Dell direct comp plans favour partners

New Dell channel chief Cheryl Cook

New Dell channel chief Cheryl Cook

Cheryl Cook has wasted little time in making her mark on Dell’s channel organization.

Since taking over the job for longtime channel chief Greg Davis late last year, Cook has overseen some of the largest changes to the company’s partner program since the launch of PartnerDirect, including a move to make it more financially viable for the company’s sales staff to make sure much of its professional lineup is sold by the channel rather than direct efforts. Under a program announced late last year and implemented in the Americas last month, Dell sales reps earn 20 per cent more when some products, including software, converged architecture products, networking, workstations, and Wyse thin clients, are sold by the company’s partners than when they’re sold direct. Cook said the move makes sense as Dell continues to position itself as more of a provider of full tech solutions, and less of a simple box vendor.

“We’re very proud of our direct heritage, but the portfolio has expanded so much, and we need the help and expertise of our partners to go reach that,” Cook said.

The compensation change is a big part of an overall structural change, which places channel and direct sales side-by-side, reporting to top sales leadership in each theatre around the world. The result, Cook said, is “a more thoughtful and collaborative coverage strategy,” and an effort to “drive alignment” between the direct sales team and the company’s partners.

It’s a sign that Dell no longer looks at the world as direct versus indirect at any level, and that sales leadership is on board with that change. Now, Cook said, when a senior sales leader like North American sales president Bill Rodrigues has a sales planning meeting, it’s both direct and channel sales team at the table working on the go-to-market plan.

At the same time, Dell continues to invest in channel training, and is looking to get more engaged with more of its top partners in terms of joint planning and joint go-to-market efforts. But with those big changes in effect with the start of Dell’s new fiscal year in February, Cook said it’s time to take a step back and see how they’re received in the market. Initial feedback, she said, has been largely positive. But she said the company will be focused on executing the already-introduced changes before even considering additional changes.

“We’ll let these changes gestate, get time to gain traction,” she said.

In the meantime, the company’s work with global system integrators needs to be refined. The company announced a deal with Accenture at its Dell World even last December, and Cook hinted there will be more such announcements coming as the company tries to get more of its largest partners “getting more influence around our software portfolio.”

“We’re trying to work with the more holistically and in a more coordinated fashion,” she said.

Cook came to the role as Dell channel chief after leading enterprise sales for the company, a role in which she got to know the company’s partners well, she said.

“I’ve been a big advocate of what are partners can do for us in terms of growth, in terms of their expertise, their talent, and, candidly, their capacity,” she said. “As we introduce more intellectual property into our offerings, we need their help to keep growing the business.”

One of those key frontiers is in the software arena. Last fall, the company integrated its software business into PartnerDirect in an effort to drive more of its traditionally hardware-focused channel in the direction of its growing software solutions business. Dell introduced four new software competencies at that time, and Cook said those are starting to gain traction. The company has seen about 1,300 partners worldwide go through the new training material, she said.

On the homefront, Cook hinted that Dell would host another Canadian Partner Summit, as it did last December, towards the end of 2014. But it sounds like she and North American channel chief Frank Vitagliano will be visiting Canada well before that.