Lenovo Preps Partners for Higher Ed, Government Sales Push
… the progress that we’ve made in the [North America] channel and how the partners have continued to embrace Lenovo as we made some transformational changes last year.
I would tell you that having Matt Zielinski join the Lenovo team last year has given us a resurgence in the marketplace. He and I have gone out and met with a lot of our partners to rebuild that trust. I think we’re there. It shows in the results that we’re seeing from our channel community. We grew our business 18 percent in [the second and third quarters]; we’re waiting on our final results from [the fourth quarter].
Our biggest strength was in our SMB growth; it grew almost triple digits last year. We saw a lot of positive results from partners who focused on the SMB market. We enhanced some of our programs around bringing in new customers or acquisition-focused opportunities and we rewarded [partners] with programs and initiatives around that as well.
We want to expand on some of the things we started last year … we introduced a few things into the channel last year, such as the path to platinum, which allows our partners to see their way, as they grow their business, to get more rewards — so we want to expand on that.
We also introduced our communities initiative, or building partner communities around our SMB, large enterprise and K-12 markets. That has been well received by the partners, and we want to expand on that. We also want to find better ways to communicate with them, to provide sales empowerment, [to allow] them to bring opportunities forward, price those opportunities and get the pricing, quote and ability to go win to those customers on our behalf.
We also want to focus on our engagement with partners. 2018 was a great year from an engagement standpoint at the street level between our end-user sales team and our partners, especially as we go into newer markets such as higher education and state and local government, which are growth areas for Lenovo as we go into 2019.
CF: What prompted Lenovo focusing on the higher education and state and local government markets I 2019?
RC: When you look at where Lenovo is today, we’re well under indexed in those markets. We’ve done very well in K-12 and see a lot of opportunity as we go forward in 2019 in that K-12 market, but when it comes to higher education and state and local government, Lenovo is under-indexed compared to our competitors; in some cases, we’re in single digits in those markets.
So we’re adding more resources both in coverage and field resources, as well as on the inside to help us go after both of those markets, and the channel is going to help us because a lot of our partners provide local support for higher-education institutions and K-12 districts, and state and local government. So, where we can find mutual opportunities we want to go after those with our partners.
CF: Which Lenovo products and solutions are you referring to when you talk about partners in these markets?
RC: It’s not a lot different from the ones we sell to our large enterprise customers — ThinkPad and ThinkCentre desktops as well as ThinkStation products. There’s a lot of opportunity for us to bring higher performance compute to …