Lenovo simplifies incentives with upfront rebates

Lenovo North American channel chief Chris Frey

Lenovo North American channel chief Chris Frey

Product announcements are taking center stage at Lenovo’s Accelerate 2014 Partner Forum, where the world’s largest PC vendor unveiled two new major releases: the ThinkPad 10 business tablet and the ThinkStation P300 workstation.

Behind the products are a series of channel program and policy improvements to incent existing partners and attract new resellers to the Lenovo cause through simplified ordering and compensation, and shifting rebates from the backend to upfront.

North America channel chief Chris Frey has been making the rounds in the past couple of weeks leading up to Accelerate, evangelizing how Lenovo is drawing more resellers into its fold through a combination on strong products and superior partner program. In 2013, Lenovo channel sales grew 19 percent to $4 billion. The channel ranks swelled 22 percent to more than 10,000 active partners. And server and tablet sales through the channel grew more than 65 percent, respectively.

Lenovo is looking to maintain its momentum through a combination of new products, most notably the new workstation and tablet, but also by expanding sales of existing products — notebooks and ThinkServers. Additionally, Lenovo wants to condition partners to think beyond its core notebook products, which make up the lion’s share of revenue, and incorporate the System X86 and Flex servers being acquired from IBM into future prospects.

Simplifying sales and activity reporting and moving rebates to the front of the sales cycle is a means, Lenovo believes, to keep partners engaged and leading with its products.

“The Best of Breed Programs are helping us to provide an enhanced experience to our partners.  We are making our channel programs easier for this fiscal year, including ease of payments and ease of reporting, while eliminating procedures and creating more efficient processes,” Lenovo told Channelnomics.

Lenovo is rapidly expanding its portfolio. The acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business is expected to close later this year. Lenovo is also expected to close the acquisition of Google’s Motorola Mobility cellular handset business this year. It’s already has storage products through a joint development program with EMC’s Iomega division. And it’s floating a massive $1.5 billion bond to fund additional expansion.

While Lenovo is the world’s largest PC vendor by volume, it’s still a relatively niche player in technology compared to the likes of Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM. It’s not a position it want to remain. Lenovo believes sales expansion and growth will come through the channel, and making it easier for partners to engage and remain active is a primary goal of its channel program. What it wants to avoid is raising barriers to entry with elements common in rival’s channels that turn off partners.

Lenovo’s simplification of partner reporting and compensation comes as the long-suffering PC market stabilizes. Businesses and consumers are buying PCs again, replacing older machines with outdated Windows XP operating systems. Tablet sales are slowing as the market reaches saturation. Lenovo has bucked the PC decline by capturing market share from rivals. The new incentives, at the very least, will help maintain Lenovo’s hard-won market-leading position.

This article originally appeared on Channelnomics.com.