Bruno Mancuso, senior channel leader, MEA and Sithi Sahleena, volume program leader, META, Lenovo Data Center Group, emphasise the importance of inculcating a people-first culture, both internally as well as with channel partners.
Having a ‘people-first’ strategy is one of the most important aspects for an organisation to get ahead. Succeeding in the digital era is not only about the technology implemented, smart processes in place or even the profits. At the end of the day, people do business with people they know and trust. Lenovo Data Centre Group (DCG) upholds this philosophy at an intrinsic level.
Bruno Mancuso, senior channel leader, Middle East and Africa, Lenovo DCG, believes that individuals are the differentiating factors for any organisation.
“All the members in our channel team hail from a partner background. Usually in the market we see people moving from one vendor to another. However, at Lenovo, all of us have come from either a distribution or a partner organisation. This is a significant advantage, as our channel managers truly understand all the challenges that partners go through daily,” Mancuso says.
In addition, Lenovo DCG has a clear vision of having a locally driven partner programme, instead of simply replicating its strategies for global markets without taking into account regional challenges and market circumstances.
He adds, “Internally, we are developing this approach at all levels. This is also the reason why we pride ourselves in having great relationships with our partners. We have continued to enhance our channel programme to make it easier for our partners to do business with us around the world and be rewarded with a series of unique partner privileges.”
Lenovo’s global framework provides partners with a “simple and consistent programme to fuel growth while supporting the specialist needs of data centre markets.”
Sithi Sahleena, volume program leader, Middle East, Turkey and Africa, Lenovo DCG says, “The people-first strategy is definitely one of our key strengths. This has resulted in partners staying loyal to the Lenovo brand and vice versa, whether it is the PC Group, mobile division or DCG.”
“As a company, we ensure that when we start a deal with one organisation, we see it through with the same partner. This further boosts the confidence they have in the brand. We are also known to drive the highest profitability for both distribution as well as our value-added reseller organisations.”
If partners have to constantly compete with each other even after bringing a deal on the table, their margin levels become nominal. Low margins are one of the biggest challenges that partners grapple with today.
She adds, “We make sure partners have high margins on our offerings. They trust the partnership that we have developed, and partners know that we will protect their best interests.”
Sahleena believes because the firm’s channel workforce grew their careers at partner organisations, they are able to value and appreciate resellers’ efforts greatly.
Lenovo has different partnership levels for its channel partners. Evaluating its entire channel universe as a whole, it terms firms who register with the company as ‘authorised partners’ and further differentiates them as gold, silver or platinum.
“Here the differentiation is not only on the revenue basis. We also have a skill set attached to the revenue slab and that becomes one of the main criteria when we classify partners into different levels,” she explains.
For example, in order to be a platinum partner, along with meeting the required revenue objective, a reseller needs to have five certifications in both sales and technical but all five cannot be with a single person, it has to be at least between three people.
Sahleena says, “We do not differentiate partners on the overall Lenovo revenue but on each group. So, if a partner is at the platinum level with the DCG group, it is not necessary that he is at the same level in the PC group. This is because somebody who is reselling your products for the PC group will be very different from what is required for the DCG business.”
“We are completely dedicated to the server business. One of the first mandates was to merge operations back when Lenovo acquired IBM’s server business,” says Mancuso. “However, we soon realised that we need a specific skill, approach to market and a separate channel for the server business. Last year, we internally transformed ourselves to have everyone in the DCG business to only sell servers and related solutions. While we work together with our colleagues in the PC Group, we have a completely different responsibility at DCG.”
In 2019, Lenovo DCG is looking at transforming its channel partners to become solutions-oriented.
“We have transformed internally to showcase our commitment to the market. And now we are looking to evolve our channel ecosystem. We are making it easier for new partners to come on board. We are seeking partners who invest on solutions, skills and customer relationships as well as experiences. Solutions are key to our business and we are empowering partners to drive their growth towards this path.”
During the course of this year, we will see the data centre company revamping its channel landscape and consolidating its distributors and major tier-one partners.
Mancuso says, “All our partners are aware that we have a solutions-focused business. Going forward, we will play a significant role in helping channel partners to increase margins and sell solutions with embedded services.”
The company aims to repeat its success over the last six quarters and continue growing in double digits.
He adds, “Lenovo’s commitment to create opportunities and not compete with its partners has been the foundation of our joint success and a powerful force to help our customers exceed their business goals.”