Salesforce.com says indirect channels account for as much as 70% of all sales in such industries as manufacturing, high technology, and insurance. But businesses don't have the same level of visibility into indirect sales channels as they do direct sales, which leads to inaccurate sales forecasts, an inability to determine the return on channel partner programs, and potential gaps in sales coverage, says Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova.
Salesforce Partner Edition applications will provide channel partner recruitment, training, and marketing assistance capabilities, as well as ways to measure the sales success rate of channel partners. Businesses can use the on-demand applications to provide services such as lead generation and marketing assistance to channel partners through a portal.
Because the system is built on the same core AppExchange service as Salesforce's other sales management applications, companies can combine sales information from direct and indirect sales into a single dashboard.
Application traffic management software vendor F5 Networks is one of 25 early adopters of the new Salesforce offering. North America Channels VP Dean Darwin says the on-demand applications, which F5 began using late last year, have allowed the company to more aggressively roll out its channel programs, including deal registration, sales opportunity/lead forwarding, and business planning services. "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. While the company considered purchasing partner relationship management (PRM) applications from other vendors, Darwin says that would have resulted in separate interfaces for F5's sales reps who sell directly and work with channel partners. He says the new service's deal registry feature has provided the company with visibility into its sales channels that it never had before.
Forrester Research analyst Liz Herbert expects the new Salesforce services to be particularly attractive to small and midsized businesses. But she says Salesforce has to prove that the new on-demand applications can be integrated with inventory and order-management applications to provide channel partners with real-time information about products, prices, and inventory availability.
Salesforce Partner Edition, in addition to requiring a base subscription to Salesforce Enterprise Edition or Unlimited Edition, will be priced at $1,500 per partner per year.