Monday, November 25, 2013

Using Direct Sales Management systems for the Channel

Let’s face it, has done a superb job of making CRM a SAAS product. It has also done an even better job of marketing itself. Many believe that Salesforce (and others like them) “does everything” – and that includes “channel management”. They certainly have processes that cater for Partners – but are they really "Channel Sales Automation Systems"?

There is an evolving classic approach to how you handle Direct and Indirect Sales processes. This is not every company but it certainly applies to the huge majority of companies that use the channel seriously. The diagram below shows the main elements of this approach.

The workflow is basically the same as it has always been; leads go in one end and come out the other end as orders… we hope.  The tools we are using though, are evolving. On the left, you see “Marketing Automation Tools” and Partner Resource (or Relationship) Management systems. They perform some great values in terms of trapping interest from your website and other marketing initiatives and creating leads (as well as brand control, etc). For Direct Sales they feed into a proper tracking system like Salesforce – and control = success. However the Indirect picture is still messy. Leads are fed into spreadsheets or made available through portals. If you are lucky, the “Vendor” will let you register your deals through another portal into the corporate CRM system, but, of course, that’s as close as the reseller is allowed to get. The actual tracking is done on the corporate CRM by an assigned Direct rep or by the Channel sales team (who usually maintains a spreadsheet). The Vendor lives in a world of spreadsheets, email, and constantly dialing for updates.

Hopefully at the end there will be an order placed somewhere that tracks back to that original lead – that usually cost a lot of money to generate. The truth is that deals are often lost through poor sales processes, that effective sales management and tracking could have helped with – this stuff really does work. Even worse, the partner can just as easily switch-sell to another Vendor and you have no real way of controlling that. Perhaps even worse than that, you might have really great partners who are doing everything by the book, and you have no real way of recognizing that. You should be building around those great partners; they are the ones you should be nurturing, giving leads to; they are the ones that make you a professional business.

The truth is that we are still not fully evolved. The thing that is good about Salesforce is that it is “multi-tenant” and for almost all things that is good. It means that your system behaves like it is in your datacenter – locked down and restricted – but instantly available; maintenance free. Unfortunately, it still operates in that way for Partners; by definition they are not allowed access to corporate systems – even though they share a common business process. Your relationship with your Indirect Sales team is more like a network process – a collaboration process that transcends firewalls. Systems for the channel ARE unique, but the good thing is that the workflow is almost identical.  We can fix this.

In the next article in the series we will talk about how these clues have inspired a real Channel Sales Automation system, that helps users of systems such as Salesforce evolve that next critical step by using the Channel’s own Sales Automation system.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

What is the Indirect Sales Channel?

There is an assumption that all sales take place through a directly employed sales team, and/or, more recently, through the web. The problem with having a Direct Sales team is that they are notoriously expensive to run. In IT Enterprise Software Sales, for example, many companies use a number of $420K pa, as the standard loaded cost of a rep. Having global coverage with such an overhead is, to say the least, not something you can do instantly. On the other hand, "the web" gives you global coverage at VERY low cost, which is great if you have products that sell themselves. Put them on Amazon and watch the money flow? The trouble is that a lot of the time you need "people" as part of the mix - consultants, integrators and business people who know customers needs - Sales people, Resellers, etc.

Many companies have a diverse mix of "Channels". The diagram above gives a simple view of how a typical Sales Ecosystem might work. The right and balanced approach to your overall sales strategy is vital, not only to saving costs, but to increasing sales - and reach - and supportability. The area to the left has been the focus, because it has been the most tightly controlled. However, the entire ecosystem to the right is clearly of a scale that few companies can ever reach. The goal of Channel Sales Automation is to provide that framework and realize that potential. 
The examples, listed, of companies that have leveraged the channel to create their empires are all classic tech companies, but this model applies to almost any business type, especially when the product needs "people" as part of the process.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

As we get close to the launch of the formal beta system, I intend to use this medium to explain some aspects of what we are doing. There all sorts of terms for all sorts of services in around Sales and Channel Sales, and we are something very precise and understandable - I hope! We really are a Channel Sales Automation System. We are not a PRM or a CDM. We are to Indirect Sales what is to Direct Sales - a system that allows all the personas in a Channel Sales process to use a common Sales system. They can be the Reseller, a Services partner, a distributor, and several personas from the Vendor. They can be doing Leads screening, or leads nurturing, but they are ALL part of the same process.

It's just that in the world of Indirect sales, the players are brought into the Deal on a JIT basis, and paid on a performance basis. This means that the Vendor can extend his virtual sales organization far and wide but keep a common process for everyone. At the same time it really is a system for the Channel - the Vendor effectively sponsors the use of the system by the Resellers, so that they only ever have one system to work with. The Resellers can then invite their other Vendors to use this common system, and this makes life more consistent and professional for the Reseller.

In turn, each Vendor can use their own preferred systems - Netsuite, Salesforce, Zoho, Oracle, etc, etc for CRM, or Mailchimp, Marketo, Constant Contact, Pardot, etc for Marketing automation - and indeed the existing systems for PRM, CDM, etc that make sense of derived data, can now work with our pure data, to give even better value to their customers. Indeed, these customers are likely to be shared customers. The Vendor can treat as their channel sandbox which gets fed by Leads from Silverpop and sends updates to Netsuite - or whatever tools you prefer as a Vendor, Distributor, etc.

In other words, a rich ecosystem is evolving to catalyze specialization in Sales, and the magic of the API will be the way to make it all work for us.

Over the next few days, I will start to expand some aspects of this new and needed approach. I have used some diagrams that explain some of the dynamics pictorially, and I will share them too. I think this helps. If you want to be part of our private beta, you can go to our "embryonic" landing page, find the Contact us at the bottom and send us a note. We WILL follow up. The time is now!

Friday, September 27, 2013

This blog is sponsored by from Biznet3 Solutions Inc, and is aimed at catalyzing the most powerful business network in the world: the Channel.
This is basically just a "Hello World".
Hello World!