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While Michael Dell was having a well-publicized lunch with a Long Island VAR earlier this month, at least one of his field sales representatives was trying to make an end-run around the existing relationship that a VAR had with a customer.

The customer (formerly in sales himself) wrote about the encounter on his blog, saying that a Dell Equallogic direct sales rep e-mailed him directly to talk about setting up a demo and explaining what Equallogic could do for him. This is in spite of the fact that the customer had a longstanding relationship with a VAR for his Equallogic business.

The customer includes the text of the e-mail in his blog entry, which, in part, says: “As some of you may or may not know Dell Inc. acquired Equallogic back in November. Previously till now there was no way to send a Dell account executive onsite, now that we can do this, give me a call if you would like to set up a demo or onsite consultation.”

Now Dell, smart social marketer that it is, responded to the accusations in the blog’s comment section, initially saying that the sales person might be working with a VAR, but then in a subsequent comment saying that “the email must have been an individual sales person trying to make something happen, but that it is definitely NOT part of some bigger program. Dell is a big company, it’s not possible to ensure everybody understands the rules of engagement and sometimes things like this happen. Please accept our apologies.”

And the next comment comes from someone else at Dell, Amie Paxton (the person behind Dell’s new channel blog), who uses her comment to tell anyone who encounters a similar situation to contact her so she can inform Dell’s channel team. This effectively shuts down the conversation.

Now, the channel team at Dell indeed has seemed committed to creating a successful channel program. But the last time I checked, the direct sales organization at Dell did not report to Channel Chief Greg Davis. This is where it all breaks down.

While Dell’s channel program and marketing efforts look good on paper (or on screen), things like deal registration and who-owns-what-account are only as good as their enforcement.

When a company representative says there’s no way a company as big as Dell can make sure all its field sales reps understand the rules of engagement, well, maybe as a company Dell has a ways to go in becoming channel-friendly.

What do you think?