How can Salesforce help with channel sales for subscription-based services?

October 20, 2020 | by: Savigo Partner (Nextian)

Many businesses rely on channel partners to drive their sales. Partners enable quick upscaling and revenue increase. However, they need to be managed and taken care of, as they have many vendors to choose from and present to end-clients. CRMs are geared towards direct sales for the most part, however Salesforce has a rich ecosystem of add-ons that can greatly improve partner experience. It also offers deep customization capabilities (account types, fields and layouts) enabling easy implementation of partner tracking. This post presents some ideas and options for partner management within the Salesforce ecosystem.

Product landscape

Salesforce is more than a just CRM nowadays. It is a platform — an entire ecosystem with many products along with the AppExchange marketplace hosting thousands of third party applications. From the partner management perspective, the key Salesforce products include:
  • Sales Cloud — CRM with basic account, contact, lead and limited campaign functionality
  • Pardot — B2B digital marketing automation (not to be confused with more advanced B2C Marketing Cloud — they are not the same)
  • CPQ (Configure Price Quote) — guided quoting tool with paperwork generation
  • Service Cloud — multi-channel customer support
  • Community Cloud — portal framework for multiple audiences (“communities”) such as customers, partners, vendors and others
These are augmented with specialized third party applications further extending Salesforce capabilities, e.g. like:
  • Nextian Service Analyzer — Subscription service management, order processing & analytics
  • Xactly — commissions calculations and planning
  • and many, many others

Selecting the right product

It is a lot of products and selecting the right one can be difficult — the following tables are intended to help decision making and give a starting point.

General partner information tracking

  • Capture additional partner information (level, onboarding status, etc.)
  • Manage partner contacts
  • Track partner activities (calls, events, emails)
  • Segment partners
Any Salesforce CRM edition except for Essentials
Task Product
  • Implement partner segmentation e.g. by pipeline and services sold
Basic opportunity level tracking can be achieved with the CRM, more detailed information requires service and order management (e.g. Nextian Service Analyzer)

Marketing communication

Task Product
  • Keep partners informed
  • Adapt content & communication cadence based on partner information (e.g. size, status, etc.)
  • Measure campaign effectiveness/track response rates
  • Increase partner engagement
  • Differentiate content based on partner segment
  • Alert channel managers when upon contact interactions
CRM + Pardot + customizations
  • Differentiating communication based on orders received from and services sold by the partner
Service management & order processing system (e.g. Nextian Service Analyzer)

Onboarding and registration

Task Product
  • Track on-boarding activities & progress
  • Guided onboarding workflow (e.g. register → submit details → approvals → paperwork signature, etc.)
CRM + customizations
  • On-line onboarding and registration
Community Cloud

Opportunity management and deal registration

Task Product
  • Track partners on opportunities
  • Report funnel per partner, products per partner, etc.
  • Augment opportunity management to help partners close more deals
  • Segment partners by closed-won opportunities
CRM + customizations
  • Enable portal-based deal registration/opportunity submission
Community Cloud


Quoting subscription services is, unfortunately a complicated topic. However, a good quoting engine is critical element of partner experience and driving more sales. Salesforce offers CPQ module that provides great quoting capabilities, however there might be a few challenges, depending on the type of your business and services provided:
  • Quoting based on variable factors such as service addresses or other database, that cannot be easily fit into separate price books
  • Using on-line pricing from multiple underlying vendors (for re-sold services)
  • Exposing quotes for partners via API
  • Exposing quote paperwork generation in a partner portal
  • Quoting beyond new service sales but also upgrades, changes, cancellations, etc. (see this blog post on Service Aware Quoting)
If requirements are simple CPQ + Community Cloud should suffice. For more advanced scenarios custom development may be required.

Keeping partner informed about customer interactions

Task Product
  • Keeping track of customer orders sold via a partner
  • Upcoming renewals on partner-sold services
  • Month-to-month services sold by a partner
Service management & order processing system (e.g. Nextian Service Analyzer)
  • Showing a subset of above information in a partner portal
Service management & order processing system (e.g. Nextian Service Analyzer) Community Cloud

Support, resources and education

Task Product
  • On-line knowledgebase
  • Document repositories (case studies, product data sheets, etc.)
  • Partner support via chat and forums
Community Cloud
  • Handle partner issues via tickets
  • Support for SLAs and escallations
Service Cloud + Community Cloud

Commissions & partner satisfaction

Task Product
  • Generate commission statements
  • SPIFFs and other incentives
Salesforce CRM + customizations + commissions software (e.g. Xactly) If recurring commissions are paid, service management & order processing system (e.g. Nextian Service Analyzer) is required
  • Partner satisfaction surveys
Salesforce CRM + customizations + SurveyMonkey or other survey software with a Salesforce app


Salesforce can be a powerful platform for managing channel partners and driving sales — from keeping partners informed about products to paying commissions in a timely fashion. Implementing everything listed above is definitely not a small project and requires careful planning. Below are a few recommendations:
  • Treat implementation as a long-term project and make it a part of the general partner management strategy
  • Break the entire project into smaller, manageable sub-projects in the order of priority and define a roadmap
  • Go live with sub-projects as you go along to collect feedback, start realizing the ROI and minimize project risk
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