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June 8, 2011
For the Davenport Group, success with Compellent has been good, and success with Dell behind Compellent has been better, but the real secret sauce for Davenport Group’s CEO Sonia St. Charles involves close customer relationships. Call it intimate customer service. No sheets are involved, but the data center fabric is there and interwoven with customer support. The VAR Guy spoke to St. Charles about how Davenport Group stitches it all together and how Dell has helped (and slightly hampered) their momentum…
The Davenport Group is a small company, with only 9 employees but they’ve been a Compellent partner since “day 1,” according to Sonia St. Charles. The Minnesota-based team actually has customers in 20 states, ranging from medical transcription companies to the Fortune 500. Our resident blogger asked St. Charles to give a breakdown of the trends she was seeing in the industry, and if there were any particular marketplaces that Davenport Group had found themselves aligned with.
Like Sidepath — another Dell partner — St. Charles said Davenport actually services any and all needs, so long as data is involved. “Data center is the focus, [and] data is growing like crazy. So it’s really a matter of what product is best suited for which segment of the market.” Interestingly, almost 40 percent of Davenport’s revenue came form the government vertical, with state and local governments being the source.
The VAR Guy wants to know — is life with Dell really the “better together” story they’ve been pushing?
“Dell has been smart with the acquisition [of Compellent]. It’s a fantastic technology, ” said St. Charles, explaining that Dell has been good stewards of the Compellent family. “The biggest attribute of the acquisition is Dell’s size. They’re… a marketing machine, scaling Compellent technology and [incorporating] the good parts of the Compellent channel program,” she continued, adding “It’s goodness.”
“Our experience has been that our customers make buying decisions on sales persons first, then company and then product. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, [and] we really try to be on the relationship rather than the transaction,” said St. Charles, revealing that far too often companies can just make a sale and move on. Davenport Group is committed to “understanding what’s going on in your environment, and how we can help in other ways.”
And while Dell has brought Davenport Group greater reach and more market opportunities, Davenport is cautious about their growth. “We differentiate at customer intimacy. We know [our customer’s] products, projects and pressures. We want to increase our footprint, but grow in a controlled manner so we don’t lose the magic.” And thanks to Dell, St. Charles says that “we haven’t run into a situation where we couldn’t help a customer.” More and more, St. Charles says customers are looking to Davenport as an extension of their team, and not just another company they write a check to.
Amid all the optimism and rosy relationship talk, our resident blogger asked about what kind of competition Davenport has been facing in the marketplace. Davenport Group runs up against EMC and other big name storage vendors. The Dell-Compellent acquisition is only about six months old, so Dell hasn’t quite got their “fluidity” figured out and some partners are getting clipped.
“We’ve run into a few outliers in terms of direct [Dell] teams that we compete with. Dell does want to partner with the channel, I have zero doubts, but based on experience in the corporate world, the bigger the ship, the slower it turns.” As Dell’s new infrastructure aligns with their channel priorities, Davenport Group faces other challenges, too. “For years, Dell [had] competed against the channel, aggressively, and some of those people (customers who like to go direct) are less likely to partner with us. That’s just going to take time.”
Even with the momentum of Compellent and Dell behind them, St. Charles expressed that the recession was tough, and just now, they’re seeing a resurgence in demand. To that end, she expressed some disdain for the aforementioned channel conflicts. Right now, St. Charles says, they’re marketing as much to Dell as they are to the end user. “One deal to Dell is insignificant, one deal to us is a big deal. But you’ve got to take the long view and get ahead of it. We market ourselves to the direct teams, stating that we have experience with Compellent [and ask them] to use us and let us help you.”
And the future of the Davenport Group? St. Charles was nothing but optimistic. “We’re drinking the Kool-Aid. We believe Compellent is better.”
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