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Joseph Ulrich, Team Leader for US Channels at Hyland Software, joins me on The Allbound Podcast to discuss channel engagement, training partners, and what may or may not be the reason why 80-90% of Hyland’s customers are acquired through channel sales.
You mentioned that now you’re really focused on recruitment and activities that are associated with uncovering and welcoming new partners. Has your partner recruitment strategy changed much over the years, or is the essence basically the same?
No, I would say that it has probably changed quite a bit over the years. When we were first founded back in 1991, we had a need to really expand our presence fairly quickly and try and gain as much market penetration as we could. Any partners who are family we affectionately call Team OnBase, and really what we were looking for at that time were those partners that were capable of a broad range of capabilities. That was vitally important to us because again, we were just trying to expand our reach and expand the name of OnBase. A lot of these included not only our traditional partners but then some OEM organizations as well. The partners who we brought onboard at that time were growing their businesses right along with us, and OnBase became one of their primary solutions that they were selling to their customers. More recently, I would say that we’ve become much more strategic, not only from a geographical perspective but maybe more so in the offerings and the specialization of the partners that we’re looking for and who we want to add to our Team OnBase.
What we’ve realized along with our partners is that having a niche offering really allowed us to put a laser focus on our prospects and deliver repeatable solutions to them. We have partners today that specialize in a wide variety of vertical industries, and over the years we have built OnBase solutions that meet needs for those specific industries. So the partners that really I’m focusing on today and talking to are the ones that either have expertise in a specific market, or they may have another business offering that complements our OnBase solution, or, they could offer a competitive product and they just are looking to replace that with OnBase. One of the things that is nice to have is a product that is an industry leader and is well known now to organizations looking to implement an information management solution. So for those partners that we’re talking to that are looking to really replace something that they have today with OnBase, it really comes in handy. It’s getting focused in on types of partners, and what the offerings are that they have that we may not have a lot of coverage in today.
Do you find that you have potential partners coming to you more, just having this established organization and partner program, or are you still out hunting for specific types of partners to fill those needs?
Well, we actually do a lot of both. We do get a fair number of incoming calls for people that want to partner with us. It may be sometimes that they run into us in terms of a customer they are trying to sell and a customer that they might be a mutual customer of ours as well, and so they will reach out to us in terms of what it takes to be a partner of ours. I would say that every week we’re getting a fair number of those types of inquiry calls coming in, but what we’re trying to do is be more strategic in terms of the partner community that we’re trying to go after, and who it is that we’re focusing on. I would say we’re doing more outbound and more laser focused outbound activities than we are incoming.
If you’re looking really broadly, how big of a role does your channel play in the overall company’s sales and marketing strategy?
Talking first from the revenue side of things, from a channel perspective, it’s very close. Maybe 60-40 – where 60% of our revenue comes in from the channel, and 40% comes in on our direct efforts. From the standpoint of just sheer number of customers that come in, we’re averaging adding between 500 to 700 customers per year. And it’s upwards 80% to 90% of those customers that are coming in on the channel side. Just doing the math, I think it indicates that – there’s obviously more of those, but the revenue might not be quite as large – our channel reach is much greater than our direct reach in terms of just the presence out there. We are definitely bringing in many more channel customers than we are on the direct side.
You manage recruitment activities, are you also involved in the onboarding and engagement activation of partners as well?
Yes, absolutely. One of the great things in terms of my experience and working with the Hyland channel for as long as I have as an account manager, I think I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be successful as a partner. So, I am heavily involved in our ramp-up program as well. Once a partner signs onboard with us, what we do is walk them through a very structured process in terms of introducing them to the resources that are available to them now that they’re part of the Team OnBase community. Then, we walk them through training.
Training is one thing that we have found is vitally important for us and getting our partners up to speed quickly, and that’s not just from a technical standpoint, but it’s also from a sales training perspective too. We offer multiple opportunities for the partner’s sales reps to get up to speed on our product, our solutions, our selling methodologies and the demo itself. Then, on the technical side, one of the things that we do is offer tremendous opportunities from a training perspective. We have 41 individuals that are assigned to our education services department, and bar none they are one of the best in the software industry, I’d put them up against anybody from an education services sampling. They do a tremendous job of offering on the technical side, certifications to our partners. I think right now there are five different certifications that our partner on the technical side could achieve, from installing our software, or working with our APIs, or a number of other different areas that they can get their certification. So to get back to your original question, yes, I’m heavily involved on the ramp-up side because the training opportunities, and getting them up to speed, and getting them comfortable with the OnBase software solution is critically important to us in order to get them up to having a little bit more self-sufficiency, in terms of providing our solutions and showing those to their prospects.
To learn more about creating a partner program from start to success, tune in to episode 13 of The Allbound Podcast.