Channel conflict under control at Dell

When Dell first started out in the PC business, it turned the market upside down by selling its products direct to end users rather than through the reseller partner channel.

Although it abandoned this model some years ago, enthusiastically embracing a channel-led route to market, many resellers harbour a persistent feeling that the vendor still prefers a direct model.

Bennie du Plessis, channel account manager, says he runs into the objection about Dell being perceived as a direct vendor quite often, with accompanying mistrust from reseller partners.

“I have seen Dell grow from a direct organisation to a channel-centric organisation,” he says. “And the direct thing comes up a lot.

“How we tackle that is through deal registration. The reseller registers their deals, and they are locked into the CRM tool.”

There are still some direct customers, he points out, and these will be aligned in the CRM system with a specific team. “Partners can still work with the named accounts, collaborating with the account team.

“I facilitate meetings between partners and account managers, and make sure the direct teams treat our partners correctly.”

Any potential conflict, particularly on enterprise accounts, is dealt with quickly, says Dell SA GM Doug Woolley.

“There are 46 customers that make up Dell’s direct large enterprise customers – and about 50% of them have partner activity in conjunction with Dell,” he says.

“If a partner registers a deal even in those accounts, and the Dell team hasn’t registered it, the partner wins.

“We would be naïve to believe we can cover all those account end to end, and our resellers and necessary and valuable partner.

“A lot of people still perceive that these accounts are off limits, but they are not. The complexity of the technology and the clients’ needs, the relationships the partners have, and the specific skills partners bring to market – we are increasingly seeing that customers are asking for partners.”

In fact, if a partner registers a deal, the account manager in the direct team at Dell still gets paid – so there is no reason for the account manager not to support the partners, Woolley adds.

“Transparency and honesty are important to us, whether its good news or bad news. And, under my watch, that is something we will always work towards. We will share all news with our partners, even if it’s bad news.

“If a direct salesperson as already registered and substantiated the deal, then it won’t be the partner’s deal. But we’ll tell you straight up. We must all be mature enough to understand that this is still a Dell model worldwide.”

In cases where there are complaints or conflict, a channel council will arbitrate. “We acknowledge that we do make mistakes, and will own up to it when it happens,” Woolley says. “But that transparency is something we want to drive, good or bad.”

Despite lingering negative perceptions the Dell channel has grown dramatically, and Dell SA is working actively to ensure it continues to grow and evolve.

Wooley explains that there are is plenty of room in the enterprise market for resellers to play a role, even when customers already have a direct relationship with Dell.

The public sector is also a lively space for partners. “Bar four or five educational institutions, we effectively do everything in public sector through the channel,” Woolley says. “Yes, we have a direct influence, but we are pushing sales and fulfilment 100% through the channel.”

In terms of distribution, Dell SA works with registered partners in terms of fulfilment, and two specialist distributors drive many of its solutions into the market.”

Finally, emphasising the importance that Dell SA gives to its reseller partners, there is an attractive and generous rebate programme.

“There is no greater testimony to our commitment to the channel than our rebates,” says Woolley. “I’ve never seen rebates like that.

“The key to getting the rebates is to align. Account planning is important, and account alignment is an area where I urge partners to work with us.”


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