We are going through a major transitioning, says Dell's Bobbi Dangerfield

We are going through a major transitioning, says Dell's Bobbi Dangerfield

 E Kumar Sharma   Hyderabad     Last Updated: July 4, 2013  | 16:12 IST

On her recent visit to India, Bobbi Dangerfield, Vice President, Commercial Sales Operations, at the $60 billion global IT giant Dell, spoke to E. Kumar Sharma about how the company is reinventing its sales focus as it moves from selling hardware to selling solutions.

Q. Tell us a bit about the how Dell has grown in India and the significance of this growth for Dell globally.
A. I started coming to India from 2000. As a company we were here a year or so before that and had a single site in Bangalore. But the growth has been incredible and today we have sites in Mohali, Pune, Gurgoan, Noida, Chennai and Hyderabad, among other places. I think we are now 27,000 strong in India. We support every major region and location around the world in India today - sales, technical support, customer service, engineering, marketing, you name it.

Globally, we are a little over 100,000 people, so 25 per cent of our total population is here in India making India our largest population in one country outside of the US.

Q. What is Dell doing to get back into the lead in India?
A. The past year has been challenging for everybody because of the macroeconomic environment. So we saw the same thing in India that we saw in many markets around the globe given the state of the economy. We are going through a pretty major transitioning from a hardware provider to a solutions business. Our focus now is in four major areas - software, services, servers, storage and what we call the end-user computing business. We are building our solutions portfolio in each of these areas.

I think we differentiate ourselves on the experience we provide to our customers. Bringing the right level of solutions to our customers particularly in the small and medium business space and the ability to solve their business problems and save money at the same time.

Q. You have a portfolio of services to offer but what is the plan to get customers to use them, especially in India and other emerging markets?

A. We are changing our brand messaging in the way that we communicate. For example, in the way we advertise. Our commercials in the US for instance are much more focused on helping customers achieve their mission and purpose. For example, we do a lot in the health-care space, provide a lot of services around healthcare. So, the advertisements that we are running now are about helping find a cure for pediatric cancer through the technology solutions that we are able to provide.

The second thing we are doing is going through a major transformation of our sales force, in the way they are trained. So, the sales motion is very different today. It is about selling solutions rather than selling a piece of hardware and so really training our sales representatives in consultative selling skills. How do you have a conversation, not with the procurement manager about how many PCs the company will buy, but with the CEO about what the company's biggest challenges are? What's keeping the CEO up at night? And knowing that customers' businesses even better than they do and saying here is how our technology solutions can help not only run the business better but also grow it.

We are making a big investment in what we are calling the Dell Sales Academy, which is also part of my organisation, and training our sales representatives to do that... When you start to sell solutions you have to have a relationship with the customer and Dell has always been about having direct relationship, but in a different way. So it is reinventing our sales and reinventing our sales force to be able to have those conversations.

Q. How big is this sales force that has to be transformed?
A. I think in our commercial business we have over 20,000 sales representatives globally.

Q. What has been done in terms of this sales force transformation in India?
A. We actually piloted some of these transformation programmes here in India. We piloted a sales competency assessment so we can actually go through and assess the skills and capabilities of each and every member of our sales team and then we are building a certification programme so you get an assessment and a learning plan on the skills and competencies you need. We tested it across India over six months ago.

Q. You talk of selling solutions. But the bulk of sales for Dell must still be from hardware sales. What about that?
A. Yes, still 60 per cent of our revenues comes from PCs and notebooks. So, we are very committed to that piece of our business and particularly strengthening our customer and retail presence in different parts of the world.

Q. You had also launched a Dell phone. What are the plans on the mobile phone front?
A. Mobility is incredibly important to us. But we made a public announcement about a year and a half ago that we had got out of the smartphone business. Our mobility business today is all around the tablets, the ultra books and particularly around touch technology. I can't share product roadmap at this point but we do plan to continue to invest in the mobility space because we know that it is a huge opportunity.

We decided to shift our mobility strategy to focus on delivering a differentiated offering from Dell with a comprehensive set of mobile solutions for mobile device management and strategies targeting business customers. Our portfolio of mobility solutions will be optimized for mobile device management, security and productivity - the areas that our customers worldwide say are critical to their business.

Our solutions include virtualization, remote access, security and cloud technologies designed specifically to help customers effectively manage the explosion in data and meet the challenges of an evolving mobile workforce and the related Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. Most recently we are seeing interest in tablets in both the commercial and consumer markets and will continue to deliver the best solutions for all of our customers.

IT departments are increasingly adopting the BYOD model for tablets due to strong demand from employees. Our goal is to offer products, services and solutions that maximize end user productivity and IT control and deliver the best overall experience on the market.

Q. Will your engagement with Microsoft, particularly, its $2 billion investment / loan to Dell lead to some kind of partnership on products using the Windows platform?
A. Dell and Microsoft have been partners for a number of years and we will continue to partner with Microsoft overtime. We already have a strong relationship and partnership with Microsoft and they are a strong alliance partner. ... We are committed to Windows platform and will continue to partner with Microsoft and leverage that technology. As far as the $2 billion investment that they are looking to make for the privatisation that is being handled at the corporate level and I think that is totally separate from our day-to-day business.

Q. What brings you to India this time?
A. I will be visiting customers while I am here. My priority is listening to the voices of the customers.

Q. Any plans to travel around and spend the Indian rupee when you are here?
A. (Laughs) I have stimulated the Indian economy whenever I have been here. I love the pearls and the rugs.

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