Channel partner agreements are scalable – but too often they’re managed with an unscalable workflow. How can you change this?
This deep dive looks at what a channel partner agreement is, who it affects, and how to build a scalable process to manage the contract process. Use the navigation below to find out more, or explore our deep dives on other contracts, like NDAs and SaaS agreements.
What’s a channel partner agreement?
In a channel partner agreement, two businesses set out and agree the terms of their commercial partnership. An example of a channel partner agreement is the contract between two SaaS companies, whereby one party agrees to include the other in its marketplace or to provide referral traffic in exchange for a percentage of any revenue that this generates.
Many businesses derive a significant portion of their revenue from partnerships, like the Salesforce AppExchange, the Slack app directory or the HubSpot marketplace. The channel partner agreement codifies the revenue relationship between the two parties.
Who do channel partner agreements affect?
Channel partner agreements can be crucial to a company’s revenue and growth. Because of this, they can affect lots of different people across the business:
Legal counsel. The obligations that channel partner agreements create, in terms of revenue but also data use, can have long-lasting impacts. Because of this, the in-house legal team will usually own and manage channel partner agreements.
Sales. Channel partnership agreements might concern various sales roles. There may be a partnerships manager who looks after channel partner relationships, sales operations who need to contribute to the process and individual salespeople who take forward the leads that arrive through the channel.
Finance. The finance and revenue operations teams will want to be in the loop when it comes to headline terms. CFOs often turn to contract collaboration software because a manual workflow makes forecasting difficult.
Marketing. If a channel partnership is a key distribution channel for the business, the marketing team will want sight of their obligations and responsibilities when it comes to promotion, revenue sharing, and so on.
The channel partner is also a key stakeholder, of course, as is the company’s authorized signatory – which in SaaS companies and marketplaces is often still the CEO.
Why scale your channel partner agreement workflow?
It’s the obvious question: if you’ve secured the right channel partners, and they’re delivering predictable revenue at an acceptable cost, then what does it matter if the paperwork that led to it was messy?
Unfortunately, an unscalable contract workflow can quickly create problems – not just for the legal team that owns the templates and terms – but for the commercial teams trying to secure new channel partners.
Growth isn’t helped by an end-of-quarter blame game, with sales teams pointing the finger at legal because their contract process was too slow
As the business grows, so too will any friction. Legal teams often have a reputation for being blockers, rather than enablers when it comes to getting deals over the line. This can be particularly acute at a scaleup SaaS company or marketplace. And it isn’t helped by manual, unscalable processes for channel partner agreements.
Back and forth across a clunky combination of Word, email, shared drives and eSignature means there’s friction throughout – and if the business starts to scale quickly, that friction will scale too. Growth isn’t helped by an end-of-quarter blame game, with sales teams pointing the finger at legal because their contract process was too slow.
Legal teams don’t scale proportionally. Compounding this problem is the fact that a company’s legal headcount doesn’t grow proportionate to its commercial headcount. At hypergrowth scaleups, the commercial team might go from 100 people to 1,000 – and the legal team from 4 to 7. A scalable process that enables self-serve is the only way for legal to bridge that gap.
Things change. Revenue percentage shares that were generous in year one might be revised down further down the line, when the partnership becomes less profitable; autorenewals might need to be reviewed, data provisions might change – along with any of the other reasons that people typically negotiate channel partner agreements.
If you manage channel partner agreements with an unscalable manual process, then when it’s time to update terms, you’ll be hunting around in Word and shared drives, trying to find the latest version. This means serious potential for both delay and legal risk. If things change, you need to be able to reflect those changes quickly at scale.
How to scale your channel partner agreement workflow
If you want to go from managing one or two channel partner agreements a month to hundreds, here’s how you can set up a robust, scalable process to make it happen:
Set the foundations
With input from legal, sales, and all your other stakeholders, create the perfect master template from which you can derive watertight channel partner agreements. Set up this template in your contract collaboration platform.
With a natural language Q&A, partnerships managers can populate contracts as and when they need them, without deviating from the terms agreed by the legal team
Use Q&A to enable self-serve
With a natural language Q&A, partnerships managers can populate contracts as and when they need them, without deviating from the terms agreed by the legal team. This ensures that version control isn’t a risk, and commercial colleagues aren’t changing key terms.
Use conditional logic to codify fallbacks
Some channel partner agreements will attract more negotiation than others. If you’re prepared to make concessions if certain conditions are met – for example, if the contract’s value is above a certain threshold – then you can set out these fallback positions in a playbook. This will allow partnerships managers to self-serve contracts and scale negotiation. Find a contract collaboration platform with conditional logic so you can add these positions to the self-serve template. This will keep legal in control but get rid of friction.
Check out the ‘Modern contract handbook’, in which experts explore every stage of the contract lifecycle.
Create an approval workflow
A scalable workflow will empower partnerships managers to self-serve, but the legal team will probably still want to retain approval rights to check that negotiation on either side hasn’t led to a risky position. If your contract collaboration has internal and external collaboration in-browser, like Juro does, it should be easy to see a full audit trail of what’s happened and why, before you approve a contract.
Start small …
Now it’s time to get the process going and get your life back! We find that it works well to begin with a pilot phase, just to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Check out this eBook that takes a deep dive into automating the most common contracts in your business: ‘Contract automation: start small, win big’.
… and review regularly
Use the dashboards and analytics in your contract collaboration platform to see how the workflow is performing. Are there bottlenecks? Are certain clauses always queried? Are certain people slowing things down or holding things up? To make sure your process stays scalable, you’ll need to review it regularly and optimize.
If your new process isn’t truly scalable, it’ll be obvious soon enough. Work with your contract collaboration platform’s support team to make sure that your workflow can handle everything you throw at it. If they can’t help you, perhaps find a vendor who can.
Is friction between legal and partnership teams around contracts a pain point for your business? Is your SaaS company or marketplace growing so fast that the contract process is out of control, with friction pre-signature and a lack of visibility post-signature?
If so, scale your workflow with Juro and see if you could benefit from a contract collaboration platform that enables businesses to agree and manage contracts all in one unified workspace.