indirect business is growing at three times the market, and I want to maintain or grow that,” said Cook. “I haven’t set an X per cent, but I think I can grow my solutions mix, and I want to continue outpacing the market.”

Key to that continued growth, said Cook, will be going deeper in two areas: working with customers to go deeper with Dell, and working with partners who may have come to Dell through an acquisition focused on one product area, such as servers or storage, to broaden their Dell business into adjacent areas, such as Dell’s recently released software partner program.

“Because the breadth of our portfolio is so broad, we represent an expansion opportunity for partners,” said Cook, noting incentives are in place to reward partners that sell across the Dell portfolio.

Underlining Dell’s commitment to the channel, CEO Michael Dell himself told Dell World he’s expecting big things from the company’s channel.

“The last six to seven years we’ve built our channel business to be roughly 30 to 35 per cent of our commercial revenue. That’s tremendous growth,” said Dell. “Now, with the steps we’re taking we’re accelerating that, and we think it’s going to grow quite a bit faster.”