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The Deal on Leads

oilchange.jpgLead management and deal registration, two critical components of channel sales and marketing, are often confused and misused among the majority of business to business (B-to-B) channel programs. I wanted to take a timeout on Channel Chatter to define what they are, how they are different and explain why they are often confused.

Lead Management

Think of lead management as a process, or the methods and practices used to generate new business through marketing. There are various funnels, frameworks, models and, most famously, waterfalls when it comes to displaying the lead management process.  

Regardless of the form it takes, the process is pretty universal. Lead management is simply a series of distinct phases that a lead follows, many of which you know like the back of your hand. In a nutshell, here they are:

  • At the top of the waterfall, we have an inquiry – which is when someone raises their hand, e.g. by filling out an online form. In the stage right below that, where the lead is qualified either through automation or teleservices, lies the MQL or marketing qualified lead.   
  • Once the lead is qualified — typically by meeting one or more B-A-N-T criteria — it’s passed to sales, in B-to-B channels this is when they are assigned to partners and it’s also where it’s important to track how many partners accept or reject.  We call leads that make it this far, Sales Accepted Leads, or SAL’s, where sales agree they’ve received a lead and agree to work the lead in hopes of turning it into a sales qualified lead.  A lead becomes sales qualified after sales make contact and deem the lead pipeline worthy – it evolves into a true sales opportunity.  
  • Finally, we have the holy grail of lead management – the closed/won phase.  Break out the Prosecco!

Along the way, there are important things in lead management to measure.  You want to know how long it takes for leads to make it from stage to stage.  You may want to see where they get stuck and diagnose why. In fact, you can think of the waterfall or funnel as similar to the diagnostic computer a technician connects to your car when you take you car into the shop. When you plug it into your car, it zeroes in on the problem. For example, if you have poor partner adoption, you’ll find leads drop off when you send them to your partners (the sales accepted stage).  They’re simply not paying attention, and you’ve recognized an area that needs a little extra grease in your channel program.

So Where Does Deal Registration Come In?  (Or, what’s different about it?)

Excellent question.  And it’s a lot more common than you might think.

Deal Registration is the act of a channel partner informing the vendor about a lead to get the right to work that lead.  They’re basically saying they want to claim the lead and don’t want anybody else selling into it.  

The sweet spot for deal registration is typically (almost always) in between the sales accepted and sales qualified stages of the lead management process.

There are really five pillars of deal registration (again, a subset of lead management):

  1. Partner submits the lead – it’s the supplier’s responsibility to make it as easy as possible for the partner to accomplish this.  Rather than have a partner sign into the supplier’s portal, sometimes it’s done simply by email, but using forms is best practice to capture all required information — source, company, contact details and estimated close date.  An important distinction is that deal registration should go both ways.  For example, if the supplier is registering deals to share with channel partners, then they too need to capture this information in a repository for partners to access or connect directly to their CRM’s.
  2. Partner is notified when the lead is received by the supplier.  Or, the partner alerts the supplier they have received the distributed lead.  There is then a brief holding period where any other partner already working that particular lead can speak up.  A time limit of 24 hours for this is best practice.
  3. Next, the lead is accepted or rejected.  When a partner submits a lead, suppliers need to check to see if that lead is already active in their database.  It’s important for rejected leads to be explained on both the partner and supplier side as this will help establish better insight into future lead activity.
  4. Now the lead can be officially registered.  This is akin to moving a lead from marketing qualified to sales accepted in the lead management process.  Again — make this easy and automatic for both parties.
  5. The fifth pillar is really three-fold and involves communication, tracking, and escalation. Suppliers and channel partners typically use a CRM or PRM system to exchange information on the lead activity.  It then must be carefully tracked when it moves from sales accepted to sales qualified (so you can see real numbers in your pipeline.)  Finally, escalation is critical as deals work to close.  Channel partners should have the ability to tap into supplier resources to help get deals done.

I could write volumes on different aspects of lead management and deal registration.  From the big three backing factors that make deal registration successful — competition, technology, and incentives, to digging deeper into lead distribution, lead scoring and everyone’s favorite closed-loop reporting.  But if you’re getting started by defining your lead management process and deal registration practice, the most important thing to remember is to keep it simple and as transparent as possible for channel partners — these are key in building trust and gaining better lead visibility for all.

Originally posted on Channel Chatter by Laz Gonzalez.

As a prominent thought leader, Laz brings unparalleled channel expertise to Zift as Chief Strategy Officer. Before Zift, Laz was Group Director of Channel Sales & Marketing Strategies at SiriusDecisions serving as a strategic advisor to leading B2B channel programs worldwide. 

You can reach Laz at lazgonzalez@ziftsolutions.com or follow @lazgonzalez and @zift on Twitter.

 

 
 
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