Dell EMC looks to EMC sales alignment to ease legacy Dell partner issues

Greg Ambulos, who runs North America’s channel business for Dell EMC, was in Toronto today, and provided an update on the new channel program’s progress. He also detailed changes to the overall sales structure designed to deal with long-standing complaints of legacy Dell partners.

Dell EMC execs Deanna Thomson and Gregg Ambulos

TORONTO – Gregg Ambulos, Dell EMC Senior Vice President of Global Channel Sales, sat down with ChannelBuzz here to discuss the initiatives the newly combined company has taken to improve the smoothness of their channel relations. While detailing the progress of the freshly minted channel program was front and centre, Ambulos also discussed how changes in the sales process, imported from legacy EMC, have been designed to deal with long-standing Dell channel issues.

Many legacy Dell partners have long had beefs with Dell’s direct arm, notwithstanding Dell’s tinkering with comp models and rules of engagement over the years to try and reduce the friction. While legacy EMC also had a hybrid sales model, like Dell, their channel relationships in recent years were somewhat better. Ambulos pointed out that that wasn’t something that came naturally, but evolved through changes in EMC’s policies.

“EMC was tough for partners to do business with once,” Ambulos said. “We realized that we had to become more channel friendly, and to do that we had to better align our channel sales force with our direct, to bring the channel in on decisions.”

Ambulos said that policy has been replicated in the new Dell EMC.

“In the enterprise, we have an Area Sales Manager, and a PAM [Partner Account Manager] aligned by area with the Area Manager, with the idea being to marry the partners with the sales team, have PAMs in on sales meetings, and provide clear ownership of the relationship with the sales teams,” Ambulos said. “In the commercial area, we do it at the district level.” That involves 58 district relationships in the U.S. In Canada, there are five commercial relationships and four enterprise.

“The result is very tight alignment with sales, which is something that just wasn’t in place before on the Dell side,” Ambulos said.

Ambulos emphasized that this alignment is part of Dell EMC’s dedication to what he terms the Four Pillars of Success.

“If you want partners to place a stronger bet on you, you have to have these four key pillars,” Ambulos stated. “First is executive buy in. From Michael Dell on down, the executive team has bought into the importance of the channel. Second is a world class portfolio of solutions, and I believe our portfolio is now second to none. Third is this alignment of the sales forces. And the fourth is rewards for execution through our partner program.”

Ambulos said that partners have been very bullish on the EMC field sales alignment.

“Partners told us that the they loved the predictable and simple nature of the EMC program, but that Dell’s was program was more lucrative,” he said. “But the other thing they said they liked bout EMC was the total alignment with field sales, whereas Dell was much less aligned there.”

Ambulos indicated that while legacy Dell had channel rules of engagement in the past, the new Dell EMC ones have more teeth, and should have more impact as a result.

“We have new rules of engagement focused on a ‘two strike policy,’” he stated. “If a direct salesperson breaks the rules of engagement, there is impact to their compensation right out of the gate. Two time offenders are subject to termination. This is now written into the sales person’s comp plan. That’s new for Dell. This is a big, big change, which has been well received by the partner community that has been educated on it. Our job collectively is to make sure sales people don’t get in trouble with partners.”

Ambulos and Dell EMC Canada channel chief Deanna Thomson also reviewed some of the key specifics in the application of the new channel program in Canada.

The company has retained the old model of a closed door on the higher end products, with Arrow remaining the sole distributor in Canada for these offerings.

“We believe strongly that for this part of the market, preferred distribution is the route to go,” Ambulos said. “For these types of solutions, limiting distribution to one provider protects everyone, as this market is a lot different from transactional products.”

“This will include all the storage for both legacy EMC and legacy Dell, which includes what was the midmarket Dell products that originally came from Compellent,” Thomson said. For legacy Dell partners, this type of product wasn’t available through distribution in Canada at all before, just through Dell. The logistics of this have not yet been finalized, but Thomson said they are actively working on it.

In Canada, unlike in the U.S., there will be no change to the commercial product distribution, with Ingram Micro, Tech Data and SYNNEX all continuing going forward.

While the specific requirements for tiers have not yet been formally defined – in the U.S., Canada or anywhere else – the fact partners have been mapped into their tier for this year already obviated the necessity to get these numbers out quickly. While the revenue requirements have been published as ranges, no specific threshold has been finalized yet, even for the U.S. Q3 is the target date for the publication of these numbers. As has been the case in the past, Canada will have different, and lower, tier goals than the U.S.

The ranges that have been made public are sufficient for Dell EMC to consult with partners about meeting their goals to retain their tier status.

“My time is spent working and meeting with our partners, making sure they understand the new program, and mapping our priorities to the partners’ objectives for this year,” Thomson said.

Ambulos, who ran the old EMC program for almost two decades, acknowledged that in terms of documentation and tiering structure, the new program resembles EMC, but with the rebate structure more a blend of both and with a strong Dell influence.

“We built the program based on extensive partner feedback,” he said. “It certainly wasn’t done in a vacuum. We have received great feedback and praise that we listened to what they said, and that the program is simple, predictable and profitable. Before the acquisition closed, the competition was beating us up on this, maintaining that the partners would get the short end of the stick. You will notice they’ve gone silent on this.”

“Canadian partners are really saying that we listened in terms of how they wanted the program to roll out,” Thomson said. “The predictability piece, which comes from the EMC side, has been very well received, specifically around deal registration and rules of engagement. Partner conversations have been about how we can align our businesses, and that’s what we have been focused on.”

Another change is that while legacy Dell used to make changes to its channel program every quarter, that has now stopped at partner request, with major changes only at the start of the new year.

“The exception is partners having the opportunity to earn a competency half way during the year,” Thomson said.

Ambulos said that the new invitation-only Titanium Black status within the Titanium Tier has also been a big success.

“We have an outstanding brand logo here,” he said. “Titanium Black has created a lot of tier envy within the marketplace. Almost every partner conversation I have had is ‘how do we get to Titanium Black.’ We are not going public with what the criteria are for Titanium Black, although of course having a full portfolio of business increases the chances for a Titanium partner.” To date, there are just a couple Titanium Black partners in Canada.”

Ambulos also pointed out that the status of the Global Partner Summit has been elevated at the upcoming Dell EMC World in May. This year, the Global Partner Summit will run throughout the full event, not just on Day One. There will be sessions for partners throughout, although these will not conflict with main stage activities.

“We think the opportunity together is massive,” he said. “Partners are glad the dust has settled. They like what they are seeing and are just as fired up as we are.”