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The process of lead dissemination could be likened to a black hole: leads enter the system and never escape. Stephen Hawking recently said that black holes eventually expel mangled matter, but I think you get the picture.

BlueRoads Corp. believes it has an answer to the challenge of tracking leads. The company’s BlueRoads 5 partner relationship management solution is an effort to more closely integrate a vendor’s reseller partners into its internal processes.

Such a linkage is not typically the rule when it comes to distributing leads. The often manual process may leave both the sender and recipient in the dark. The vendor doesn’t know which reseller sales rep got the lead and the sales rep doesn’t know where the lead came from, noted Axel Schultze, BlueRoads’ president and chief executive officer.

BlueRoads 5, however, delivers an Active Participation Network that connects the vendor to the ultimate point of sale in a reseller partner’s branch office. Through this network, a reseller pulls a pre-determined number of leads from the vendor, rather than having a batch of leads arrive over the transom. No client side software is required on the partner’s end, other than a Web browser.

The reseller then provides feedback on the leads. Vendors can thereby collect information on all the projects partners are working on, gain visibility into the opportunity pipeline, and get a sense of which resellers are closing the most deals.

What’s the reseller’s incentive to fork over the feedback? Partners who provide feedback will have more leads at their disposal.

Janet Szilva, founder of JS Group, a sales consultancy, and a long-time channel watcher, points to a potential shortcoming in that formula. The resellers with the time to provide feedback may not necessarily be the best closers, she said. And the better channel partners may not spend their time keeping records, Szilva added.

Still, Szilva thinks BlueRoads is a good solution. But she believes resellers may need to bring on a “lead coach” to gain skills in either closing deals or providing feedback.

Mark Pierret, senior marketing manager on the enterprise side of Nortel Networks, said the time it takes to provide feedback hasn’t proven to be too much of an obstacle. The company has been using BlueRoads since mid 2002. He tested the system and found that it took less than five minutes to provide a status update on 20 leads.

Since implementing BlueRoads, Nortel’s channel effort has seen close rates improve significantly. Nortel increases the lead limit for those resellers who have a good close rate and provide feedback on all leads.

“Most importantly, the system is very good at allowing us to see who is working very well with the program and who is not.” Pierret says some partners excel at prospecting, while others fare better with an installed base and managing relationships with large accounts.

Schultze says BlueRoads’ goal is to help customers “have a channel as powerful as a direct sales force.” Preventing leads from escaping into a parallel universe is a good place to start.