Fledgling Startup, Fledgling Fheckups

By Ira Apfel  |  Posted 2005-06-13 Print this article Print

."> Most of Sanas initial channel management efforts were reactive at best.

"At the end of the quarter wed do a channel check," said Zicker. "Wed get on the phone and call our resellers and say, How do you think youre going to do?"

As CEO of a fledgling startup, Zickers traditional method of channel checking wasnt exactly conducive to accurate quarterly forecasting.

"If youre a public company, you deal with it by being as conservative as you can," said Zicker. As a fledgling startup with much less margin for error than a mature company, Zicker felt Sana had to be more accurate.

As a privately held company, Sana also didnt have the scale of a publicly traded company to create one massive channel that many large companies prefer, Zicker said. He also learned that his company wasnt doing a good-enough job of tracking contacts that resellers made with prospects to ensure that sales reps werent contacting leads twice. And with exponential growth in its number of channel partners, preventing sales reps from contacting leads twice increasingly was becoming a more difficult task.

"When you go from five to 50 channel partners, its a real challenge," said Zicker. "You need to have visibility in the early part of the sales life cycle" to help close every deal. "You start with champions inside the reseller, and you say, Theyve taken x number of leads with y prospects, and ask, Did that go forward? And you have to continually tune the sales cycle. You have to be in a tight loop when you have a young company, and [as] soon as you go with channel delivery you lose that."

Forecasting. Visibility. Prospecting. All of these channel management challenges sound familiar to Schultze, who said he knows a thing or two about channel management. Schultze has been in the channel business for more than 20 years; his last company had more than 4,000 channel partners in 20 countries.

"The big difference between a CEO and someone in the line is that when it comes to channel management its all about visibility," said Schultze. "You dont have the visibility to build a good forecast, and you dont see customers theyre going after. All you know is after-the-fact revenue."

BlueRoads 5 encourages sales reps to proactively register accounts with Sana by ensuring that all matching registered account leads are directed to them in the future. Sales reps can revisit old customers rather than learn that Sana directed the lead to a competitor, thus reducing channel conflict.

BlueRoads 5 also empowered Sanas indirect partners to pull leads for active follow-up rather than wait for Sana to assign them. That bred greater loyalty among indirect partners and generated strong sales conversion rates and more revenue.

Finally, BlueRoads 5 enabled Sana to link its marketing dollars to leads and finalized deals. That gave Zicker a truer measure of his marketing return on investment.

Schultze said its very difficult for CEOs to drive their strategic direction when they sell through indirect channels.

"Its a great threat to your business even if you have a great business model," Schultze said. "Theres a contradiction: You have the channel, but you dont know where the channel is driving the company."

With BlueRoads, Zicker said he knows which leads his indirect partners are following. Meanwhile, his indirect partners can pick and choose leads as well. Zicker knows which deals his resellers are working on, and resellers can keep details of a new deal private.

In fact, Sana had BlueRoads technology up and running in just three weeks, according to Zicker. That meant Zickers team could quickly get back to the business of growing meeting sales and revenue projections.

"BlueRoads had a great approach," said Zicker. "They had two people come and interview our IT manager and head of inside sales. Then they came back and gave us training and implementation help based on our companys needs. It was a smooth integration."

One immediate result of using BlueRoads was that Sana could integrate marketing and lead generation.

"I didnt want separate silos for that," said Zicker. "Weve seen a synergistic effect from BlueRoads. The channel raises its hand and says, We have an opportunity. Before, the channel would have an opportunity, and I wouldnt see it until a check showed up."

Zicker also praised BlueRoads for sharing the best practices of its other customers.

"From a CEO perspective, the biggest thing has been the visibility and forecasting improvements—being able to see things earlier in the pipeline," Zicker said. "As a new company, youre always putting out new products and, even though you have a business model, when you start out you dont know what your sales model will really be. To really tie these leads down with BlueRoads good reporting allows me to say, This is how much I should spend on marketing to get the other leads into the pipeline. BlueRoads allows us to better build our operating model."

Ira Apfel is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md. Contact him at iapfel@yahoo.com.

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