Deal Registration Done Right
by Anna Johnson
Rolling out a global deal registration can be a daunting project. The more products and partners you have often complicate matters when the goals of the program are to simplify and gain visibility into the sales pipeline. CCI sat down with Bill Griffin, vice president of worldwide channel sales for Autodesk, to learn how they engaged partners and internal stakeholders to design and implement a deal registration program where 99.99% of all deals are registered. How’s that for success?!
Q. What was the reason behind the deal registration program?
We were trying to find a way to motivate our partners to invest in the presales business activities. The primary goal of the deal registration system was to motivate and enable partners to participate in presales activities. A secondary benefit/goal was to have complete pipeline visibility.
Q. What challenges did you have to overcome while implementing your deal registration program?
We came up with an initial design and then we had our partner advisory council (PAC) review and suggest changes so that the deal registration fit its requirements. In the end, the deal registration system was something the PAC would use, so it was important to get its agreement before the program was rolled out. When we rolled out the program to the VAR and partner community, we leveraged the PAC agreement so everyone knew that members of their own community had vetted the plan.
The biggest objection we had to overcome was the perception that registering deals would take too long. During the design and production of the system, I went in and registered deals to determine how long it would take. It turned out that registering deals only took 25 to 30 seconds per deal. For most partners, the average number of deals they registered was five per month. When we revealed to partners that the total number of minutes required to register deals was just two to three minutes per month, the perception of the system being too slow was dispelled.
We also got a lot smarter as we rolled out the program, and it helped that we were able to make changes to the system along the way.
Q. How big is your PAC?
PACs are organized by region. We have one for the United States and North America. We have one for Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and Central Europe. In Asia Pacific we have representatives from countries like China and Japan. Typically, we have PACs that have six to 18 members. The larger PACs, like North America, will have 18 members and the smaller geographies have about six members.
There were certainly issues related to localization by language. But we didn’t roll this out globally all at once. We began with North America and then we went to other English-speaking countries like India, Northern Europe, and Singapore. The countries requiring double-byte characters required quite a bit of programming and had other challenges. We needed to make sure that it worked for customers culturally and that they could understand what we were trying to do. The program requires trust and validation from the customer in order for it to work. For example, when a partner registers a deal, an email is sent to the prospect to validate it. We depend on the prospect to validate the deal in order to close the loop. There are different laws in different countries that affect the way we contact customers and prospects, so we had to work out the legal complexities in order to put the system into place.
Q. How did you get buy-in from Corporate in order to tackle the deal registration program?
At the time, we didn’t have a worldwide view of how we ran channels. Instead, it was run by the major geographies (Americas, EMEA, and APAC). I was the leader for the Americas at the time and there was no worldwide channel lead. Instead, we would meet as a channel review board and we would review and approve policy related to the channel. The process of getting people to agree internally back then was more difficult than it is today. In fact, it took a few years to roll this program out worldwide and, to be honest, the resistance didn’t come from partners but in trying to get internal alignment from the channel review board.
Q. Can you give us an example of how objections were handled by the channel review board?
The folks who didn’t buy in right away had some realistic concerns. And it wasn’t their lack of willingness—instead their concerns were related to the issue of, “How will the deal registration be done?” and, “These pieces of the program need to be reviewed by a local attorney.” Sometimes we needed to understand the local requirements in order to design a more perfect deal registration system.
I wanted them to come to the conclusion on their own that this was a program that could solve some of their problems and that they wouldn’t be forced into saying “yes” because it’s a top-down decision. The program was going to solve some of my region-specific problems and I asked the others if it could solve some of their own problems.
Q. How is the program doing today? Has it changed partner and internal behavior?
The program is part of the fabric of doing business today. Probably what’s most impressive is that 99.99% of all deals are registered. We don’t have a minimum threshold. We don’t say to partners that deals have to be a certain size. We register deals that are for one seat of software or for a million seats. The Litmus test for me is when partners ask when our new products will be part of the deal registration program. That’s when I know the process is ingrained in the way we do business.
From a pipeline visibility perspective, we have been able to do closed-loop marketing and return-on-investment analysis as a result of the deal registration program. We’re able to manage our forecast better because of better pipeline visibility. We are able to export the deal registration data into Salesforce so that we can gain insights into direct and channel sales relationships. The data helps our reps support partners by upselling and cross-selling to increase deal sizes.
The deal registration program is part of who we are and what we do. Now I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Q. Do you see a difference in the time it takes to close deals?
No, I can’t say that. However, we do have very specific and concrete information about close rates related to specific product lines and geographies that we didn’t have before the deal registration program. We have increased visibility and we are able to share different metrics with partners. We share benchmarks so individual partners can compare themselves with other comparable partners. If they aren’t performing as well as their peers, we use the data to help them identify areas in which they could improve, making their sales organization more effective.
Q. How have the marketing campaigns changed as a result of the deal registration system?
We can see which marketing campaigns are driving deal registrations. For example, we might run an email campaign to promote a particular product and within 30 days we see an increase in deal registrations by 62%. We can follow the deal registrations related to a particular marketing campaign through close and gain insight as to the quality of the deal registrations. If there’s more revenue associated with the campaign, then we want to repeat the process and avoid running campaigns that don’t lead to deals.
Q. What’s the future of the program?
We don’t have plans to change the way the program is designed in the near future. We do make small adjustments based on feedback from our partner advisory council and related to different geographies.
As we become more of a cloud company with the need to grow our base of loyal customers, I do foresee a change in our deal registration program in order to adapt to a new sales model.
Q. What advice would you give to others with a deal registration program that isn’t widely used among partners?
My job is to develop programs that benefit partners. If partners aren’t using the deal registration system, then I go and ask the partners what they want. One of the many culprits that cause partners not to use the system is when it doesn’t prevent partner conflict. If you require the customer to validate the deal registration, then you eliminate the chance of partner conflict. Now, some partners may not like the vendor to contact the prospective customer directly, but we message it in a way that offers better service for the customer and improves customer satisfaction.
One last piece of advice: make no exceptions to your policy. Once you make an exception, the message to partners will be that you’re always willing to give more. If something is so bad about the program that you need to make an exception, don’t change it on a case-by-case basis. Instead make the change for all the partners. The whole program and relationship with partners is based on trust. If you’re making exceptions and partners know about it, then trust is broken.