They are: Darren Menezes (DM), marketing manager Middle East at Sage; Quentin Cornelius (QC), director, EMEA channel sales at CA; Jenice Bhatia (JB), channel account manager Middle East at Trend Micro; Samir Achour (SA), channel manager Middle East at EMC; Mohamad Abdul-Malak (MA), managing director MEA at Juniper; Bernhard Braunegger (BB), marketing and alliances director at SAP Arabia; and Fady Iskander (FI), channel manager Middle East at Citrix.
What role does lead generation play in your efforts to foster a successful relationship with channel partners?
DM:I think it's extremely important because we're a company that offers solutions. The sales cycle could take six months and upwards. What that means is the partner invests a significant amount of time and effort, from the time a prospect comes to us and tells us they're looking for a solution to the time they decide upon a vendor. So our own role in generating a lead is making sure it's correctly qualified, and that's extremely important because of the amount of time and money the partner puts into the whole sales cycle.
We look at the skill level of the partner and the workload they have presently; how many projects do they have on hand, how well can they keep the prospect happy during the sales cycle?
BB:The overall purpose of strategic lead generation is the creation of sustainable competitive advantage. Only joint success in the marketplace can ensure a strong relationship with our channel partners.
QC:Lead generation is critical to successful partner relationships. Our partners expect CA to provide them with lead generation tools in addition to the tools we provide for training, certification and enablement.
SA:In general we use our lead generation tool to motivate our partners and increase the level of trust between EMC and partners. It serves as a learning and development exercise for our partners because the object is to develop them and make them at the same level that we are. We want them to generate leads for themselves as well and this will help their growth and increase their volume of business.
MA:The development of a successful business partnership is the key fundamental of the Juniper Networks partner programme. Thus a profitable lead generation model certainly helps sustain this partnership.
What structure and systems do you have in place to generate leads for channel partners in the region?
FI:We segment the leads into three levels. We have mass events for mass leads, when we target every IT professional in order to generate some interest in Citrix. The second layer is what we call the ‘semi-targeted', when we target those who are more specialised in things like application delivery, security or application optimisation. The tip of the pyramid is the ‘C'-level leads - the CIOs and CEOs; the decision makers. For every one of them we have different types of scenarios, which we address with them.
JB:We do online campaigns, e-marketing campaigns, web marketing, online advertisements and we send forms out to customers to find out their needs. Most of the time we do these activities ourselves, but sometimes we do it with a partner as well, and these activities are mostly focused to some vertical segments or at certain countries. Once the details from leads are collected, we contact them - we have a contract with a telemarketing agency here as well -find out how hot the lead is and then we qualify them. And when these leads are qualified they go into the partner portal for partners to get the lead that we pass to them.
MA:Depending on the core objective of a particular campaign, specific solutions and target audience, we will use different methods. Due to the breadth of our products a one-size-fits-all approach would not provide a competitive advantage for our partners or customers. In every aspect of our channel programme and marketing, Juniper prefers to be flexible to ensure optimised results.
BB:Being the global CRM market leader, we are benefiting from our own system and many years of experience. From our solid marketing planning process, campaign scorecard and lead calculator to final execution and review, we have a clearly defined concept of our lead generation process.
SA:We use our marketing team and the most efficient tool that we find working well in the Middle East is just face to face contact. Of course we have a number of different methods, but when you meet end-users then things progress. When we go into different countries, we invite end-users - prospective customers - because this increases their awareness of EMC. When we do roadshows it gives us a chance to meet with customers directly and to give targeted seminars to specific industries. This is the most efficient tool for lead generation.
DM:Once we get the requirements, there's a lot of effort required in developing a pilot - how will our software map onto what the customer requires? And there's the proposal phase, the negotiation phase and the closing phase, so a lot of effort there. Once the partner picks up a lead, we have a keep-up meeting to see what the proposal said, what the project plan will look like and who's responsible for what. And the customer needs to put in a lot of effort to clearly define information on top of their normal job, so it's a huge commitment.
QC:CA has a number of programmes and tools available for our partners. We have a very sophisticated online lead generation system, which enables us to interact with key customers. This is a two-way street, with CA providing end-customers with valuable content such as e-books, research and whitepapers, and customers giving feedback to CA as to what information they find valuable, what their pain points are and what type of solutions they are interested in hearing more about.
If an end-customer approaches you directly, how do you decide which partner should be offered the lead?
SA:We look to the value the partner will add to the customer for that particular project because we don't talk about accounts to partners; we may have more than one partner on the same account for different projects. We discuss it with the customer, we look at the customer's requirements and we look for the added value they are looking for. We know the capabilities and added value of our partners and we select the partners that will correspond better to make the customer more loyal.
Sometimes people turn up to these lead generation events for the food, the company and networking purposes. Whenever they fill in the questionnaire they don’t take it seriously.
JB:Sometimes customers go on our website, find our details and just contact us directly. Once we come to know about them, we send someone to them, find out how many users there are, what their requirements are in order to find out which partner will be most suitable to address the opportunity. We have partners that specialise in particular niche markets. We tend to pass smaller leads to our new partners, and this is the pattern we usually follow.
DM:The first thing we do is map the industry and see where the prospect is at because there's a lot of expertise that a partner develops as they get to know the customers in a specific industry. Then we look at the skill level of the partner and finally the workload they have presently; how many projects do they have on hand, how well can they keep the prospect happy during the sales cycle and after the sale? The sales cycle takes a lot effort, there's a huge amount of meetings to gather the requirements, such as what the company wants and how they want to improve their business processes. Everybody's involved from the top down because it marks a change in the organisation.
MA:The most important aspect is choice. Customers that are building high performance networks require assurances that a particular partner can support the network both today and tomorrow, so it is important to ensure that the opportunity and the customers' underlying long-term business objectives are fully understood. Similarly, not all partners choose to work with all of our products so our partner programme has the flexibility to allow partners to choose which products to specialise in. This dynamic enables Juniper to select the right partner for a particular lead very precisely.
What criteria do you have in place to measure the success of your lead generation activities?
FI:The most important lead indication for me is what we call ‘Citrix evaluation point'. This is the product that we send to our customers as an evaluation product. When this product has been activated it triggers in my CRM and tells me which customer activated the evaluation point and this is when I know the customer is serious and is trying our product in their environment. This is when a flag raises in the database and we can take it from there.
DM:At a very high level - on a monthly and quarterly basis - I look at the orders that have come in and how many of those are actually leads that we passed on to our partners. From that we know what percentage of our sales actually comes from our marketing efforts. Then we drill down into campaigns, the various ways in which we advertise and each of the campaigns is actually tracked, in terms of how much we spent on the campaign and what we got. At times we have to wait for months because a lead takes time to develop into a sale.
What is the biggest challenge you face in developing potential leads for partners in the Middle East?
FI:Sometimes people turn up to these lead generation events for the food, the company and networking purposes. Whenever they fill in the questionnaire they don't take it seriously, everything is five out of five - "yes we have a project and our company size is more than 2,000 users" - and they like to write that their position is higher than it actually is. This is where the telemarketers' job gets difficult because they have to differentiate between the real deals and the fake leads. The biggest challenge is the sincerity of these leads.
JB:Most of the time, the challenge is establishing the real leads. Of the leads we collect, maybe 15 or 20 out of 100 might be real, and this tends to be the problem. We put a lot of marketing effort and money into lead generation to actually come out with proper leads to give us a return on investment, and that's a challenge.
DM:There is no proper data available like in other countries in the west where you have company information and contact information, so that's a huge challenge. Secondly, because there is such a big expatriate workforce out here, people come and go. Keeping track of these people is extremely important.
BB:You have to be very strict with data quality issues. As the region is evolving at such rapid speed, it is sometimes a big challenge to ensure high data quality.
MA:Different partners have different expectations on what constitutes a lead thus we try to set these expectations as early as possible and work with our partners to monitor our combined success against the agreed objectives on a case-by-case basis.
What processes do you have in place to ensure resellers are following up qualified leads that you have passed their way?
JB:We have a system in place - not only for the leads we have collected, but even partners - to submit information on what they're working on. The whole portal is like a pipeline containing all the leads that resellers are working on, including the ones that we have forwarded to them. At the end of it we can see the leads that have converted into business.
The customer may see more value with one partner, and others accept this. If it comes from customers, then there is no conflict. Once the rules are known from the beginning, there’s no surprises.
DM:As soon as we qualify the lead and identify the appropriate partner, we send it to the partner and have account managers in the field who work with partners in certain territories who are also aware of the leads. All of the information is entered into our CRM system and this helps us to track if a partner is following up a lead or not. Because we work very closely with our partners, when they finish a meeting with a prospect the first thing they'll do is pick up the phone to the account manager and give feedback, and all of this goes onto the system. So everybody involved knows where we stand with a prospect.
FI:What's really interesting is our internal CRM is actually tied to our partner portal. So, for example, once I get a set of leads from telemarketers, I can - by the click of a button - pass it to a partner as a hot lead in their partner portal. So once a reseller logs into Citrix's partner portal they might receive five new leads that would have been dispatched automatically to them. I will leave those leads in their website for two weeks for them to provide me with feedback. If there is no change in the status that the partner has called or qualified the lead from his side, then those leads are withdrawn and they come into my accumulative pool. Then I have the responsibility to distribute them to another reseller who will be more active on them.
What role do resellers have to play in developing their own leads and how do you ensure there is no clash with your own lead generation activities?
DM:The main source of leads for a partner is its own sales force. Their strength is that they have people, feet and years on the ground in the market. They know what's happening and there's a lot of networking. We work with partners to find out what their workload is, when they need leads and in which product categories. Then they come to us and it's sort of a joint process. They share their projections for the future and what they think they're going to be doing and the areas in which they see promise. Then we come up with a set of activities as to what we're going to do to plan it all out. Because we work so closely with our partners, we usually know what we're going to do and that minimises conflict.
FI:Citrix is a 100% channel company so everything that is done, is done through the channel. They are our only vehicle into the market place. So we sponsor events with every single gold partner or silver partner who's interested in running an event with their own database. They invite and we present. The result of the event is very focused because there is a guaranteed follow-up because the partner is the one who invited those customers. Sometimes there is an overlap where one customer was a lead, I passed it to a certain partner and another partner is working on this customer. This is when the Citrix lead management tool comes into play. We have a tool which is available through the partner portal where each partner will introduce their leads into the tool to notify Citrix they're working on this lead. My job as channel manager is to look at the reports and manage the overlaps. We pick up the phone and tell the customer, "we have approved the lead with this partner, we don't mind if you continue the lead with the other partner, but we are supporting this one."
SA:We also discuss it with the customer because they could prefer one partner to another. The customer may see more value with a certain partner, and the partners accept this and appreciate this in general. If it comes from customers, then there is no conflict. Once the rules are known from the beginning, then there's no surprises or conflicts. We manage it proactively; we don't wait for the problem to happen.
How do you see your lead generation tactics evolving as the market gets more competitive?
JB:Earlier the lead generation activities used to centre on mail campaigns and print advertising, but now everything's going towards e-marketing, and as the market evolves to making use of online tools and features, so do lead generation tactics.
FI:We're very active with online campaigns, we find them more efficient and less time consuming. They have better response times - in the IT sector a person is more likely to respond to an online advertisement rather than get through the red tape to get permission to go to a certain seminar. We've developed some online tools and we're hoping to do more around customer newsletters, which give information on latest products and customer case studies. At first we were very new to the region so the first job was to introduce everybody to Citrix. Now we're diverting to gaining more depth and breadth inside the customer base.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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