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New Dell partner program to address deal protection concerns

At the Global Partner Summit, Dell EMC channel chief John Byrne showcased features of the new partner program and addressed concerns about Dell's deal protection practices.

AUSTIN -- At Dell EMC World's Global Partner Summit, Dell Technologies revealed long-awaited details regarding its upcoming post-merger Dell partner program. Among the program's features, partners seemed especially interested in its "zero-tolerance" deal registration policies.

"We are going to build a world-class program based upon your voice [and] our voice, because ultimately we are one team," said John Byrne, president of global channels at Dell EMC, during the conference's opening session.

"We are looking for partners who want to sell ... our [entire] portfolio," he continued. "We are looking for partners who will derive solutions from our portfolio. We are looking for partners who will attack the market and [will] physically take something from someone else. ... And we want partners that ultimately really want to partner with us and be seen as an extension [of us]."

The new Dell partner program is slated to launch in February 2017. Byrne, outlining the program, announced that it will organize partners according to four membership tiers: Gold, Platinum, Titanium and Titanium Black. Titanium Black will be reserved for "the best of the best." The tiers contain various tracks based on partner types, including tracks for solution providers, OEMs and managed service providers.

In the spirit of simplicity, he said, the new Dell partner program will roll out a unified partner portal and deal registration process. Additionally, partners will have access to simplified training based on EMC's "world-class training capabilities" and a more straightforward process for obtaining market development funds.

The ultimate form of deal protection for a partner is deal registration ... There will be zero tolerance for any violation.
John Byrnepresident of global channels, Dell EMC

"We have to make it easy for you and have to take cost and friction out of your selling motion," he said.

To enhance predictability, Byrne noted the new program will run for a year straight without any disruptive quarterly changes. He added Dell's distribution strategy will be locked at the beginning of December.

Dell will also heavily incentivize services, he said. "There is a pot of gold on services, and we together should be all in on capturing that capability."

But the change that seemed to have the largest impact on partners involved deal protection. "The ultimate form of deal protection for a partner is deal registration," Byrne explained. "There will be zero tolerance for any violation. You have to know that we are here to protect your business, to protect your investment."

As part of its deal protection efforts, Dell will expand business incumbency, where a partner that works with a customer for over three years will 'own' that account.

How will Dell protect partner deals?

In a question-and-answer period with Dell executives, a few partners took the opportunity to drill into Dell's deal protection policies.

One partner based in Nigeria, citing difficult competition, asked the executives to elaborate on how Dell will lock down a partner's deals and provide assistance.

"The minute you identify an opportunity, [you must] register your deal registration," Byrne said. "We actually have a deal registration that's centralized away from sales ... so that we can [be] completely transparent, completely fair in the process. The minute your deal registration is acknowledged ... it's yours."

Jeff Clarke, Dell EMC's vice chairman of operations and president of client solutions, added that Dell acknowledges deal registrations within 2.7 hours.

Byrne, while recognizing Dell's blotchy history of not always honoring its deal registrations, said Dell Technologies will strive for fairness. "We're one team attacking the market place, so you have to know we're protecting your investment. ... And should you find any violation of that, we're a company that prides itself on trust, integrity [and] partnership. And there will be a zero-tolerance policy on any violation of deal registration."

"When you register an opportunity, it means you found it, it's incremental. And if you're a sales person or a pre-sales person, that's music to their ears," said Bill Scannell, president of enterprise sales and customer operations at Dell EMC. Dell will help partners when they need help, he said, "but ideally over time you are going to able to run that campaign ... independently and set your own pricing [and] make your own margins."

The meaning of 'zero tolerance'

Another partner asked for clarification on how Dell Technologies' zero-tolerance policy would apply. Scannell emphasized that Dell Technologies would reprimand direct sales reps that violate engagement rules.

Scannell, who comes from EMC, recounted EMC's efforts to rectify its poor record with the channel. "Early on, we [EMC] weren't viewed as a channel-friendly company. We used to undercut the channel partners. We did all types of things. ... So we took the channel very seriously 15, 16 years ago. We said, 'Look, we want to build back our credibility with the channel. That means when we say we're going to do something, we're going to do it. We need to have the integrity.'"

That initiative led EMC to institute policies for penalizing direct sales reps who undercut partners, he said. For the first violation, the sales rep wouldn't get the payout; for the second, the sales rep would be terminated.

"We've got to work collectively and say, 'What are the rules of engagement? What can [partners] expect from us?' But at the same time, if [a partner] registers a deal with us and [it] goes with a competitive offering, that's not playing by the rules, either," he noted. "If you register, it [means] you're going to win or lose with Dell Technologies."

Ultimately, Dell Technologies needs to continue thinking about deal protection and solicit feedback from partners, he said.

"So it's fair to say that come February, the direct teams will get more than a slap on the wrist if they go in and undercut a partner?" the partner asked.

"Yes," Scannell said, triggering audience applause.

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