As a channel-centric organisation, partners are a key part of Lenovo’s value proposition.

Greg Pothitos, channel sales manager of Lenovo South Africa and SADC, explains that partners are the only route that Lenovo takes to market, and the company ensures these partners receive all the tools and assistance they require to do the job.

Like every other vendor, Lenovo has a channel partner programme that encourages partners and rewards partners for raising their skills levels.

“It’s a well-developed programme, and is actually quite simple to follow and understand,” he explains. “Importantly, it’s not too complex: it’s tiered from a revenue and certification perspective, so the more of each that a partner attains, the more they are rewarded with status.”

Although Lenovo has a broad product line, it isn’t particularly complex, Pothitos adds. “We work with best-of-breed software partners to create solutions. We provide what we are good at, which is hardware and support; and they provide the software differentiator.”

About 350 partners are registered with Lenovo DCG, with about 28 of them certified and with status.

About 18 months ago, the channel programme was changed to make certification compulsory for tiered partners, and so the Lenovo team is working with its resellers to help them get up to speed.

All Silver-ranked partners have to have at least one sales and one technical certification. Lenovo makes it easy for them to achieve this, making all coursework and other tools available for free: the partner only pays for the examination.

The company makes a point of actively working on recruiting new partners and helping to expand existing resellers.

“There is no target or KPI for the number of resellers we get on to the programme; but before every quarter, we identify partners that we can work with, grow and engage,” Pothitos says.

As soon as a partner registers on the portal, the have access to deal registration and special pricing through distributors.

“When we engage with partners, we talk to them to understand their offering and unique position. Then we map our offering to theirs and make sure that we give them the relevant hardware.

“As we identify their ability and interest, we work with partners and incubate them to achieve better status.”

The relationship that Lenovo has with its channel partners is very personal, he adds.

“Our channel team is very small, but we still know all of the partners on the programme personally.”

In 2019, Lenovo aims to do more to make Lenovo the vendor of choice for partners.

“We aim to maintain certification for current partners,” Pothitos says. “For new partners, we want to incubate them, and surround them with Lenovo tools and services to they are totally comfortable with our offerings.

“We are working very hard with our distributors, and next year will enable them a lot more by making Lenovo DCG more relevant to their businesses and more profitable.”

The three Lenovo DCG distributors are Axiz, First Distribution and Mustek.

“The distribution space is very clearly separated, with clear borders,” Pothitos says. “Each of the distributors is engaged in a separate market and different partner base.

“Each has their own strengths and works to those strengths.”