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When Dell announced that it planned to offer a formal
channel partner program, many solution providers and channel observers
expressed skepticism. And who could blame them? Dell built its business on a
direct-only model and had called direct sales a "religion."

But somewhere along the way, Dell began to see the value of being more
ecumenical in its approach to sales channels. In December 2007, Dell launched
its formal channel partner program, PartnerDirect.

And in its inaugural year of offering sales through channel partners, Dell said
it expects its revenues through the channel to grow by 33 percent—from $9
billion last fiscal year (when total revenues were $61 billion) to $12 billion
this fiscal year.  

Click here for our coverage of Dell’s
PartnerOne program launch,
Dell’s
selection of Salesforce.com’s PRM system
and Dell’s
managed services plans.

The program began with deal registration and plans for several certifications.

"Many of the things that partners have asked for we have launched,"
Dell Channel Chief Greg Davis tells Channel Insider. "And we continue to
grow our partner base and invest in our tools so they can be used on a
worldwide basis."

Dell launched PartnerDirect with a deal registration component, considered one
of the key components for any company that does both direct and indirect sales.
About 15 deals were registered in December 2007. By early May 2008, Dell
had approved about $325 million worth of deals
through deal
registration, and was approving about 80 percent of deals registered.

As more partners have registered for Dell’s PartnerDirect program, the
percentage of deals approved has fallen. Dell received 5,300 deal registration
requests in its fiscal second quarter, which ended in September, and 74 percent
of those were approved.

In the first week of December, 71 percent of deals were approved, according to Davis.

"We watch the numbers every week," he says. "Since we’ve
launched the program we’ve remained at over 70 percent of deals approved."

Davis acknowledges the drop in percent approved, but says
it’s a function of having more partners register opportunities. "You start
to reach a point where there are more opportunities coming in where we had
already agreed to work with another solution or we were already going
direct."

While Dell has accomplished quite a bit with its PartnerDirect program in the
year since the formal launch, not everything has gone according to plan. For
example, the company had hoped to launch five certifications in 2008, but ended
up launching only three.

"We decided midyear to slow it down," says Davis, adding that the company wanted to be sure to do a
proper job on each one rather than rushing them through.

Dell’s number of certified PartnerDirect partners has grown to 532, and Davis says certified partners are growing six times as fast
as registered partners.

Dell
also recently announced a new end-user lease financing program

available through channel partners.