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HOME FEATURES › INTERVIEW: Vincent Fauquenot, Lenovo

INTERVIEW: Vincent Fauquenot, Lenovo

by Stuart Wilson, Tuesday 20 October 2009

Lenovo hopes that a new unified channel strategy will deliver an improved sales relationship and a consistent approach in terms of customer support. Lenovo’s new approach to the channel includes improved incentive programmes, faster rebate payments, simplified sales engagement, enhanced marketing and new services, according to the vendor.

For full details on Lenovo’s revamped channel strategy, click here. As part of Lenovo’s enhanced channel efforts, Vincent Fauquenot has stepped up to lead the newly formed channel partner organisation in Western Europe as its VP and general manager. Fauquenot first joined IBM in 1988 as a sales representative. After having held various sales and marketing positions, he took leadership of PCD France marketing in 1996, before joining PCD EMEA in 1999 as manager of marketing strategy and channel operations.

In 2001 he undertook an assignment at PCD WW headquarters in Raleigh, NC focusing on our Accessories business. He then took over EMEA marketing in 2003 which he ran until March 2006. He was then promoted to Vice President and general manager for the SMB and consumer business which he ran until September 2009. www.channelemea.com caught up with Fauquenot to find out more about Lenovo’s channel plans and ambitions.

Q: How much effort and research has gone on behind the scenes to come up with these changes to the channel engagement model? And what prompted them?

VF: We’ve got significant growth ambition in the market, whether that is in the business-to-business space where we are traditionally strong or even in other areas. We have been listening very carefully to our channel partners in the recent months to find out what was important to them – what we were doing well and what we were not doing well from their standpoint in the PC market. The comments that came back to us from field partners was that Lenovo has got a strong product offering, high customers satisfaction and the right people, but sometimes the processes involved in working with us could be simpler.

They also told us that we have the right incentive programmes but that these were sometimes too narrow in scope and too complex in terms of how they are structured. Although we had the right people in front of them, they sometimes felt that these people were actually competing with them, which is never great. And finally, they didn’t see enough leads coming from us. We’ve listened to all the comments and made sure that we’ve come back with strong answers to reassure partners and to position Lenovo as the vendor of choice for them.

Rapid rebates

Q: One of the main channel improvements lined up is speeding up the payment of rebates to resellers. How exactly have you achieved this and why is it so important?

VF: We have actually done a few improvements in terms of rebates. One of which is to simplify the programme and also to increase the scope of rebates. Previous rebates that were only available on TopSeller products are now available on the entire Lenovo business that resellers do. We have also taken the commitment to pay the rebates to resellers in the month following the quarter end.

We have also partnered with a company to start offering resellers the ability to track their achievements on a weekly basis on the web. Each reseller can see where they are in relation to their targets and what they need to do to reach the next rebate level. They can also see the amount of money they can expect from Lenovo to help them develop their business. It is all about transparency and delivering real time information on earnings coupled with speed of payment so that resellers can invest to drive future growth.

Q: Does the ability to offer quicker rebate payments make Lenovo more competitive in the market?

VF: Some of the resellers were saying to us that they knew they were going to get a payment from us at some stage – a credit note to use with distributor. They were grateful for it but they didn’t always know when they would get it or exactly what it was for - although they had no problems spending it. Providing real time information on business achievements against targets and giving money close to the end of the quarter means a great deal in terms of incentives. The payment is direct to the reseller and they can quickly see the relationship between the amount of Lenovo business they have done and the money they receive to develop even further.

Q: How are you getting the sales information needed to run this rebate programme?

VF: We’re using the data from our distributors to know what each reseller is purchasing. Distributors used to manage this process of rebates in the past and the ones that I have spoken to are happy that we are now doing this. It is a significant administrative burden that has been removed from them and it also improves their cash position because they don’t have to make the advances that they used to in the past. It’s a win-win for the distributors, resellers and for us and strengthens all the relationships in the channel.

Q: You’re also promising to put more effort into lead generation. What exactly is planned in that area?

VF: What we are doing is reorganising our marketing investments and becoming more tactical and more focused. So there is less of the pure branding-based marketing and more emphasis on the lead generation that helps partners close deals. This could involve direct marketing in our name or co-marketing with partners to build the leads.

One of the main points to understand is the structure of our new channel partner organisation. Each member of the team is now in charge of all of the Lenovo business with the resellers they deal with. In the past they were only in charge of a subset of the business, making it more difficult to deal with Lenovo. Now each reseller has just one head in front of them carrying the entire portfolio making it much easier to do business with us. We have increased the number of reseller facing team members by 20%.

Working with distribution

Q: So are you taking away some of the responsibility for reseller engagement from the distribution partners that you work with?

VF: Absolutely not. The distributors retain a key role in the management of the relationship with the resellers. When I look at the number of people that distributors have in the field to interact with resellers on a daily basis, I know that is nothing to do with the number that we have internally. There is no competition between what Lenovo is doing and what the distributors are doing – the two are very complementary.

We invest our resources towards a set of resellers that have said that they want to develop their business with us. We help them put together business plans together with training, incentives and marketing campaigns. We accelerate the growth of Lenovo business with them – and we do this together with distributors, not instead of them.

Q: How strategic is the channel to Lenovo in terms of your aspirations for 2010 in Europe?

VF: It is of the highest importance. Historically, the channel has been very strong for Lenovo and we have a longstanding commitment to partners. When we look at our current business and the growth opportunities, clearly the way that we are going to deliver on the opportunity is with the channel.

Q: Are you looking to get a greater share of wallet with existing resellers or does this growth come from recruiting additional resellers to sell Lenovo kit?

VF: It is a bit of both. The priority is to develop very strong relationships with the channel partners that are working with us. We want partners that are important to us and we are important to them; so developing the share of wallet is part of this. At the same time we want to work with new partners but we are not after opportunistic business. We do not want to work with a reseller for one deal and then do nothing with them for 12 months. It is all about ongoing commitment.

Q: How do you see the market shaping up in 2010 and how will you judge if these channel improvements have been a success in a few months time?

VF: We are starting to see a significantly better market environment and business is starting to pick up. There is significant growth opportunity in front of us but I do not want to make any assumptions. This is not a programme we have launched just to make one quarter. We’re after long-term commitment and long-term investment with our channel partners. Yes, there are short-term objectives but the long-term is much more important. The true measure of success will be our ability to grow Lenovo’s position in the market and become the vendor of choice for partners.


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