Lead Generation Is Everybody's ProblemBy Michael Vizard | Posted 2006-11-29 Email Print
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Opinion: Vendors and solution providers must engage in a truly symbiotic relationship to generate solid business leads.When it comes to lead generation in the channel, there is so much pseudo-science and passing of the buck going on that it's a wonder anything gets sold to a new customer.
About the only leads solution providers take seriously today are the ones they unearth themselves because they know the lead is real and typically has enough downstream services revenue to warrant the time and money required to land a new customer.
The rest of what the vendors call leads typically amount to little more than some vague acknowledgement by some customer in the last three months who might have a passing interest in a product. The acknowledgement might be based on the fact the customer viewed a white paper, or more likely, told a vendor's rep on the phone anything he wanted to hear just to get him off the line.
But don't blame the vendors for all this because typically they are responding to the constant "give us leads" requests they get from channel partners. The problem is that by the time most vendors get around to really qualifying a lead, the opportunity has passed. This in turn frustrates the vendor to no end, who in turn fires up a direct sales effort that in turn alienates the solution providers, resulting in less volume and fewer profits for all concerned.
The real question is what to do about all this. Vendors ask: If they have to close the sale, then what is the purpose of the channel other than being a fulfillment engine? Solution providers counter: Why do vendors think they are just a mere extension of their sales force that can be managed with sales quotas when most of them make their real money on services rather than product margins?
Walking right into the middle of this standoff is Ken Totura, vice president of channel sales at XM Logic, in Englewood, Colo., a provider of managed e-mail and Web security services that has created a sales on-demand model with a team of salespeople that work as closely with resellers of its services as the partners want.
For example, if a solution provider just wants leads, it can opt for that. But if providers want XM Logic to close the deal for them, the vendor will do that as well. Or XM Logic will offer any level of cooperation in between those two extremes.
According to Totura, worrying about who should turn a lead into a sale is pretty much beside the point, especially for small companies trying to establish their credentials in the channel. What's important is that MX Logic will help build a relationship between the solution provider and the customer that will allow solution providers to leverage that relationship to sell additional products down the road.
And isn't that really the point of the whole exercise? Getting leads, closing the initial sale and then maximizing the relationship with the customer is everybody's job. So the next time somebody tells you that lead generation is the primary responsibility of the vendor or the solution provider, it's a pretty clear signal that the person doesn't have a clue about building a truly symbiotic relationship.
Michael Vizard is editorial director of Ziff Davis Media's Enterprise Technology group. He can be reached at email@example.com.