New Avaya Partner Portal Gets Mixed Reviews From Some Solution Providers

The Enterprise eDemand portal is a lead generation/deal registration platform that feeds partners sales leads, while enabling them to register their own, said Greg Kalman, sales vice president for channel strategy and programs at Avaya, a communication networking vendor in Basking Ridge, N.J. The portal was launched in July.

Avaya partners who have used the new portal say they like the way it doles out leads to partners in relatively equal portions on a daily basis.

Leveling the playing field for all partners to give each a chance to share sales opportunities was a major driver behind the portal, Kalman said. "It's all about opportunity sharing," said Kalman.

Though partners are pleased to have the new system, some said it still needs refinement. In particular, these partners are looking for it to do a better job at explaining just what type of job lies behind a certain lead before they commit to choosing it from the system.

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In addition, partners are looking for more information about registered leads that were rejected. The current system does not specify whether the lead was already taken by another partner, one of Avaya's approximately 500 named accounts, or the subject of another conflict.

Additionally, partners would like to see the eDemand portal do a better job of communicating to end-customers why a partner who picked them from the portal's lead offerings may have decided to pass on their particular job. This notification currently is being done by an automatically generated e-mail.

Avaya, which does about 62 percent of its business through a channel of about 125 partners, is still in the process of polishing Enterprise eDemand, said Kalman. He said Avaya is monitoring feedback from partners concerning the platform.

Arno Poissonier, marketing manager for Altura Communications Solutions, an Avaya partner in Anaheim, Calif., has been using the eDemand portal. Poissonier said he likes the idea of Avaya moving away from "the good old boy network" where the vendors' direct sales team often played favorites by tapping the same integrator partners instead of spreading the opportunities around. He also likes the 3 point uptick Avaya offers partners who register a deal through the portal and then close that deal within six months.

But Poissonier said picking a lead through the eDemand portal is difficult and prone to sending the wrong message to the customers behind those leads.

When daily leads arrive through the eDemand portal, partners scramble to claim leads based solely on a prospective customer's name, location and contact info. Only after a lead is claimed can a partner view details of the opportunity, and by then they are stuck with it, said Poissonier. Then, if a partner, for whatever reason, decides they cannot fulfill the lead they have picked, and "dump it back into the system," the eDemand portal "sends an e-mail to the customer saying there is no interest," said Poissonier.

"We don't like the fact it's a blind pick," said Poissonier of the leads. "After you pick a lead, only then can you look at the details of the actual lead… So what's happened is we haven't even talked to the customer, and we dump [the lead], and the customer sees an e-mail saying we are not interested. It makes Avaya and business partners look like fools."

Kevin Nugent, vice president of sales at Gee! Communications and Networking Solutions, Lansing, Mich., and another one of Avaya's partners who has used the eDemand portal, also offered mixed feedback.

He praised Avaya's efforts with Enterprise eDemand. "I like the chance to register the opportunities that we discover, and it's nice to have a central place to do it," he said. But Nugent said he also would like to see improvements in the way the system explains what is behind a lead before a partner picks it as their own. "It's easy not knowing what you're getting when you pick a lead from the shark tank," he said.

Poissonier added that he would like to see eDemand offer a more detailed explanation when a lead registered by a partner is rejected. "We only get a rejection notice, and it's very frustrating," he said. "We are hoping they will fix that, because if all we get is a rejection notice then we have a rep running after it to try and figure out why it was rejected. We want to know why," he said.

BlueRoads, San Mateo, Calif., software-as-a-service-provider, is hosting the portal.