Content, Channel markets, Channel partner programs, Sales and marketing

Lenovo Eliminates Certification Requirements for Partner Program Advancements

Lexmark Channel Chief Sammy Kinlaw
Lenovo North America Channel Chief Sammy Kinlaw

In the IT industry, certifications are a great way to prove your expertise and knowledge in specific areas. Whether it is Microsoft, Cisco, Apple, or any other number of hardware or software certifications, each associated certification shows that you or your company are able to help clients with those products.

Proficiency in sales, however, is a different beast altogether. Among the key considerations for: Spending time chasing certifications can pull salespeople away from their core focus: Time in the field with existing customers and prospects.

Perhaps that's why Lenovo, for one, is changing course with its partner program requirements. North America Channel Chief Sammy Kinlaw explained the move in an email to partners earlier this week.

In the past, climbing tiers in Lenovo's PCG Partner Engage Program required you to have a combination of sales numbers and training hours. But those days are gone. Going forward, sales are the only factor for increasing your partner level and associated perks with Lenovo.

Lenovo Partner Program Tiers: Revenue Requirements

An Authorized Partner level is available to all registered partners who then become eligible for incentive programs and receive regular communications and updates on all things Lenovo. Once you achieve $250,000 in annual revenue, you can move up to Silver; $1 million in annual revenue will get you to Gold, and $10 milion in annual revenue earns you the highest level, Platinum.

While this obviously frees up your sales and technology teams to pursue customer wins, Lenovo's revenue-driven move could involve some pros and cons. Without training requirements, the responsibility is on the partner company to learn about new products and programs offered by Lenovo. This could make partners waiver in their loyalty to Lenovo since they aren't up to date on all that Lenovo has to offer. This also might make partner sales teams less effective, as they could be less knowledgeable about the products and programs they are trying to sell.

On the other hand, requiring endless certifications can frustrate partners. When sales revenues are on the line, partner companies may not have the time or resources to obtain the training and certifications required to benefit from the partnership.

A Smart Experiment

Overall, I believe Lenovo's decision to end certification requirements for tier levels is a good move. Lenovo seems to be taking all of the risk and none of the gains -- well, they could gain from more partner-led revenues -- in order to make partnerships a pleasant experience.

As a partner, I should not be required to prove my knowledge of your products in order to obtain the benefits of the program. My sales should be able to speak for themselves. Sales revenue is enough to prove my loyalty and abilities and should be rewarded as such.

For Lenovo, this experiment comes at a key time. The company's business has weakened in some areas this year -- and rival HP Inc. has leapfrogged Lenovo as the world's largest PC maker. We'll be watching to see if a sales-driven partner program allows Lenovo to regain some market share.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.