Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dell VP Falls on Sword

Day Three at "Everything Channel" -- the conference formerly known as XChange 2008 in L.A.

Still no coffee until 6 a.m. . . .

Energy fading . . .

This may be my last communication. Light fading . . .

-----

Hey, guess what? Remember yesterday? Remember that Dell was Loser of the day?

Well, here's the award for . . .

Falling on Our Sword
or
Bravest Person at Show
or
Toughest Job in America Today

The awards all go to . . . Gregory Davis, VP and General Manager of Dell.

People brought rotten fruit to this presentation.

The basic message was: "OK. We've sucked in the past. We promise not to suck in the future. Help us make that transition together. We're really committed to the Channel. Those two earlier attempts? Let's forget that and start over."

I felt sorry for the guy.

Quote:
"If we don't deliver and don't fulfill our promises, we want to hear about it."

And then he gave his email address: gregory_davis@dell.com.

Dell promises that they'll focus on
- Margins for partners
- Protecting partners from direct Dell sales
- Rebates that are impossible to collect
- Financing opportunities
- Reducing costs
- Reducing energy consumption as a sales strategy

OK.

You gotta respect someone who's willing to stand up in front of a hostile crowd and say "We were wrong." I know in my personal life that it's hard to say I was wrong. I'm really only good at doing that with my wife because
1) That's where it's needed the most
and
2) I like being married more than I like pretending I'm right.

Anyway.

Mr. Davis made a great presentation and then proceded to open the floor to a lot of difficult questions.

For example . . .

Question: You say that you won't compete with us, but you mail flyers to my clients promising to to do direct support on all of their desktpops. [What the hell?]

Answer: Yes, we are selling managed services direct to your clients. It's all just part of the big mix of products we offer.

Follow-up question: So why should I trust you?

Answer: It's part of our overall plan.

After many years in business, I've learned to never say never. So let me say that I do not foresee snuggling up to Dell during this lifetime.

-----

Having said that, you absolutely have to give snaps to a guy who is willing to stand up there and take this kind of abuse.

Having seen the Dell G.M. kissing ass in public, and having been at the Dell boardroom meeting yesterday, where the lower-level drones played the party line and sang the party song, I feel even more sorry for Mr. Davis.

I believe that, at the top, Dell is willing to give a real partner program a try. But it's a tough sell when the marketing people don't even acknowledge that there ever was a problem.

VARs are like elephants: we have long memories.

It's fine to fall on your sword and honestly try to start over. But we've all heard the old saying: "Screw me once, shame on you; screw me twice, shame on me."

No reseller will go into the new Dell partner program with a belief that it's all sweetness and light.

Will Dell succeed in this attempt at building a partner program? I don't think so. Why?

Because, they have notched out three basic territories. First, there's the extremely small purchase (one or two machines at a time). No one cares. Not even vendors.

Second, there's the $1,000 - $50,000 market. The WHAT? That's right, the market below $49,999.99. That's called the land of free for all. No protection. You're going to compete directly with Dell. That's just the way it is. So shut up.

Third, there's the $50,000 and above. Here you get deal registration. And no competition from Dell.

If you're in the SMB space, that means you will never be protected from Dell. Unless you start making $50,000 deals. In which case, you're not in the SMB space any more.

Bottom line: I applaud Mr. Davis and Dell for trying. Really.

But they don't remotely understand where their market is, or where their partners need to be.

Attempt #3 at a partner program will be simply die a slow death.

I won't go so far as to say (as some have) that the presentation should have been followed by the music to "Jive Talkin" by the Bee Gees.

-----

The day's Best Presentation award goes to Belkin.

They put on an "academy awards" presentation with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike (who was quite excellent). They had foot-tall plastic statues to give to award winners as they introduced a huge amount of information in a short period of time. The presentation was very well prepared and very fun.

The theme continued into the evening as their reception had a live DJ and a photo op corner where attendees could get their picture taken with Marilyn (or each other).

It was a day of contrasts. It started with a national corporation struggling with the difficult relationship (they created) with the channel.

It concluded with a fun party by a vendor who has a great reputation (which they created). As a result of their easy, relaxed relationship with the channel, Belkin literally came to the show to party with their partners. No one had to talk business with Belkin at the party because Belkin takes care of business every day.

As the Bible says: You reap what you sow.

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