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Dell PartnerDirect Resellers That Complain Need Better Business Models

Dell PartnerDirect Resellers That Complain Need Better Business ModelsBecause of the amount of balls I have in the air at once, I rarely have time to get mired in negativity. And I certainly don’t go seeking it out. Yet every once in a while, I come across some angry blogger or mentally unstable forum poster who’s ranting about how Dell PartnerDirect is mean or nasty to its resellers.

Understand What May Be Behind the Lashing Out

Do these comments matter? Yes and no.

I often wonder if the emotional anger and complaints directed at Dell PartnerDirect are really just underscoring the need for these resellers to evolve their own companies into better, healthier, more modern and more sustainable business models.

Listen, I totally get channel conflict. When I was younger and more hot-headed, I once ranted so loudly about an ISV poaching its partners’ customers, its message and accompanying pictures of me looking awfully PO’d landed on the cover and inside pages of CRN.

Realize That It’s Not 2001 Anymore

Did it matter then? Absolutely! But if you think of years in the IT channel conflict a little like “cat years,” where you age 7 times faster than the rest of the population, that channel conflict in 2001 now feels like it was 84 years ago.

But either way, getting back to Dell PartnerDirect, and some of its small minority of complaining resellers, it seems like SMB VARs and MSPs with solid business models of their own, who brand their own businesses and really own the client relationships, they do just fine with Dell PartnerDirect.

That said, those resellers that still depend on hardware sales as their primary revenue drivers, especially if you're talking about really basic, commoditized desktops, notebooks, and servers, where there's little if any value add on the part of these companies, those Dell PartnerDirect resellers might be pretty darn frustrated.

Analyze Why Dell Moved On From Being Known as “Dell Computer”

In recent years, with all of its acquisitions, Dell has really up-scaled its product line. High-end storage (from an SMB perspective). Firewalls. Cloud services. Social media training. Just to name a few.

Dell has a lot of interesting angles going with PartnerDirect and recently added another level to help its most senior partners differentiate.

Bear in mind too...both Dell and HP took a huge beating with their PC sales in the recent quarters. So if nothing else, that should be a huge wakeup call for Dell PartnerDirect resellers to stop trying to sell Dell desktops, notebooks, and servers like it's still 1999.

Look, even the Artist Formerly Known as Prince would likely agree, if he were in the IT channel, that it’s no longer prudent to “party like it’s 1999.”

Differentiate to Lead With Your Strengths

While Dell, just like Best Buy for Business, does want to be in the business of selling outsourced IT services to local small business, the independently-owned SMB VAR or MSP still has some very powerful differentiators that they ought to be leaning on much more heavily than they often do.

For some ideas on how independent VARs and MSPs can differentiate from national competitors, see these posts on selling against Best Buy for Business/Geek Squad and selling against national competitors.

Look, let’s not try to sugarcoat this. Dell has for a very long time been anti-channel. Who could forget the full-page Wall Street Journal ads from the 1990s with giant scissors and Dell proclaiming to “cut out the middleman”?

The only time I met Michael Dell personally was in 1998, while sharing an elevator while leaving a New York City press event. (I was at the time freelancing for a now long-defunct IT channel magazine.)

When I introduced myself and explained that my readers were SMB VARs and integrators (MSPs didn’t really exist yet), Mr. Dell’s response was simply, “We’ve got that covered.” Kind of says it all.

Embrace the “New and Improved” Dell…Or At Least, Be Cautiously Optimistic

Obviously Dell changed its tune (dramatically) with the IT channel with its launch of PartnerDirect, and perhaps even a little earlier if you want to give Dell the benefit of the doubt.

But a good way for resellers to look at this situation: Dell is basically a recovering “direct-a-holic.”

The company culture was literally born out of a passion and addiction, if you will, to excelling at selling direct.

Like many recovering addicts, Dell PartnerDirect may occasionally fall off the wagon and need some gentle reminders to get it back on track with the IT channel.

But with at least 10+ IT channel publications scrutinizing its every move (most a lot more vigorously than we ever could), it's hard for Dell to ignore the press and social media avalanches. Even on the end-user side, Jeff Jarvis really taught Dell about social media feedback.

And to those who complain about deal registration…

Any deal registration system will always have its pros and cons. Many cynical resellers may even bypass deal registration altogether and take matters into their own hands.

Either way, the question is, if you need a tier 1 OEM, who’s really left that’s any better? Granted there are still a half-dozen “viable” alternatives (maybe).

But if your small business clients, that generate heavy thousands of dollars each month in service revenue (or your local currency equivalent), insist on Dell, and the real revenue driver for your company is the service contracts and managed services, many technology providers need to simply stop fighting the old battles of 5 to 10 years ago. And instead focus on what's going to grow and sustain their business for the next 5 to 10 years.

Trying to get better at moving boxes, without adding sustainable value and ROI to projects, is kind of like sending your system engineers to a class about optimizing config.sys files and upper memory blocks. That ship has sailed a long time ago. It’s time to move on.

Dell has evolved. Now it’s your turn.


What do you think about resellers that complain about Dell PartnerDirect? Are there some merits in their whining? Or do these complaints underscore quasi-obsolete business models? Please share your thoughts in the Comments below. 


And to follow-through on the tips introduced in this short article, be sure to download your free copy of the special report on IT Service Contract Secrets for Getting More Repeat Clients and Recurring Service Revenue

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Creative Commons Image Source: flickr Dell's Official Flickr Page

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