Back in 2004, Minneapolis-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) company iCentera began providing sales enablement portals. Since its inception, iCentera has built a roster of 105 customers comprising 170,000 subscriptions. According to Craig Nelson, iCentera's chief executive officer, sales enablement solutions have particularly taken off as organizations look to improve sales effectives while operating on slim margins. Recently, iCentera has launched a product specific to channel sales, intended to help bridge the gap between enterprises and channel partners.
"If salespeople are able to increase deal sizes and shorten sales cycle and handle more opportunities because they are selling more effectively, revenues will go up," Nelson contends. He goes on to say that iCentera pulled research and survey numbers from several analyst firms in order to conclude that with sales enablement tools, both small and large firms will experience 100 percent ROI within six months. "We are going beyond features to best practices for channel enablement," Nelson says.
iCentera for Sales Channel Enablement is geared toward organizations that sell B2B through a channel. Best candidates for this solution don't have 10 or 20 documents, Nelson says, rather they have hundreds of thousands. The iCentera solution, Nelson explains, is "much more than a generic portal," and gives the channel partner access to enterprise or manufacturer content. Partners can then distribute the content within their own sales teams and essentially organize it how they see fit.
Sales Channel Enablement makes use of analytics and real-time tracking to see when and how often emails and other pieces of content are viewed. Also sales reps have access to electronic binders and playbooks that can serve as sales coaching tools. The user interface can be personalized and each partner or salesperson can log in to a role-based system — meaning users only see content and news that is relevant to their jobs.
Very importantly, Nelson notes, is that on a regular basis, channel partners can see not only what tools and sales materials their reps are using, but they can also see other channel partners' activity. If desired, a company could open the platform up to customers and share content with them.
"There's a tremendous amount of information that suppliers want to communicate to their partners," says Scott Santucci, principal analyst with Forrester Research. He adds that problems start to surface because suppliers don't want to be told exactly how to run their businesses — they have their own sales models. When an organization has many partners and products, however, it's crucial to depart mass amounts of content. "[The problem] gets bigger as more information is required to exchange," Santucci says. "If I'm a business and investing in market research to help partners sell, how do I get them all that information?"
Until now, the analyst states, there hasn't been a specialized software solution geared toward indirect salespeople. "There are sales enablement systems to treat that information overload and content management problem inside their own sales force," Santucci says, "But not a lot have thought of how to do it for the indirect channel." He reaffirms Nelson's view that this solution is best suited for organizations with a lot of technical information to depart to partners.
iCentera has seen traction from large enterprises form the likes of NetApp and the NBA — the latter of which uses 190 portals. He says growth has been strong for his company — the sales enablement vendor landscape is expanding as well. "A lot of vendors are gravitating toward that term," Nelson says about "sales enablement." Santucci reveals that his team at Forrester has been briefed by more than 100 so-called "sales enablement" vendors in the past year.
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