buchachon - Fotolia
Channel companies are grappling with the management of deal registration programs, which can prove challenging to administer for both vendors and partners.
Most IT vendors that target resellers offer deal registration as part of their channel marketing programs. Resellers view deal registration as an important part of a vendor's outreach and a way to protect their investment in sales opportunities. Vendors, meanwhile, may pursue deal registration to influence sales or reduce channel conflict.
The systems that vendors and partners use to manage the deal registration process play an important role in determining whether those objectives are met. Channel executives say some deal registration systems offer limited visibility into the status of a deal as it makes its way through the process. In some cases, opportunities that would qualify as registered deals fall through the cracks.
Michael ReillyCEO, Vartopia
Reilly said the problem stems from two factors: lack of program awareness among partners and deal registration systems that are difficult for resellers to access and use. Reilly can empathize with channel partners: Prior to launching Vartopia, Reilly founded Foedus, a reseller and service provider.
"Every vendor we worked with had a program," he recalled. "There was some sort of a system that we needed to use in order to facilitate the registration process. That was challenging for us."
Vendors specializing in channel management, however, offer tools that they say improve the channel's ability to track deals. Those tools -- typically in the form of web portals -- let partners submit deals for registration and help vendors keep tabs on the opportunity pipeline.
The art of the deal
The deal registration process begins with a reseller requesting that a vendor register a particular opportunity. The vendor either rejects or approves the deal. If the vendor approves the deal, the reseller receives a benefit of some kind. The vendor, for example, might agree to reserve a particular opportunity for the reseller or provide special pricing to help seal a deal. Vendors extend such benefits for a certain amount of time. A 120-day window is fairly typical, but more complex products with longer sales cycles may equate to lengthier time spans.
Accordingly, a system for managing deal registration must provide the channel partner with a mechanism for submitting deals for vendor approval. As it so happens, some systems for doing so are fairly primitive, according to industry executives.
ForeScout Technologies Inc. recently upgraded its deal registration system, adopting Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based Channeltivity LCC's partner relationship management (PRM) solution. BJ Norris, senior channel marketing manager at ForeScout, a network security vendor, described the company's previous deal registration process as "very rudimentary."
A partner would fill out a deal registration form, which was pushed into ForeScout's NetSuite enterprise resource planning (ERP) andgenerated an email confirming that the form had been submitted. Norris said the company constantly received inquiries from partners regarding the status of the submitted deal. Resellers would ask whether their deals were approved or, if the deals had previously been OK'd, when they would expire.
"It took a lot of time for account managers and channel marketing managers to look this [information] up," Norris said.
ForeScout now uses the Channeltivity PRM system, which includes a deal registration module. Norris said Channeltivity lets ForeScout create a custom deal registration form, based on its old form. The deal registration model provides a portal through which a partner can submit a deal. Once the deal has been entered, the system sends an email to the relevant parties. In ForeScout's case, the channel account manager, account manager and system administrator receive notification. The system then prompts the account manager to approve or deny the deal. The partner then receives notification of the deal's approval or denial.
Partners with approved deals receive a notification every 30 days that prompts them to update deal status, Norris explained. For instance, a deal may evolve from prospecting status to the proposal stage and on to a closed deal (won or lost). ForeScout, for its part, can extend a registered deal's expiration date, Norris added.
Julie Gardner, an inside sales rep at Konsultek, a security solutions and services provider, said ForeScout's revamped deal registration program lets her check in and follow a deal through the sales process. The system also sends reminders when the company hasn't updated a deal's status.
"It just seems like everything is more streamlined," she said. "I find it incredibly helpful."
Gardner said most vendors are moving toward a more formal deal registration process, although some companies -- new manufacturers in particular -- have yet to adopt the more sophisticated systems. She said a couple of vendors require partners to fill out a Word document and email it to register a deal. But she said she believes those companies will eventually expand their programs to offer a deal registration portal.
Deal registration solutions generally tie into other channel management activities. The systems often appear as part of broader PRM offerings. Channeltivity's Software-as-a-Service PRM offering, for instance, covers areas such as partner recruitment, lead distribution and market development fund (MDF) management, as well as deal registration.
Zach Smith, CTO at Channeltivity, said all of the components that make up a partner program are interconnected with the company's software. He pointed to the following scenario: A partner submits an MDF request for a telemarketing campaign. The vendor approves the funds, and the campaign generates a number of leads. The partner registers those leads in Channeltivity, indicating they resulted from the original MDF request.
Smith said the ability to link MDF to deal registration "shows how the funds that were spent on partner marketing resulted in actual sales and gives you a hard ROI number."
Computer Market Research Ltd., a channel management software provider based in San Diego, , takes a similar approach. The company's portal-based PRM solution provides vendors with 15 modules, including deal registration, noted company president Del Heles.
This integration lets vendors match a sales transaction to the original opportunity logged in the PRM's deal registration module. Heles said a registered deal might involve a special pricing for a 5,000-printer sale opportunity -- a per-unit discount from $495 to $425, for example. CRM integration lets the vendors see how many units were actually sold at the discounted rate, Heles said, noting final sales volume is never what the partner originally projected. That level of insight helps vendors gauge the profitability of products and partners, he added.
Smith noted Channeltivity also integrates with Salesforce CRM, which permits the exchange of lead, deal and partner data between the systems.
In addition, Vartopia's recently announced deal registration platform for technology vendors, Vartopia Nova, provides a Salesforce tie-in. The platform includes a Nova Salesforce Application -- a Salesforce CRM module -- that lets vendors review, manage and measure deal registrations within Salesforce CRM, according to the company.
In another channel effort, Vartopia lets resellers submit deals to multiple vendors using a single interface as opposed to numerous vendor portals. Vartopia Galaxy, a multivendor deal registration platform, allows resellers to send deals to APC, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, Microsoft, NetApp, Stanley Healthcare, Symantec, VMTurbo and VMware, among other vendors.
Vendors that adopt Vartopia Nova can make their deal registration programs available via Vartopia Galaxy, the company noted.
Technology tools can help smooth the process of deal registration, but a solid partner outreach initiative is necessary to make the system truly useful and prevent deals from falling through the cracks during the registration process, Smith suggested.
"The starting point of getting all deals registered is partner engagement," Smith said. "Make sure your channel is on board with your deal registration program and deeply cares about it because there's something in it for them."