Dell's Cheryl Cook: Despite a 'Few Hiccups,' First Quarter of Integrated Channel Program a Success Dell Technologies

Dell's Cheryl Cook: Despite a 'Few Hiccups,' First Quarter of Integrated Channel Program a Success

The first full quarter after Dell and EMC's massive merger hasn't been seamless for its integrated channel program, but Dell's channel chief still counts it as a resounding success.

Last week’s quarterly results certainly gave Dell Technologies a lot to be happy about. It celebrated its 17th consecutive quarter of gaining share of the client PC market, narrowed the gap between it and server market leader HPE and increased demand for its Virtustream Public Cloud by approximately 100 percent.

Good news for Dell means good news for its channel partners, according to Cheryl Cook, Vice President of Global Channels & Alliances at Dell.

“If you look at the leadership position across categories that we have in the marketplace that our partners can benefit from, we’re still number one in storage, number one in converged infrastructure, number one in virtualization, number one in cloud, number one in many markets in servers and continuing to take share in the client space,” Cook told The VAR Guy. “It easily represents an opportunity where our partners can enjoy and benefit from some of that momentum—and frankly, have helped us achieve some of that momentum.”

Dell just wrapped the first full quarter of its new integrated channel program after last year’s merger with EMC. Cook says the company’s focus on driving customer acquisition, net new business and net new customers is paying off for both Dell and its partners.

“We fundamentally believe the merger presents an amazing cross-sell opportunity, and in Q1 alone our partners delivered over 6,000 new customers. It’s great early evidence of realizing that potential.”

Cook says the company was also focused on driving increased services revenue, which “continues to grow at a handsome clip.”

Dell’s quarterly numbers aside, one of partners’ biggest concerns with the merger was how the new integrated company would structure its incentive program. Cook says that on top of the base incentive all partners are eligible for, partners that brought in the 6,000 new customers she mentioned are eligible for a stackable new business incentive. That’s not to mention the services upsell incentives.

“As a consequence of this robust growth, we paid out more rebates and more MDF in Q1 than we have in the past. Deal registration is also up by double digits.

Deal registration was another significant source of worry for partners of the new integrated program. The ‘zero tolerance policy’ Dell Technologies announced to its partners last year spurred a lot of skepticism from partners who had been burned by Dell’s inside sales team in the past. Cook said there have been a few occasions when she’s had to terminate both direct salespeople and partners for ‘out of bounds’ behavior.

“We absolutely are committed to maintaining and delivering the overall enforcement of the program to make sure it maintains integrity and predictability for the partner.”

Five weeks ago at its global partner event in Las Vegas, Dell launched a new marketing platform, which Cook says has seen promising early adoption from partners. Through the platform, partners can download sales assets, leverage social and digital capabilities and align with the Dell campaign information that they’ve made available in the partner playbook.

Dell has also made significant progress integrating its training and certification processes, Cook says. Partners entered the program knowing which training they needed to complete in order to retain the level that Dell status-matched them into when the merger was complete.

“We’ve seen an uptick in the partner academy and usage of the training as a consequence, including marketing credentials and certifications around both the overall MDF policy and education in social and digital marketing.

“We’re all systems go, working feverishly and closely with our partner community.”

Bumps in the road

The integration hasn’t been seamless, and Cook admits that there are a few areas that could have gone more smoothly, particularly around the massive data migration necessary to bring all the channel partners of the two companies into one program.

“With data migration, the devil is in the details. It gave us a few hiccups just on partner authentication [for the unified portal system]. That was an area we didn’t hit a home run, but in fairness most of the partners’ feedback was they thought it would be bumpier than it was."

The Dell team is still wrestling with the pace of the portal and some lingering login and credential issues, but Cook says that’s a natural consequence of bringing two tech titans together and trying to make the data as elegant as they’d like.

“I don’t think it’s surprising to people that [the challenge] would be in pulling together the technical data details,” she says, “but to be perfectly honest, most partners were expecting worse.”

Cook says the key to maintaining a healthy support system for partners during a time when both Dell and the market are evolving at a feverish pace is clear and frequent communication. One of her team’s biggest focuses is making sure partners know who to turn to for questions.

“We want to make sure we’re helping them navigate and stay as aligned with our go-to-market and sales coverage so we can continue these good results,” she says. “I think we’re just getting our footing.”

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