With 100 days under his belt as Lexmark's new global channel chief, Sammy Kinlaw is in the midst of architecting a reinvigorated channel strategy that will see the printer vendor over the next several months expand its partner organization, increase channel spending, recruit new partners and open new cloud-focused service opportunties to solution providers.
Lexmark's channel push comes as the company is prepping partners for a massive product overhaul this summer that will refresh 92 percent of its product line and put cloud-focused Lexmark tools into partners' hands for the first time.
With 90 percent of revenue coming from the partners, Lexmark was already channel-friendly when he arrived, having gained most of its 2017 growth from the channel, said Kinlaw, vice president of worldwide channel and OEM sales, who joined the Lexington, Ky- based printer vendor in February after a decade at Lenovo.
"What they have are great products with amazing solutions, and they want to open up those solutions and products and grow in a channel space,” Kinlaw said in an exclusive interview Tuesday with CRN. "Not Lexmark-led selling, but channel-led selling … Partners can expect me to be fair, to incent in a big way, to expect that I'm going to give the right support and coverage, and it's going to allow them to sell to new end-users and compete in spaces they couldn't compete before because of the solutions that are tied to the hardware."
Kinlaw said he expects to increase channel spending in the "low double digits," with Lexmark executives at the highest levels -- including CEO Rich Geruson and Chief Reveune Officer Brock Saladin -- committed to supporting him in his efforts to grow the company's channel business.
With that increased funding, he plans to expand Lexmark's commercial coverage for VARs, possibly adding both field and inside sales reps. He also expects to roll out new channel incentives that encourage partners to sell Lexmark's full product stack, particularly its multifunction color printer products, and expand the company's marketing efforts to make sure channel partners are hearing the message.
"Now, we’re taking it to the next level," Kinlaw said. "We understand where the revenues came from, but my strategy is to grow wider in select geographies -- the number of buying partners and the number of authorized partners -- but I also know the partners that are able to sell the types of solutions [we're coming out with], and I want to invest in those partners to go deeper."
With the launch of Lexmark's new products, scheduled for June, partners for the first time will have access to software that enables device management, print management and cloud connectivity, or, in Kinlaw's words, "the keys to the kingdom."
"These cloud-type offerings that were previously unavailable on our products, are now going to be available. So a midsize partner who might have not previously had the expertise or even the opportunity to look at a managed printer and device-as-a-service-type offer will now be able to," Kinlaw said. "Perhaps they had to use a third party before. This new tool suite could enable them to sell it independently. I'm listening very carefully to how we can place this product and position it and the type of training we need."
A part of that is a new, cloud solution that connects printers across an end-user’s company allowing an employee to print from any connected machine. It includes a built-in help line, so printers and copiers can be connected to technicians for immediate service.
Kinlaw said the tool suite will be deployed on Lexmark's forthcoming products, which are slated to roll out between June and September. Those products are geared to give partners a boost to their bottom line, since Lexmark printers and copiers are demonstrated to have life-cycles into the millions of printed pages, he said.
"I think these products create renewable revenue streams because annuities will follow," Kinlaw said. "It could be warranty opportunity. It could be an opportunity for them to service the product since they can be an authorized service provider, and it will give an opportunity for them to sell ink for a very long time. Many of these products have been in use for multiple years. The design and the quality and the robustness that was in that heritage continues on today.'
Lexmark is bringing an educational component for partners, to help them come up to speed as new products and services are debuted, Kinlaw said. Some of that has already happened through road shows where the company meets the channel face to face, but more is planned for the coming months.
"PartnerNet is where we will begin," he said, referencing Lexmark's online partner portal. "Training modules are already built, so as these products are announced, the training that comes with it happens. During the roadshows that we're in the middle of for the [Business Solutions Dealer] channel, we're talking about these face to face. It's going to be blocking and tackling efforts along with hosting on PartnerNet and the training modules around it. It will be pushed education from our field reps and my inside reps. I have a large channel organization, and I have a lot of people that work for me worldwide. It's going to be a concerted effort through three primary vehicles to train these guys.”
Kinlaw also has plans to help partners with more actionable information, by giving them access to Lexmark’s in-house engineers, and industry consultants in government, manufacturing, retail, insurance, banking and pharmaceuticals, to improve the printing experience for end-users. Until now, that expertise has been locked away, he said.
"There are over 100 folks really based on these vertical-type solutions, so those verticals solutions were, to be frank, only used in a direct selling method," he said. 'All that stuff has been kept in house … I have to enable those channel partners to take advantage of that."