Building a New Process
To address these issues, Nortel Networks realized that it would need to create a uniform enterprise-wide process for managing its leads across its different product lines. The process had to be straightforward enough that the salespeople would adopt it quickly and actually use it to provide the feedback that the company needed. And the process had to be streamlined enough that it solved the problem of staggered handoffs.
For an underlying technology backbone for the lead management process, Nortel Networks looked at various partner relationship management (PRM) and sales force automation (SFA) solutions available on the market. The company's requirements for the technology conformed to its goals for its unified process: simplicity and accessibility. "The interface had to be so intuitive that it wouldn't be an obstacle to sales," Pierret says. "It had to be like Outlook. No one goes to training on how to use their Outlook e-mail, but you can't live without it." On accessibility, he says: "We knew that it had to be pretty much 24/7 access, and we knew that the sales reps had to have direct access. We wanted to get the lead into their hands and allow them to immediately tell us what's happening with that lead."
In addition to an intuitive interface and round-the-clock access, Nortel Networks' other requirements for the solution included support for the company's indirect sales model, a moderate initial investment with the ability to scale up over time, and a short implementation time. "We needed a quick deployment because we had a problem that we needed to fix," explains Pierret, "and we certainly couldn't go down the path of trying to boil the ocean. We needed something very specific that would solve the issues that we were having."
The company, which had several key staffers with a good deal of experience with the PRM and SFA markets and awareness of many of the solution providers, compiled a shortlist of eight different candidates. In the midst of evaluating Nortel Networks' options, Pierret came across a provider called BlueRoads, which specializes in solutions for indirect channel management. Pierret says that he discovered the San Mateo, Calif.-based provider through a Google search. He perused BlueRoads' Web site and read the white papers and other materials that the provider's staff, including its founder and current president and CEO, Axel Schultze, had written on the "pull" approach to lead management, whereby sales reps take their leads from a central database and are responsible for managing that lead and reporting on progress.
Pierret decided to test how good the provider was at using its own process and tools, so he submitted an online request for additional information. "Sure enough, their sales rep called me that same day," Pierret says. "We started the conversation, had a demo maybe a day later and very quickly knew that they were on the short list."
From "Push" to "Pull"
As the Nortel Networks team began to whittle down its shortlist, BlueRoads looked increasingly like the best choice, in part because of the provider's focus on the "pull" approach, its hosted application service provider (ASP) approach and the solution's interface. It also did not hurt that BlueRoads offered Nortel Networks a two-month pilot, with no obligation after the pilot's conclusion. The provider also pledged that the implementation would take no longer than six weeks, versus the two to three months that other providers were projecting. In addition, Pierret says that others of the short-listed solutions were missing some of the flexibility that Nortel Networks was looking for in lead dissemination functionality, while a few solution providers said that they could implement the required functionality but that it would take four to six weeks to do so, with another six- to eight-week implementation to follow.