Automating channel partner agreements helps businesses to grow and make their management much more straightforward. In this article, we talk about what channel partner agreements are, whom they impact, and what needs to be considered as part of the agreements.
So, what exactly is a channel partner agreement? In simple terms, it’s when two businesses who work together draw up various terms regarding their commercial partnership. One common form of this type of agreement is a contract existing between two SaaS companies. Specifically, both parties typically mutually benefit from sharing the same marketplace or might refer some of their own traffic to their competitor.
Businesses within the tech or SaaS sector commonly make use of channel partner agreements, as this kind of arrangement can generate increased revenue for both parties.
Who is Involved in a Channel Partner Agreement?
It is typical for channel partner agreements to benefit from many different stakeholders. Such as:
- Legal counsel, who provide advice surrounding data use and revenue.
- Finance or commercial teams, who look at forecasting and financials.
- Revenue operations teams, who manage headline terms.
- Sales teams, specifically, the partnership manager, if an agreement covers sales roles. Here, the relationship with the challenge partner will be managed, sometimes with the help of the sales operation team.
- The marketing team, if a channel partnership happens to be an important distribution channel. They will review responsibilities around revenue sharing and promotion.
- A channel partner, who is the crucial stakeholder and an approved signatory. For SaaS companies and marketplaces, this is commonly the CEO, who signs on behalf of their business.
Manual Management of Channel Partner Agreements
Businesses still using manual processes for their channel partner agreements often have to deal with a lot of paperwork, such as NDA’s and employment offer letters. This is exacerbated even more with the hosting of an app or platform. Aside from the sheer volume of paperwork that has to be dealt with, further problems also exist for legal and commercial teams. External counsels might be responsible for drafting a channel partner agreement, perhaps using a template on word processing software. When a partnership manager is tasked with signing up a new channel partner, a lot of time can be wasted simply by looking for the right template. Or, if this can’t be achieved, an existing, out of date contract is likely to be used by editing some of the crucial details. Multiple systems may be used during the process of negotiating with a channel partner. If changes need to be made to the contract, these are probably achieved using track changes in the word processing software, which are then sent back and forth via email until the contract is signed off. Even after this has happened, it’s likely even more changes will be required, which individual parties must then check and sign off individually. Eventually, the contract may be exported as a PDF and re-distributed to each stakeholder.
The Problems with Manually Managing Channel Partner Agreements
Many different problems can be faced when manually managing channel partner agreements.
Firstly, it’s probably necessary to jump between several different systems, like word processing software, email, shared drives and eSignature platforms. Due to this, versioning problems often result.
Secondly, as information is being transferred between lots of different systems, there’s a high risk of data loss. Audit trails may disappear, as well as information relating to approvals and negotiations. Furthermore, tracking changes becomes difficult, because determining who made changes, or why they were made, is unclear.
Thirdly, documents are highly unstructured when manually managing channel partner agreements, making it difficult to search through them. Because of this, a contract review tool might also need to be purchased.
Benefits of Using Automated Channel Partner Agreements
- Terms and Templates Easier to Generate. Automated platforms allow easier collaboration between teams, and everyone uses the same template, which is drawn up by the legal team. Teams do still need to review it regularly to keep it up to date.
- Contracts Become More Compliant and Easier to Sign. Both salespeople and partnership managers generate compliant contracts thanks to pre-built templates. Some automated platforms also allow fields to be auto-populated with existing answers.
- Negotiations can happen in real time. Using a contract collaboration platform, negotiation becomes more manageable thanks to automated workflows. Users can suggest, comment and edit documents directly in their browser, and notifications are provided every time a change is made.
- Easier Approval. Contract collaboration platforms enable the setting of approval workflows, while legal departments receive a notification, allowing them to sign before they send for signing to other parties.
- Contracts can be signed from anywhere, at any time. Channel partner agreements are signed securely and digitally. It’s also possible to sign contracts on the move. Once contracts have been signed, all parties receive a PDF copy of the agreement.
- Efficient Renewals. Contract collaboration platforms allow earlier identification of bottlenecks, help minimise holdups and will enable the tracking of analytics. Before contract renewal, reminders can be sent, making the process far more manageable.
Features to Look for when Automating Channel Partner Agreements
Before you commit to a contract collaboration platform, make sure the one you are considering contains all these essential features.
- Locked Template. These allow legal teams to establish necessary terms, which helps prevent the breakdown of partnerships and lowers uncertainty and risk.
- Smart Fields. This allows staff to search and track all required fields, and enables metadata to be stored.
- This means stakeholders can sufficiently report on the performance of all channels. Analytic functionality should exist in both the CRM and content collaboration tools.
- Defined Playbooks. Enable clauses to be swapped using factors such as contract value. Fallback positions can be established, with thanks to conditional logic for negotiation.
- This allows previous versions of contracts to be scrolled through. Staff can see when and where changes have previously been made. This is useful when negotiating a channel partner agreement.
- 2 Way Data Sync. Enables syncing between both the CRM and content collaboration platform if a CRM is used to manage a large number of contracts. Subsequently, any changes are reflected in both systems.
Integrations to Consider with Channel Partner Agreements
Salesforce is a popular CRM with SaaS businesses thanks to its robust record keeping functionality. Therefore, if you need to automate a channel partner agreement, it’s highly recommended. Aside from SalesForce, Hubspot and Pipedrive are also good alternatives.
If you and your team would benefit from receiving notifications each time a contract is edited or signed, you may also want to consider a Slack integration. The Companies House API is beneficial as it ensures companies registered addresses and legal names are continually up to date, amongst other things.
Why it’s Essential to Automate Channel Partner Agreements
If a business is using manual processes to manage their channel partner agreements, they are strongly encouraged to switch to an automated process. This comes with several advantages.
Firstly, visibility no longer becomes an issue, both before and after signing. This is because only one system is needed for creating, negotiating, approving, signing and storing contracts.
Partnership teams become empowered thanks to automation, workflow, and approval become more transparent, and partnership managers no longer have to wait a long time for legal teams.
Legal teams enjoy a lighter workload. No longer do they have to trawl through email chains to attempt to discover risk. Similarly, salespeople save time because they don’t have to continually check they’re using the right template.
By using a channel partner agreement, an audit trail always exists. When an agreement has to be re-negotiated, staff become aware of how and why previous changes were made.
Automation eliminates the problem of duplicated data entry, and paperwork is automatically synced between both systems in real-time.