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By | Kelly Fiveash 20th February 2008 15:47

Dell tells channel: You're not just a bit on the side

Snuggles up to dealers and talks prices

Dell is gunning to sign up a select bunch of channel resellers to the certification part of its two-tier programme over the next few months.

The firm's new UK channel director Andy Dow said Dell no longer thinks of the channel as simply being “something on the side”.

Dow, who was speaking at a Professional Computing Association (PCA) event in the north of England yesterday, insisted that part of the firm's much-needed facelift over the past 18 months has been about going after what he described as "finite" partners.

In other words, Dell is still in a position where it can be fussy about whom it chooses to do business with – the point is that it’s had to widen the telescope a bit in an attempt to scrape back market share from souped-up rival HP.

So, far from quickly amassing resellers under the elite certification part of its two-tier programme, for the foreseeable future at least it's looking to embrace a discerning bunch of around 60 UK-based VARs over the next few quarters.

Dell also denied that conflict could arise between small resellers and the likes of Tesco, PC World and Carrefour who have been stacking Dell-badged kit to the ceiling.

Dow, who previously worked at distributor Westcoast, said that no such tension exists because the superstores are only dealing with the consumer market.

Meanwhile, he wants resellers to focus purely on the commercial side of the operation, saying that a completely different product line would reflect that: "You're not going to see the products you see here today sitting in a retail environment."

The PCA’s Keith Warburton asked if Dell can overcome ongoing issues of trust from many resellers who have up to now been largely sceptical about the firm’s channel motives.

“Dell is committed to solid fixed trade pricing,” said Dow. However, he refused to cough up further details, preferring simply to say: "If Dell wanted to sell at cost could you compete with them – the answer is yes."

Dow said that pricing would still be determined on a "deal-by-deal basis" with partners in which terms and conditions, like any business transaction, would be agreed behind closed doors.

He was at pains to insist that channel partnerships were about building on “value” rather than simply pushing for high volume sales – but Dow also conceded that the best Dell could aim for was to be number two, behind HP, in the channel.

"The core thing here is value and we're hanging our hat on it," he said.

Dell has hired 70 Ireland-based sales and support staff, and it’s also in the process of taking on channel account managers to work closely with resellers keen to punt the firm’s kit. He added that credit terms could be negotiated with VARs that generate sales of around 50 per cent or more from Dell goods. There will also be an opportunity to buy other products such as Microsoft software direct from the computer maker.

On technical support, Dow said that Dell has more faith in the channel's IT knowledge, especially when compared to a typical PC World or Tesco customer. For that reason the firm is hoping to offer more local support, although Dow admitted that there will still be "some flow out to India".

Resellers at the event appeared to mostly welcome Dell's channel vision. Adam Harris at Bear IT told us that from a business point of view it doesn't matter which box is being sold; what matters is that the customer has plenty of choice. ®

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