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Lenovo Partner Hub, Empower Incentive Have Partners Closing More Deals, More Quickly

“The real benefits [of Partner Hub] are going to come from our ability to aggregate big data, and then present it back out to our partners to really accelerate and change their sales motion,” said Lenovo’s Jeff Taylor.

At solution provider CommQuest, the opportunity to win new customers with Lenovo PCs has shifted into higher gear during the events of 2020.

Mark Sanchez, CEO of the Loganville, Ga.-based company, said that equipping organizations with Lenovo devices for remote work has led to new customer wins, including a large financial services firm in the Northeast and a municipal government in the Southwest.

And the opportunity for growing his business through gaining new customers with Lenovo PCs is far from over, Sanchez said—especially as Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is now offering an additional partner incentive for acquiring new customers. Lenovo debuted its new Empower incentive on Oct. 1, which provides an extra 2 percent bonus for partners on sales to a new customer.

[RELATED: Lenovo Partners Seeing Huge Momentum In Device-As-A-Service Deals]

“We’re going to be able to benefit from that incentive because we’re doing [new customer acquisition] anyway,” Sanchez said. “That’s just going to enable us to do more.”

The new Empower program is just one indicator that even as the COVID-19 crisis persists, Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is keeping its foot on the gas when it comes to engaging and investing in solution providers, Lenovo North America executives and partners told CRN.

Other recent moves have ranged from the debut of the new Lenovo Partner Hub site, to the expansion of engagement initiatives such as Communities and Channel Chatter, to investments aimed at optimizing seller relationships between Lenovo, distribution and partners.

The moves show that Lenovo is relying more heavily on its partners in response to quickly evolving customer needs emerging from the COVID-19 crisis, Lenovo executives said.

“We believe that our philosophy around empowering all of our partners to go achieve their goals is actually a unique philosophy out there in the industry and one that we’re going to continue to invest in,” said Jeff Taylor, executive director for North America channel strategy and operations in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group.

One of the vendor’s biggest recent channel investments is the Lenovo Partner Hub, which launched in late July. The site unifies all tools, portals and business lines for solution providers, and covers both Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group and Data Center Group.

The Lenovo Partner Hub integrates everything from the performance dashboard, to order-tracking capabilities, to deal registration and pricing, all in one location. Crucially, the site includes a new pricing platform, the Lenovo Bid Platform, where partners can submit special pricing requests and deal registration requests. Also key is the Lenovo Partner Hub’s personalization, as the site shows a different view to each user based on his or her role.

Taylor said the participation of partners in the Lenovo Partner Hub has been “phenomenal,” with more than 15,000 partners registered as of the end of September. That outpaces Lenovo’s initial goal of registering 12,000 partners by the end of October.

The Lenovo Partner Hub has been a “big transition” for Lenovo and its partners but is already making a difference, said Rick White, co-founder and president of vision21 Solutions, a Lenovo Gold partner based in Wake Forest, N.C.

“Now that we’ve got that understanding of how to utilize the new Partner Hub and pricing tools, those have been able to help us close a few competitive deals. We’re able to get quicker response times on bid pricing,” White said.

Taylor said that updates to the Lenovo Partner Hub now in the works will improve the speed for pricing even further— while other upcoming enhancements will focus on providing useful data back to partners.

“The real benefits are going to come from our ability to aggregate big data, and then present it back out to our partners to really accelerate and change their sales motion,” said Taylor, adding that partners can expect more updates on this from Lenovo in coming weeks and months.

Meanwhile, with the new Empower incentive, Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group is seeking to drive the acquisition of a larger share of the North American PC market. The 2 percent bonus is available to partners both for new customer sales and for sales to existing customers that haven’t purchased in the past 12 months.

“It’s not just about growing our customer base, but it’s more about helping our partners to be more sustainable and to grow their own businesses,” said Cassie Jeppson, director of North America channel programs in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group.

Lenovo also recently introduced several other incentives that partners can use to “elevate their earning potential,” Jeppson said. The new incentives are available for services and for sales of workstations, accessories, displays and premium devices, she said.

In terms of winning new customers, Lenovo executives pointed to higher education as one key vertical.

“We’re looking to take that to the next level,” said Reed Kalagher, senior director of public sector and higher education in Lenovo North America’s Intelligent Devices Group. “We’re looking to become a bigger player in this [higher-education] market overall.”

Higher education is also one of the newest verticals that Lenovo is focusing on through its Communities initiative. The initiative delivers targeted information to Platinum and Gold Intelligent Devices Group partners based on their market focus, and initially included three Communities—enterprise, SMB and K-12 education. In 2020, Lenovo added Communities covering higher education, health care, and state and local government.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis arrived, “one of the key things that we wanted to focus on [in 2020] was enabling our partners and providing communication to them in a way that we hadn’t done in the past. And so we put a lot of emphasis around enablement and around partner communication,” said Rob Cato, vice president of North America channels in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. “I’m very excited to say that we’ve made a lot of strides there. We’ve accomplished a lot in the last 12 months.”

Along with Communities, Lenovo has emphasized partner engagement with its Channel Chatter initiative, which provides communications to partners across newsletters, podcasts, videos, webinars and mobile apps.

Lenovo’s partner communication and engagement initiatives have played a crucial role in enabling an effective response to the COVID-19 crisis, partners told CRN.

“They’ve been very transparent and continued to communicate with us,” said Susie Smith, general manager of Wichita, Kan.-based Twotrees Technologies, a subsidiary of Lenovo Platinum partner Woodard Technology and Investments.

Smith said she takes part in Lenovo’s K-12 community, which meets every two weeks and has “very frank discussions” about the latest issues members are facing. Lenovo representatives and K-12 partners take part in the meetings. “The Communities are very good at focusing attention on what products and services they have to sell, and how they fit in today’s environment—whatever today’s environment is,” she said.

Lenovo executives have also stepped up their own individual efforts around connecting with partners during the crisis. Marshae Mansfield, vice president and chief customer officer for North America in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, said that prior to the pandemic she held one-on-one calls with 15 top partner sales leaders once per quarter. After COVID-19 hit, she moved those calls to once a month.

“My relationships during this time have really strengthened with our channel community,” Mansfield said. “We’ve been able to make sure that we stay connected and that we’re on the same page. It’s proved invaluable.”

Other new Lenovo initiatives have sought to make it easier for partners to get sales-related support. A service that’s set to be piloted in Canada, the Lenovo Information Center, will provide a phone line as well as online chat within the Lenovo Partner Hub for technical sales and post-sales support.

“We believe this will increase the service level, increase the access and increase the speed for our partners to be able to communicate with us,” said Chris Fabes, Canadian channel leader for Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group.

Relationships between distribution and partners have also been critical during the pandemic response. And Lenovo executives said interactions with distribution have run more smoothly thanks to efforts to bring together representatives from distribution, partners and Lenovo sellers—including through on-site events, held just before the pandemic, that aimed to solidify relationships.

“The biggest thing that I’ve seen is the way that our distribution teams are now connecting directly with our partner sellers,” said Stacey Goodman, director of U.S. distribution in Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group. “Before, you would have this linear communication going on—from the [distributor] to the VAR, and then maybe to our [channel account manager], and then back. Now we’ve really joined everybody together, and everyone is talking to each other much more efficiently and much more effectively.”

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