Cheryl Cook now has a little more than a quarter under her belt as Dell Channel Chief. The former Sun/Oracle executive told CDN that timing may never be better for the channel and Dell as she believes the Round Rock, Tex.-based vendor is under-represented and under-penetrated in the marketplace.

For the channel to maximize on all those opportunities with Dell Cook, who took over from former Dell Canada GM Greg Davis as channel chief last November, believes that being more predictable with solution providers is something the company needs to strive for.

Cheryl Cook
Cheryl Cook

Since her start date, Dell introduced a more predictable engagement model that will bring more of a focus on informing solution providers on the right people at Dell to work with. Dell also is paying its direct sales force a 20 per cent premium that brings in new channel partners on deals.

On top of that Dell brought in a new approach in removing price as barrier specifically for its workstation line.

Cook said that this premium is targeted for recruiting partners who give Dell scale in the marketplace on complex solutions that involve storage and virtualization.

Along with the 20 per cent premium Dell provided its channel team with more investment dollars that Cook said would be used for demo equipment and increase channel partner incentives.

The University of Florida alum spent some time with CDN to address these initiatives. The following is an edited transcript.

CDN Now: Dell Canada president Kevin Peesker was interviewed by CDN late last year and said the company is now like a start-up. Do you think the channel looks at Dell as a start up?

Cheryl Cook: Kevin’s right and when we closed the transaction in the fall inside the company there was this renewed sense of energy. As a result, it was my hope to get to Dell World on that same roll. And, it was three weeks into my new job where we made these enhancements. How we were received by the partners is they saw the pace of the decision making is faster. There is a degree of urgency, aggressiveness and new focus on expanding the partnerships to drive more business in real time. And, I was open to them that I do not have a high desire to expand the partner base. What I do love to do is enhance the strategic relationship with partners so that I have more wallet share of their business as they expand in the portfolio to bring more meaningful growth. As a start-up we’ll act faster with decisions, management and investment for long-term market growth.

CDN Now: Dell has a new approach to remove price as a barrier in the marketplace. Why did you want to do this now and how will the channel fit in as they always seem to be dealing with razor-thin margins?

C.C.: It’s competitive pricing that wins in the market. Workstations are a focus area for us and key differentiation. In the most recent quarter we regained No. 1 market position and its growing handsomely with partners. We got an amazing, competitive product and we can take share in this area. Price needs to be competitive. We’ll win with partners and I’ll try to ensure those prices so that we take share, while partners make money. The workstation portfolio garners more margins because they are deployed in technical areas where there are more margins.

CDN Now: What are some of the areas that you wanted to clean up with your new predictable engagement models?

C.C.: To be fair I did not look at it as a cleaning up but rather a step forward in the evolution in the channel. The channel is growing 3X anyway and with the new engagement models I got more focused on the direct team and some territories. For example, in the mid-market we had a single independent sales rep with more than 400 accounts and servicing something less than that. I wanted to get more specific in where we focus on with the direct team and by default it will open it up for more opportunity for partners for co-selling and partner-led. It’s probably subtle but it’s quite impactful and helps us to go faster and get more deliberate. The new framework and structure has an increase in incentives and focus so that we ensure we get mutual alignment. This has led to a significant uptick in courses and certifications completed by partners. We are now looking at areas to expand certifications and we are seeing a nice uptick in cross-selling.

CDN Now: How many new channel partners have been brought in with the new 20 per cent increase in compensation for Dell’s direct sales force and what do you hope to achieve with this move?

C.C.: It’s too early to say. The fiscal year ended on Feb 1. We gave sales reps there quota and since then it’s only been five weeks. The commissions and revenue is still being calculated as we speak. The goal of the 20 per cent premium would be for those complex solutions. I do envision it helping us deliver rich, enterprise solutions mix with the indirect business and not at the expensive of the business. I think we are taking share now because the indirect business is growing at 3X. My hope is we’ll see a lift in enterprise space through partners. All of these announcements foster better alignment that brings about good predictability and drive clarity from a coverage perspective.

CDN Now: Does this move put to rest the tension that there with the channel on Dell direct sales?

C.C.: I hope so. That was sort of the feedback I got. Its historical, its legacy and it’s an image we ensure we are growing and working through. The initial feedback from the partner community has been very receptive to it and I found the team wanting to work with partners in collaboration session between partner sales leaders and Dell leaders. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and do more account level planning, education and vocalize this, while look at areas of channel expertise and match those against accounts.

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