Enterprise incents coming to Lenovo partner program

Lenovo has rewarded partners for bringing in new SMB business, but that incent will soon be extended to the enterprise, with margins pledged to be ‘robust.’

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Lenovo’s Frey: Will no longer be Channel Chief, but still a strong channel advocate

Lenovo has built a strong North American channel business in the last several years, but that business’s programmatic incents from Lenovo had been focused on the SMB sector, even though many partners also sold to larger customers. That will be changing. Recently, Chris Frey, who has been Lenovo’s North American channel chief since 2010, was promoted to VP of Lenovo’s recently formed North American Commercial business unit. The expansion of his role was triggered by Tom Looney’s announcement of his retirement after a 40 year career with IBM and Lenovo. “Tom has responsibilities for the large commercial account business and the public sector business, and Jay Parker [president of Lenovo North America], who I work for, decided that the commercial large account business will report directly to me, so one person has all of commercial. I will continue to work with Jason Mooningham, who runs public sector.” Consolidating these businesses made sense, Frey said. “There is synergy between SMB and the large account business, so it made sense to roll it up under me,” he said. Frey remains the channel chief for now, but that’s likely to change, he indicated. “Over the course of time, I’m sure we will have someone in my old role, now that I am VP and GM for the North America Commercial Business,” he said. “It would be an accurate speculation that someone will be hired to fill my old role.” Frey stressed, however, that while he will no longer be channel chief, Lenovo’s channel strategy will remain consistent. “Our preferred route to market is through the channel,” he said. “Because we are so channel-centric at Lenovo, this puts us in a good position not just to drive SMB but to drive all business, including large accounts. The channel should feel very comfortable that our new organization will be channel focused.” Dell made a similar consolidation in November 2013 when Bill Rodrigues was hired as president of North American and global sales, and a key part of his job was to get Dell’s inside sales people and the channel working together more co-operatively. Frey indicated that wasn’t an issue with Lenovo. “This had nothing to do with solving a channel conflict issue, as the feedback from our channel is that we don’t create a lot of channel conflict. This is about creating synergies internally, creating a more synergistic approach that just happens to be a benefit for our partners.” A key benefit here is coming on the programmatic side. Frey said that while Lenovo had formeely encouraged partners to work with Lenovo’s enterprise team, they will soon be incented to do so. “It was a nice olive branch for Tom Looney to ask the channel to bring us deals, and we would help them get the business, and the success was okay, but I don’t think it was great success,” Frey said. “But as we go forward, with the new PC and server business, we will reward channels as much if not more than ever to bring us new business.” Frey emphasized that partners will be expressly rewarded for new enterprise business, rather than just being asked to bring business in. “They will see program expansion to reward them for new business regardless of size,” he said. “In the past, it was to reward them for bringing in SMB business. Now it will be business of any size, and those margins will be robust.”