We all understand that a successful channel requires strong relationships between vendors, resellers, and distributors. Going from understanding to application is another matter, and we often see channel programs struggle to achieve what they had set out to do due to poor implementation or ineffective management.
New Zealand being a relatively small market still is one where relationships play an even more critical role to a company’s success.
There are three principle indicators a channel program exhibits that recognises the necessary relationships between vendors and their partners; firstly, there should be priority placed on the ease of doing business, secondly, there needs to be an open exchange of knowledge between vendor and their partners, and lastly, the rewards program needs to be worthwhile.
“Our goal is to make Lenovo the easiest partner to deal with” says Mike Hill, Lenovo New Zealand country manager, “We work hard to provide programs and support that help our partners to grow with us; not just financially, but in terms of skills and capabilities.”
1) Ease of doing business
Across all industries and verticals, New Zealand enjoys an active and competitive market. For the end-users and customers the benefits of choice are obvious, but already-strained margins are being put under ever-increasing pressure at all points in the value chain in the name of competition.
While the real value of the channel is in being able to wrap additional services around a complete solution, and it’s certainly important that vendors and partners alike approach the opportunity as a solution sell, it’s therefore essential to find ways to make it more efficient for partners to engage with Lenovo.
Reducing headcount isn’t necessarily the way to find efficiencies in businesses. The opportunity to improve the partnership process is embracing the need to look through each element in the supply chain; from portals to procurement and on to supply management, and find out what makes it easier, cleaner, and quicker to engage with these processes. In other words, efficiency no longer means “minimising”, but rather it means that we find a balance between automation and human expertise to create transparent, accountable, and fast movement across all links throughout the supply chain.
2) Open exchange of knowledge
In New Zealand, Lenovo works very closely with partners, and dedicate resources to them based on their ability to add value around servers, storage, desktops, notebooks and tablets. A comprehensive portal is provided to partners with the most up-to-date information, toolkits, and certification to ensure that partners are fully across the Lenovo approach to market.
Most vendors provide similar services to their partners. The piece of the puzzle that is often lost is that knowledge exchange is a two way street. A vendor needs to learn how its partner operates and be willing to meet that partner’s needs before genuine value can be unlocked through the channel.
Lenovo works closely with their partners to build out stocking programs and forecast models that are appropriate to their verticals; across government, transport, corporate and SME segments. Each of these verticals has its own unique challenges that require a tailored approach. Because the offered platforms are highly customisable, it offers a truly flexible approach to working with channel partners.
Hill extrapolates, “An effective channel model has highly motivated and skilled partners out there representing your brand. That’s what a channel program needs to encourage in order to be a successful one.”
This is especially pertinent considering simple box sells are no longer an effective business model for channel businesses. Customers are looking for complete solutions, with technology stacks and services wrapped into the engagement. In order to effectively provide these, it’s important that the vendor understands the precise nature of the problem that the customer needs to solve, and the partner understands how to build a solution to meet that challenge.
3) Genuine rewards
It’s such a simple idea, but the better the rewards in working with a vendor, the better the morale and motivation across the entire channel, and that in turn creates a deeper level of loyalty between brands.
All channel-orientated vendors have a tiering model that rewards businesses that commit on a deeper level to that vendor. Lenovo is no different there.
What differentiates Lenovo is the LPA program. The Lenovo Partner Advantage Program allows partners to earn dollar per box incentives on a reloadable Visa card for eligible sales. Points are also allocated which contribute to a leaderboard towards tangible rewards, including invitations to an annual incentive trip for the top performing partner sales reps.
In addition to introducing a positive and healthy competition into the channel network, the LPA program allows Lenovo the opportunity to be more engaged with their partners, and develop a greater understanding between one another on the annual celebration trips.
“Lenovo is looking to be different and unique,” Hill explains their vision, “we’re in a good position to do that, and offer complete solutions through our channels. From client device, through x86 and storage, we have the underlying technology to be the partner of choice to remove the complexity of having to deal with three or four different hardware vendors. That helps our partners operate efficiently, too, and is good for everyone’s business.”
Channel relationships are absolutely critical to Lenovo; in New Zealand they run a channel centric model with greater than 90 per cent of transacting accounts doing so via channel partners. With the increasing emphasis placed on building those holistic solutions for customers, developing a deep and efficient understanding between vendor and partner will be critical in ensuring that the end customer ends up getting technology solutions that provide them with genuine competitive advantage.
For more information on the LPA program, please click here.