SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Manufacturer Adaptation: Lenovo’s Chris Frey on Channel Partner Success, Recent Acquisitions and Combat Kits

Combat kit weightI caught a moment with this past week with Lenovo’s Vice President North America Commercial Channels and SMB, Chris Frey. During our interview, we touched base on the company’s recent acquisition of IBM’s x86 server unit, as well as Combat Kit updates, and the driving philosophy behind the company’s evolving channel program.

The main item Chris and I discussed was the recent acquisition of the IBM x86 server unit. Here’s where the Lenovo team starts to shine. As Chris explained, Lenovo is working hard to be the first to intersect people and program into channel, resulting in a new credo: “One Lenovo, One Channel.” What does this mean? Well, for starters, there’s a consistency here that all partners will share, whether they are PC resellers or working on the Server side. In fact, Chris told me that within the first 10 days of the acquisition, Lenovo had already started work on the following:

  1. One coverage model.
  2. Getting the System X Team on the sales plan.
  3. Consolidation of programs.
  4. One distribution model.
  5. Focus on one partner experience.

I have to applaud the Lenovo team for their commitment to consistency, but even more so for their ability and willingness to adapt their programs to best-fit the needs of their partners. Chris had something very appropriate to say in response: “It is the manufacturer’s duty to adapt to its partners,” he said. “I believe it’s a faulty business model to make partners adapt to a program that is not conducive to their businesses. The SMBs put their businesses on the line every day and they look to their manufacturers to be trusted advisors.”

Next up was the Lenovo Combat Kit. As many of you know, SMB Nation purchased one of the original Combat Kits for use in our organization, after being impressed with it on our 44-event Windows XP migration tour in 2013/early 2014. SMB Nation wasn’t the only one impressed, either. Chris let me know that the Combat Kit program has seen worldwide success, with a reported 3,070 1-on-1 experiences in the market. The Server Combat Kit has 800 reseller experiences, with a reported 85% consideration rate. In addition, 32% of customers who demoed this Combat Kit actually ended up purchasing a server from Lenovo. The Education Combat Kit has done a little over 100 touches, and is expected to see growth as the new education buying season starts for the 2015-2016 school years. Chris said that the driving factor behind this program’s success in the SMB sector, as well as the company’s overall growth (20% of market share, currently) is a strong push to get hardware in front of resellers.

I was curious, however, as to the refresh policy to get an updated combat kit, which is an ownership privilege. Here is what I found. There has been a revision to the original kit to include later model(s) plus the small PC known as “Tiny” which is a Next Unit of Computing (NUC) form factor. Here is what I found but *please* confirm your own situation (just like tax law – your participation might be different)

  • For Resellers who currently own a kit, and interested in refreshing to the new product, the cost is $5,330. With this offer, there is an option to further reduce the purchase cost through a “buyback” program whereas the Reseller will send in their current kit, and a fair market value will be applied to the returned products. The baseline for the current (four) products in the kit is roughly $1.7k. This applied to the purchase price would reduce the $5,330 cost to an estimated $3,630 price.
    *Note $5,330 is an NA price point – both US and CA.
  • The buyback program has flexibility. A Reseller may return all, some or none of the current products. Each product will be individually assessed and an agreed buyback price provided to the Reseller prior to the transaction.


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Saturday, 29 February 2020