Dell EMC is beefing up its sales team and the incentives it uses to motivate it in a play to squeeze growth out of a storage portfolio facing the pressures of a rapidly changing market.
Over the next few quarters, the Round Rock, Texas, company will hire "several hundred" storage specialists across its go-to-market segments, global specialty teams and channel teams, Infrastructure Solutions Group President David Goulden said during a conference call Thursday to discuss the company's second-quarter financial results.
The hiring will go hand in hand with modified incentive programs that better emphasize storage opportunities and better alignment of those sales teams, Goulden said, and it comes as Dell EMC reports declining orders and flat quarter-over-quarter revenue for its storage business.
"Storage orders declined in mid-single digits" in the second quarter, Goulden said. "We have robust plans to improve storage growth rates. The midrange price band where we have more work to do, we're adding salespeople, changing quotas and compensation schemes, introducing new products. That will help us do better in the second half."
Dell EMC's storage revenue was $3.7 billion, essentially flat compared with the previous quarter. Overall, Dell Techologies reported non-GAAP second-quarter revenue of $19.6 billion and a non-GAAP quarterly profit of $1.6 billion.
Last month, Dell EMC channel marketing chief Cheryl Cook introduced a slate of new spiffs designed to encourage solution providers to double down on midrange storage products.
Goulden explained that while the market moves toward all-flash and hyper-converged solutions, traditional midmarket systems face declines. Also, customers now prefer to purchase storage on a flexible, consumption-based model, which also takes some of the revenue punch out of storage sales.
Dan Serpico, CEO of FusionStorm, a San Francisco-based solution provider that works with Dell EMC, said his company has made the most of generous storage incentives provided by Dell EMC's partner program, but he wonders if the vendor's storage sales would be in more dramatic decline if not for those inducements.
"We're using the program as it was intended," Serpico said. "The hard question is, if not for the program, would the math be worse [for Dell EMC's storage business] because of this ongoing technology shift? The rebate program is very effective, and we hit our storage quota in the last quarter, so we get some wonderful incentives. We're certainly cognizant of those incentives, and we're sharing those with our sales reps."
Still, others paint a more grim picture for the storage market.
The top executive at one solution provider that works with Dell EMC and other vendors, who asked not to be identified, said adding salespeople and adjusting compensation is simply too little too late for a market that is being left behind.
"The storage business is in trouble, and I don't think that hiring an army of storage guys is the answer," the solution provider executive said. "HCI is taking over from the world of traditional storage arrays. We've seen that shift for a long time. Direct-attach server-based storage is taking over. We are selling far more servers today with storage in them than ever before, and I don't see that ending. Traditional storage is not the same. The volume is not the same. We're selling fewer units at a lower price. We're probably down 10 percent on traditional storage. Our server numbers are up probably 25 percent year over year."
Tom Sweet, Dell Technologies CFO, said the company would ramp up its storage-focused sales force over the next few quarters, and he underlined the sense of urgency that the vendor is bringing to the effort.
"Lots of other levers are being pulled in terms of marketing programs and things we're doing around incentives," Sweet said. "The focus is to build back that velocity, because it's an area of the market where we're not doing as well as we should be, and we've got to get it fixed."