Lenovo Changes Approach To Channel

After qualifying as a community member (which requires partners to meet revenue and expertise criteria), partners are eligible for benefits tailored for their market segment. Such benefits will include tools to help partners acquire new customers, including potential leads, additional marketing dollars and demo equipment.

"Under each community there will be different things we'll offer that will be more applicable to that community. For example, with partners selling into large enterprises, we'll offer deal certification because those partners have to invest a lot more time and effort into convincing large enterprises on a deal, and this will help them know they'll get return for that effort," Mungall said.

For public sector resellers, Lenovo will provide access to sales specialists who can help partners find other partners for teaming opportunities -- a key area of focus for many VARs selling into government.

Such changes are consistent with a trend in channel programs in the past year, in which vendors started to base their channel-program incentives and rewards on criteria other than just revenue, as a way to build their ranks of small and midsize VARs and to gain inroads into specific vertical markets and geographies.

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The new program will not offer community members different pricing on systems for end users; it is instead aimed at helping offset reseller cost of acquiring new customers, Mungall said.

The changes are in response to partner requests for increased funding, and Lenovo also plans to form community advisory councils to help guide its future efforts, he added.

"Starting back in the fall when we talked to lot of partners, they said, 'We need more funding to help grow you, Lenovo, and we need more commitment from you,' so we put in place some marketing funds," Mungall said. "What we're trying to do now is take that to the next level."

The changes also come on the heels of an aggressive reseller recruitment effort by Lenovo. Since March of last year, the company has recruited 18,000 partners, and in the past 10 months has added more than 4,000 of those partners to its activation base, Mungall said.

Among other changes implemented in the last year is a new partner portal, which Mungall said has improved the vendor's efforts to communicate with partners.

One VAR hopes the program changes will give Lenovo greater visibility into its channel and improve communication.

"Every manufacturer makes this mistake--it's not just Lenovo, but HP and IBM as well--where its client-facing reps don't communicate with its VAR reps," said Neil Popli, president and CEO of Microgear, a San Fransisco-based VAR. "What happens then is that the client reps are trying to do something and the VAR reps are trying to do something, but there is no communication, collaboration and synergy. The client reps need to know who the strong local reps are so they can go out and find opportunities together."