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New partner benefits are designed to incentivize growth and drive collaborative success.
April 6, 2020
Changes are afoot in the channel executive team in Lenovo’s Data Center Group (DCG). Steve Biondi this winter replaced Stefan Bockhop, executive director, DCG channel, North America. Bockhop held the position since 2017.
Biondi, head of partnerships and channels, NA DCG, spent almost 20 years of his career at IBM in direct sales, 1990-2009. He was global channel chief and SMB sales leader at Avaya from 2015-2017, and vice president, OEM and strategic partner sales, Americas at VMware, 2009-2012.
Lenovo’s Steve Biondi
On April 1, the start of the company’s new fiscal year, Lenovo DCG NA made changes to its partner program, doubling down on its channel-first strategy. New partner benefits are designed to incentivize growth and drive collaborative success with partners.
Channel Futures met up with Biondi to discuss his new role, the new Lenovo DCG partner program, and channel priorities for 2020.
Channel Futures: Tell us more about your role. Why did Lenovo combine the channels and alliances groups?
Steve Biondi: Channels includes the VAR community, distribution, bigger volume VARs, MSPs and the OEM business. Alliances and OEM functions are similar kinds of sales motions. They both have long technology integrations and long sales cycles, for example. The feeling was it made sense to combine those two functions to get better scale and coverage.
CF: Why did Lenovo bring in a new channel chief?
SB: The program that Bockhop built and the team and structures that he built were positive. The changes that I made organizationally and to the program reflect the position that Lenovo is in now. We’re in a great position to grow aggressively, and the design of the program and the changes are meant to encompass that.
We want to position ourselves so that our partners see great value support-wise and financially.
CF: You launched a new partner program on April 1. What do partners need to know the new Lenovo DCG partner program?
SB: The existing program was good and allowed partners to make money and satisfy customers with our great solutions. But the challenge that existed in the program, since the acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business — there weren’t substantive growth elements in the partner program.
For example, for a silver partner to become a gold partner or a gold partner to become a platinum partner, [it wasn’t] compelling. What we put in place are strong growth objectives, more support in terms of helping partners growth their skills, education and certifications.
CF: You mention aligning the partner program with the velocity that Lenovo wants to grow. What velocity are you referring to?
SB: We’re in a position now where our products and solutions are very strong. We’re having great successes, so the challenge the company proposed to me is getting double-digit growth at a sustained rate for the next several years.
CF: What are your top three objectives for the rest of 2020?
SB: I like to keep things simple, so my first objective is to fix the Lenovo partner program. The elements of the new program have a simple design. The program tells partners what …
… they must do to get from here to there. They are very line-of-sight focused.
The second objective is to accelerate growth. My experience suggests that it’s best to put additional growth around the partners who have proven to be successful with you. So, I made some investments in supporting larger partners and partners who can move the needle for us.
There’s a 30% incremental headcount in the technical and inside sales organization. My direct team made changes, including having extra support for the MSPs and distribution partners.
The third objective is to get assertive with competitive bidding to focus on white space accounts. Before I got here, this was managed one by one by the direct, inside sales team to hand over to partners. I changed that. I have the inside sales team vet them and get them to the partners and distribution partners to give to partners.
CF: How many NA partners does Lenovo have and are you looking to increase that number? What percentage of Lenovo business goes through the channel?
SB: Lenovo has about 4,000 partners. That includes authorized, silver, gold and platinum. We also have GSI functions, OEM, MSP and CSPs. Partners make up about 65-70% of the DCG business.
I want to make sure I have good participation from the partners we have. I want everyone to sell and want to sell all the time. And I also want to be very surgical about adding partners. By that I mean, if I have a dozen partners in Rochester, New York, I don’t want to get more partners there. I’d rather get more partners in Albany, New York. That said, if partners want to join Lenovo’s program, that’s great.
I’m also leveraging our distribution partners more heavily. Lenovo has four partners in NA — Arrow, Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex.
CF: What else would you like to say in your introduction to partners?
SB: We’re in a unique time right now. We’ve been very conscious of reaching out to our partners and asking,” What can we do to help?” We need them to be heathy and viable businesses. That’s been paramount lately.
We’re offering better financial terms and better support. Our goal is growth and to demonstrate that we have the best solutions out there and that we’re easy to do business with.
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