Lenovo GM Kevin Hooper On ‘Acquisition, Growth And Market Share Push’

Lenovo executive Kevin Hooper’s Channel-First go-to-market strategy mandates that Lenovo leverage channel partners in as many deals as possible.

Kevin Hooper, president and general manager for Lenovo’s North America Data Center Group, in an interview with CRN said he is bullish about winning market share from the competition through his Channel-First initiative, technology vision and new customer acquisition. Hooper is a channel veteran with more than two decades of IT experience. Soon after joining Lenovo in early 2019, Hooper installed the Channel-First go-to-market strategy, mandating that Lenovo leverage channel partners in as many deals as possible.

What’s one key channel statistic that gets you excited?

Prior to announcing my Channel-First initiative, we had about 2,951 net-new customers purchasing through the channel. In the fiscal year that ended [March 31], we had 3,946 new customers. So not only were they new customers, but there were 1,000 more of them. That is what’s helping attract channel partners to work with Lenovo. We are on an acquisition, growth and market-share push, and we’re delivering on it.

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What types of new partners are you recruiting?

We’ve competitively recruited from our No. 1 and No. 2 competitors. And that’s ramped up in the last six months as we’ve gone into the lockdown and the effects of COVID-19. As they’ve experienced challenges in their vendor supply chain, our fully integrated supply chain has actually helped us. We’ve gotten calls from channel partners that had deals on the table that said, ‘Your competition can’t supply this. Could you?’ And we’ve taken those deals. We added 54 new partners because we went on a recruitment [push] and essentially reintroduced ourselves to a number of partners, and these aren’t just new partners who did one little transaction [with] one little portion of our portfolio—we added 54 metal partners.

How are you helping partners make more money and win new deals?

We’ve materially moved the compensation toward opportunity and performance, rather than just participation. But we’re not just saying, ‘We will pay you more for your performance.’ We’re saying, ‘We will pay you more for performance, and we’re going to line it up with enablement programs with resources to help you. We’re going to help you drive marketing campaigns.’ In this virtual world, I can be on a different continent and I can still participate in a customer event. For example, there’s virtual wine tasting that we do with partners and customers. So it’s about delivering on this commitment of Channel-First.

What technology markets is Lenovo pushing partners to attack?

We’ve now aligned globally around four major solution areas in the market: analytics and AI; hybrid cloud; Everything as a Service; and then edge solutions. Those four areas are absolutely paramount and front and center in every conversation that I have. As CIOs are out there trying to figure out how to survive in the new normal and what the world is going to look like, what are the real ramifications going forward long term? People are going to be returning to a very different landscape, a different set of collaboration requirements and a very different set of requirements of having some of those workloads closer to where people are. We think it’s incredibly important as we’re on-boarding new partners to say, ‘Look, we’re not just going to empower you with the technical conversation, we know you’re good at that. What you’re looking for is another business line within your business strategy to help you facilitate your own growth and your own financial goals. Let’s not just talk to you about the widgets we have on the truck, let’s talk about the way we’re going to market so we can do this in collaboration with each other.’

Can you talk about your direct versus indirect strategy?

I’ve batted 1,000 percent over my career when I’ve had a customer say, ‘I want to go direct.’ Because I pick up the phone and I say, ‘Tell me what you want. Don’t make an assumption that you understand the financial mechanics and the financial model. Talk to me about what you want. You want a direct relationship so that you can pick up the phone and call the supplier if something goes wrong. I can give you that. You want a direct relationship because you think you’re going to get the best deal. Don’t manage my business for me. I will make sure that you’re comfortable because we both have to be comfortable with the financial mechanics, but there are certain things that I’m going to want to do in terms of providing you with another set of eyes and ears that can help you with respect to the types of things you’re doing. That’s going to be my channel.’