Dell cosies up to channel partners

Dell cosies up to channel partners

Dell is to start selling its kit through partner suppliers

Dell has made its big move into selling through partners, setting up what it hopes will be a huge channel that will appeal to companies wary of a direct relationship with the IT giant.

In the 1980s, Dell pioneered volume direct sales of PCs and then followed up in the 1990s with servers, storage, services and other lines. Such has been the linkage between company and sales model that founder Michael Dell even called his business memoir Direct From Dell and frequently criticised supply-chain inefficiencies of channel-based rivals.

However, recent problems that have led to a slowdown in the company’s growth may have encouraged plans to set up new channels across Europe with resellers of all sizes. Called PartnerDirect. The program will offer a dedicated portal for engaging with Dell, as well as revised terms and conditions.

The two-tier programme for Registered and Certified partners is intended to share leads with partners and take advantage of Dell strengths such as just-in-time manufacturing, sophisticated configuration options, marketing know-how, and online support assistance.

Dell was at pains to point out that it has long had a relationship with the channel with about 30,000 current partners across the world. However, the firm agreed that this was a major change in attitude.

Josh Claman, Dell vice president of European channels, said Dell’s plan is to grow its partner business “much, much faster than core direct revenues” and promised that the company would collaborate closely with resellers.

“[Partners] don’t want a me-too,” he said. They don’t want us to look like HP. They don’t want us to look like IBM. We believe customers should buy from whoever they want to buy from. [Prospective partners] say, ”I am so used to fighting Dell that I want a relationship with Dell because my customers asked for it.”

However, some experts noted that Dell has long had a strong channel, even if it did not often explicitly to the fact.

“When I started at Dell in 1992, the dell channel was striong as an ox,” said Julian Phillips, who went on to run the Dell partners programme and now runs Impact Marcom, an audio-visual reseller that also partners with Dell. “The only interesting thing here is the acceptance as a ‘global’ programme. Long live the Dell Direct model, it never had anything to do with selling direct anyway. It was always about the supply side and not the sales side.”

Dell’s move dovetails with other recent actions such as the acquisition of channel-based iSCSI storage provider EqualLogic and a recent simplification of services options. Also last week, Dell added to recent services acquisitions with a $155m deal to buy email services provider MessageOne.