Salesforce.com's latest offering targets partners

Salesforce.com Inc. is looking to bridge the gap between management of a company's direct and indirect sales forces with the introduction of a new product.

Salesforce.com has unveiled a version of its on-demand customer relationship management (CRM) software targeting companies looking to better manage their direct and indirect sales organizations.

Known as Partnerforce or Salesforce Partner Edition, the hosted software marries together CRM which a company uses to handle its direct sales force with partnership relationship management (PRM) functionality used to deal with its indirect sales force.

A firm can view the combined sales and marketing data drawn from both its Salesforce CRM and PRM software through a customised online portal and manage it as a single virtual unit.

"This is the first on-demand PRM integration with CRM," vice-president of product marketing at Salesforce.com, Kendall Collins, said.

"Our customers have been asking for it for some time," he said.

The vendor has been working on the new product for the past 12 months and previously offered a PRM toolkit which had more limited functionality.

The PRM capabilities in Partnerforce span the managing of a partner from initial recruitment to measurement of its sales performance.

Customers can also extend Partnerforce by using Salesforce.com's AppExchange network where more than 250 hosted applications developed by the vendor or by its partners are available for download.

AppExchange hosted a PRM category which already contained 10 free applications, Collins said.

Global application delivery networking provider F5 Networks does 90 per cent of its business in North America through more than 290 partners. The company is one of 27 firms that's been piloting Partnerforce. Other organisations include networking equipment giant, Cisco Systems, which has been conducting a small pilot of the hosted software in Europe.

Partnerforce provides Salesforce.com with a missing piece of functionality linking up two different groups of users, according to managing principal at analyst Beagle Research Group, Denis Pombriant. The hosted service connects up smaller companies employing a maximum of 200 staff, typically the space occupied by indirect sales firms, with larger organisations like original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). "OEMs gain visibility into their channel and channel partners have security," for instance in relation to the registration of sales leads, he said.

PRM had its first flowering in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, but didn't take off like CRM had done previously, in part due to lack of functionality and no clear definition of what constituted a good PRM system, Pombriant said.

To purchase Partnerforce, a company must already subscribe to either the vendor's Enterprise or Unlimited versions of its hosted CRM software.

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