Dell Recruits 6,200 Channel Partners

Channel conflict. Trust. While some VARs and managed service providers continue to fret over those words, more than 6,200 solutions providers have joined Dell's channel program since its official launch on December 5, according to Greg Davis, the company's channel chief.

During an extended phone interview on Friday, Davis described Dell's progress so far with VARs and MSPs -- and also discussed some of the challenges Dell has faced during the company's foray into the channel.

For those who haven't been keeping score, Dell launched its channel program in the US in December, and expanded the program into Canada and Western Europe in February. More than 6,200 partners have signed up so far, and an online deal registration system -- designed around a CRM (customer relationship management platform) also seems to be gaining traction.

Since launching the deal registration tool in December, partners have registered about $256 million worth of opportunities with Dell. The hardware giant has approved about 82 percent of those opportunities, and the average deal has been worth about $75,000 to $85,000, Davis asserts.

And on February 8, Dell added a partner link on the home page -- a minor step for most technology vendors, but a big cultural shift for a direct sales giant like Dell. The partner portal has received more than 1 million page views since launch.

Next up, Dell is exploring ways to take IdeaStorm -- a social Web site that allows Dell watchers to share ideas with the PC giant -- and apply it to the channel. Apparently, Dell plans to build an IdeaStorm-type site that allows solutions providers and MSPs to submit and debate ideas with each other and Dell. Our sister site, The VAR Guy, has more details on this effort.

Despite the momentum, Davis concedes there's more work to be done. "We're learning a lot from our efforts but I'd be lying if I said everything is perfect," he says. "There are situations that create conflict. There are partners that would like to see account registration. We're utilizing the deal registration system to minimize conflicts. I'd give ourselves a good grade on the roll out, and hopefully partners give us good grades, too."

(Partners: Feel free to weigh in with comments below.)

Enterprise Sales, Managed Services

Of the partner deals registered so far, 52 percent involve servers, storage and enterprise-related applications, about 28 percent involve desktops and notebooks, and the rest of the deals vary a bit.

On the managed services front, Dell hosted an event for MSP partners in January, and Davis sounds upbeat about Dell's efforts to integrate Silverback Technologies and Everdream into the company's overall partner program.

Admittedly, our conversation about managed services was a bit generic. Dell acquired Silverback and Everdream last year, and some partners have worried that Dell will attempt to offer managed services directly to customers. "We've integrated Everdream and Silverback [into Dell]," says Davis. "We've embraced the partners both companies had. And we've taken the best of both partner programs and melded them into one certification path."

It sounds like Dell is working on a few forthcoming announcements in the managed services area, and the company promised to brief MSPmentor in the weeks ahead. So stay tuned.

Lead Generation

Yes, partners can register their potential deals with Dell. But many partners are looking for Dell to develop a two-way street, where the PC giant begins to funnel technology and managed services leads out to the channel.

Davis says a lead generation system for partners is in the works, but it's going to take time. "First, we have to register our partners to determine what value-add they provide," he says. "We're several months into signing up and understanding partner capabilities." But it will require an undisclosed amount of time for Dell to gather enough knowledge to start sending leads to its most qualified partners, he added.

Throughout the 45-minute conversation, Davis came across as someone who wants to listen and learn from partners -- rather than someone out to hype his company. "I don't know any company that has built a long-term channel program in a few months," he says. "We do realize it's a long-term journey."

Memo to MSPmentor readers: How is Dell performing on its partner journey so far? What has the company done right? Where has it stumbled? Reader comments are welcome, and we'll be sure to offer your feedback as we speak with Dell in the weeks ahead.
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