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Creating seamless digital experience for channel partners

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Jim Holland, GM, Africa Lenovo Data Center Group.
Jim Holland, GM, Africa Lenovo Data Center Group.

The events of 2020 have presented uncharted waters for the IT industry at large. For channel sales businesses in particular, the situation has been testing. Uncertainty on both the supply and demand sides of their business model has undoubtedly brought unforeseen pressures and made forward-planning a near-impossible task.

So says according to Jim Holland, Lenovo Africa's Data Center Group GM, adding that despite the difficult circumstances, the channel sector has shown admirable resiliency in continuing to deliver for its customers.

The anticipated third wave of COVID-19 infections makes finding new ways to engage with partners and supporting their growth through seamless digital experiences even more crucial, he says.

The state of channel

“Across enterprise sales activities, there has been a deep focus on digitising relationships. Even pre-COVID-19, businesses were beginning to see the value of modernising and streamlining sales interactions through enabling technologies,” says Holland. 

“Now, with social distancing and limited travel as the new normal, the industry is naturally moving away from conventional selling interactions towards more agile and scalable ways of managing the sales experience.”

The channel is integral for our go-to-market strategy and accounts for more than 85% of sales.

Jim Holland, Lenovo Africa's Data Center Group.

For IT businesses like Lenovo, understanding the current sentiments and evolving needs of channel partners is a business imperative, says Holland. 

"The channel is integral for our go-to-market strategy and accounts for more than 85% of sales. In fact, this last quarter, we delivered 97% of orders on time, despite the challenges of the pandemic. These were strategic commitments aligned with the high level of priority we give to our channel business. This is especially important for our South African market as 100% of our business goes through the channel.”

The company’s approach has been validated by the double-digit growth in channel business it’s seen worldwide with 1 500 new channel partners going through its certification in the first half of the financial year. Holland says the channel-first strategy will continue to prove its worth across the continent in the coming months as Lenovo accelerates growth in areas such as public sector and financial services.

On the path to growth

“The channel is by no means immune to change, and those that are focused on solution-selling and enabling digital transformation while assisting with seamless integration between vendors and end users stand to reap the rewards,” he adds.

“Enterprise interest in technologies such as software-defined infrastructure, artificial intelligence, IOT, edge computing and 5G are still on the cusp of widespread adoption and will have a transformational effect on different aspects of business.

“It’s incumbent on us as a vendor to play our part in preparing partners for sales operations and IT consumption models that will help them develop. This includes providing better visibility on available product options, dynamic view of pricing, real-time product tracking and progress against performance metrics and rewards.”

Innovating for all

A key focus for Lenovo has been the small and mid-size business (SMB) market; by ensuring competitive pricing, its solution portfolio remains relevant. There is also a dedicated industry application solutions (ISR) team to support partners, particularly at this time.

Last July Lenovo launches the Partner Hub, a digital platform for partners to get the information, pricing and support they need.  “We’re able to give instant price quotations to customers from SMB to enterprise more than 90% of the time, and 95% of the requests we receive for deal registration are turned around in 8 hours,” says Holland. 

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