Leading edge - the art of lead generation

Lead generation, and how vendors handle leads and sharing them with channel partners, is an area where vendors are constantly looking for improvement

Tags: Avaya IncorporationCisco Systems IncorporatedDell CorporationFujitsu Technology Solutions - UAELead generationSalesforce.com Inc (www.salesforce.com/)
  • E-Mail
Leading edge - the art of lead generation John Coulston, Dell
More pics ›
By  Piers Ford Published  March 20, 2011

Lead generation, and how vendors handle leads and sharing them with channel partners, is an area where vendors are constantly looking for improvement. Piers Ford takes a closer look at the business of generating business.

Lead generation is the lifeblood of any successful vendor/channel partner relationship. When the leads are flowing in a targeted fashion and acted upon by clued-up resellers, with the impact duly felt on both sides’ bottom lines, there is no better indication of a healthy channel.

It is hardly surprising that vendors are constantly tweaking and fine tuning their lead generation programmes, and applying more rigorous checks to make sure that leads are adequately pursued and developed by their partners, particularly in a rapidly developing market like the Middle East.

While many vendors have well-established lead generation frameworks in the region – often replicating their successful global strategies – some have found the Middle East requires a different approach.

Dell, for example, which typically runs a single-tier channel model elsewhere, operates a two-tier channel strategy here and has recently invested heavily in its channel development team. Lead management will play a crucial role in delivering return on that investment, according to John Coulston, who heads up the vendor’s channel programme and operations team.

“Leads are a critical element of what our partners can get from us,” he says. “We’ve always generated leads for them but historically, our marketing programmes have often provided leads in an ad hoc fashion. Our challenge is to provide them in a more programmatic approach that delivers ROI.”

To that end, Dell has started using Salesforce.com as a tool for capturing opportunities and communicating them to its partners. In addition to its online activities, including web banners, the company runs specific transactional targeted promotions. As potential customers register, leads from these are passed to its community of registered partners, ranging from systems integrators to resellers. Dell’s call centre is another vital link in the chain, passing marketing-generated leads to sales teams, who in turn feed them to appropriate partners.

Coulston says that as a revamped partner programme, which will sort Dell’s certified and registered partners into three levels, kicks in, the impact will be felt as resellers are more closely aligned with specific customer opportunities. Leads will be weighted to higher ranked partners, giving resellers the incentive to achieve a higher status.

Salesforce.com will be a vital tool in helping Dell to measure the return on lead distribution, and as the database grows, so will Dell’s ability to match leads with partners and develop a more granular understanding of how effectively its lead generation strategy is working in the market.

“We have spent the last six months measuring the return on leads generated. If we do it well, we think we can invest in activities that will bring much more return and allow us to invest further in our infrastructure,” comments Coulston.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to belittle our sales team’s work, and this isn’t about making lead generation a separate process. It’s about enabling the sales guys who have a vested interest in making sure they funnel appropriate opportunities to the right partners, and that they get executed on.”

Some vendors, including Cisco and Fujitsu, have advanced frameworks in place that play to partners’ strengths in lead generation alongside their own range of marketing initiatives and telesales and online campaigns.

“Our Cisco-led direct marketing/social media/web online campaigns are targeted to market segments, vertical sectors and technology requirements, with the objective of generating leads for our partners,” says Claire Jones, regional manager, Cisco UAE.

“In addition, partners can leverage our Partner Marketing Central platform to create effective, co-branded unique campaigns, stage successful events and manage marketing funds in a sophisticated, web 2.0 platform that fosters collaboration, leverages social media and simplifies steps in the co-marketing experience,” she adds.

The fairness of lead allocation can be a sensitive issue for partners. Most vendors will point to their certification programmes as evidence of strategies that allow partners to develop their own specialisations and local reputations, and claim an appropriate position in the channel eco-system. In a channel that requires specific technology skills from the supplier, the most important consideration will always be meeting specific customer requirements.

“Our leads are allocated on end-user preference from our list of partners,” says Hussein Shehab, channel director sales & operations ME at Fujitsu Technology Solutions. “Our approach is strictly neutral to ensure fairness. This also means that our partners have to invest in positioning themselves well. In cases where we are asked to recommend a partner, it is usually based on a matrix with multiple evaluation points.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code