For sales organizations that rely on selling through partners, strategic channel management is absolutely crucial. According to data cited by Salesforce, a lack of channel visibility “leads to technology and industrial sector losses of about $50 billion annually.” Similarly, data cited by Accent demonstrates that “platforms and processes that support channel partner efforts” can lead to 28% shorter sales cycles, 13% better quota attainment and 12% higher lead conversion rates.
Given statistics like these, you’d assume the majority of channel sales managers would prioritize the adoption of effective strategies and technologies, right? Wrong. Per a CSO Insights study, nearly half of surveyed respondents said they had only a random or informal process for engaging channel partners. And again, nearly half reported having little or no visibility into channel partners’ pipelines.
These are surprising numbers, and suggest a general knowledge gap surrounding available solutions — a gap we’d like to help bridge. In this post, we’ll cover some key ways the Salesforce® platform can enable better channel management, no matter what your organization sells. Read on for more.
How the Salesforce platform enables better partner onboarding
The first challenge any organization faces when beginning a relationship with a new sales partner is getting them onboarded. You need to bring them up to speed on your company’s processes and products as quickly as possible so they can start to sell. Problem is, onboarding an external partner is very different than onboarding an internal team member. How are you supposed to compensate for the fact your newest collaborator won’t be present in your office on a daily basis, won’t have regular access to the collective knowledge of your team, won’t only be working for you, etc.?
One option is to use the Salesforce Community CloudTM platform to build a partner community solution. With a custom community, you can expose select internal Salesforce data to partners via an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Think of it as a portal that allows you to curate exactly what information your partners will be able to access — and, just as importantly, what they won’t be able to see.
With regard to onboarding, you’ll be able to add all the resources new partners need — product guides, process manuals, training materials, you name it. Want to film a series of videos designed to help introduce partners to the role? Those can live in your community. Or how about a forum where partners can ask one another questions? Same deal. Because every community is a custom solution, you can make yours truly unique. Whatever you think might improve the onboarding experience for new sales partners, you can add.
That includes custom education modules built using myTrailheadTM. Trailhead is Salesforce’s education platform, offering “trails” (think one-time courses) on all kinds of topics, and myTrailhead is simply a component of the platform that allows you to create your own company-specific trails. Via your community, partners will be able to work through these trails at their own pace, taking quizzes and earning badges along the way. This gamified approach can help make learning more engaging and fun — and ultimately more effective.
How the Salesforce platform enables better lead generation and deal registration
As important as onboarding might be, however, it’s a finite process. Once a partner is truly up and running, they aren’t looking for training materials anymore — they’re looking for technologies that help them do their job. And vendors are looking for the same! Thankfully, partner communities aren’t only a way to make documents and learning modules readily available. They also make available Salesforce’s robust CRM functionalities.
Let’s start by taking a look at how an effective approach can help streamline lead generation and deal registration. Say your company receives a new lead. Without a Salesforce community solution, you’d have to send the relevant information to a partner via email. From there, your partner would need to track all activity related to that lead manually. This is bad for you in the sense that you won’t have visibility into your partner’s activities and progress. Unless they’re sending you regular updates via email — a clunky process, especially when you’re working with many partners — you won’t know how that lead is being nurtured, when it gets converted into an opportunity, etc. And that will make sales forecasting extremely difficult.
From your partner’s perspective, a siloed approach is isolating. As the vendor, your company owns the highest level of expertise about the products you sell, and partners will want to collaborate in order to leverage that expertise. Without the right platform, however, they won’t really be able to. Again, email is a less-than-ideal solution.
With a community solution, however, you can simply assign leads directly through the portal. A partner can sign in and see everything they need to know right there in Salesforce, and can start to log sales activities right away — activities you’ll be able to see. When an opportunity gets created, you’ll know immediately. If it needs your approval, you’ll be asked for it — all automatically. Need to run a report on all partner deals? Now, it’s no problem. In other words, you and your partner will get exactly what you need without having to waste time and struggle through difficult channels of communication.
And what about when your partner is the one to source a lead? Assuming your community is set up to allow it, they can register deals quickly and easily, without having to worry about inaccurate revenue attribution. When tracked via email, key data is more likely to be lost and cause major headaches.
How the Salesforce platform enables better opportunity management
Now let’s take a look at how partner communities can help improve the opportunity management process. As mentioned above, they provide immediate visibility into all new opportunities. When a partner converts a lead, you’ll be able to see the resulting opportunity. This gives you the ability to accurately forecast your company’s total sales pipeline (something channel sales organizations frequently struggle with). With this data on hand, you’ll be able to make better and more sustainable business decisions.
Your partners also stand to benefit from tracking their opportunities in the Salesforce platform. Beyond all the time they’ll save (say goodbye to hours of manual data entry), additional solutions can help supercharge their selling powers. Einstein AITM, for instance, analyzes historical data to make predictions about which open opportunities are most likely to close, helping partners to see which deals they should prioritize. And Salesforce CPQTM makes configuring and delivering quotes a much faster and easier process than when done manually.
There’s a common theme running through all the points in this blog, and it’s that the Salesforce platform gives both vendors and partners greater visibility into essential sales data. In turn, this visibility leads to greater control, greater efficiency — and ultimately better results.
If your company is looking to avoid the pitfalls of poor channel management, please feel free to reach out. We’d love to chat about potential solutions that could help your sales organization gain the kind of visibility it needs.