Indirect sales channels account for as much as 70% of all sales in the manufacturing, technology, and insurance industries, according to Salesforce. But businesses don't have the same level of visibility into those channels as they do direct sales, which leads to inaccurate sales forecasts and an inability to determine the return on channel partner programs, Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova says.
Everything you always wanted to know about channel sales
(Click on image to enlarge)
F5 Networks, which provides application traffic management software, is one of 25 early adopters of the Salesforce offering. The on-demand apps have allowed F5 to more aggressively roll out its channel programs, including deal registration, sales opportunity and lead forwarding, and business planning services, says Dean Darwin, North America channels VP. "If it wasn't for [Salesforce Partner Edition], we wouldn't have been able to do everything we wanted to do so quickly," he says.
F5 already uses Salesforce's on-demand sales management applications. The company considered purchasing applications for partner relationship management from other vendors, but that would have resulted in separate interfaces for F5's sales reps who sell directly to and work with channel partners, Darwin says. The new service's deal registry feature has provided the company with visibility into its sales channels that it never had before, he adds.
Forrester Research analyst Liz Herbert expects the service to be particularly attractive to small and midsize businesses. But Salesforce has to prove that it can be integrated with inventory and order management applications to provide channel partners with real-time information about products, prices, and inventory availability.