Enabling your commercial colleagues to self-serve on channel partner agreements might save legal lots of time – so how do you do it?
This deep dive looks at what a channel partner agreement is, who it affects, and why and how businesses often choose a self-serve workflow to handle them. 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? | Who do channel partner agreements affect? | What’s the non-self serve channel partner agreement process? | Why use a self-serve workflow? | How to achieve self-serve for channel partner agreements | Useful features | Learn more
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. These arrangements are governed by channel partner agreements, which codify 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.
What’s the non-self-serve channel partner agreement process?
Finding the right channel partners can make a huge difference to SaaS companies and marketplaces looking to scale – it’s often one of the key distribution plays that marketing and sales teams look to make. But even though channel partner agreements can be the growth engine for innovative, modern businesses, the process to agree them is often still a labour-intensive manual process, with the legal team as the bottleneck.
Typically the contract creation process for a non-self-serve workflow involves a partnerships manager asking legal for a contract, or finding an old contract or Word template, making changes, and then pushing it back to legal to review. It will likely be queried and negotiated by the customer, setting off a chain of back-and-forth negotiation that slows down the deal’s progress.
Why use a self-serve workflow?
Forging a new partnership should be one of the happiest moments in the life of a business. But with a manual process, it often becomes a headache. We often see the same three issues with manual workflows:
Firstly, jumping between the different systems that make up a non-self-serve workflow can cause problems and wastes everyone’s time. The contract lifecycle might start with an old template on someone’s hard drive. This is then edited in Word; synced to a CRM; negotiated over email and by phone; moved back into Word for more changes; and eventually turned into a PDF (or makes it into DocuSign for eSigning). In this process, everyone will at some point lose sight of where the contract is up to and it means version control is tricky, introducing legal risk with old terms making it into new contracts. The chasing and switching between systems causes friction between legal and commercial teams. If you set up an automated self-serve workflow, it removes much of this wasted time overnight.
Secondly, and taking a step back, in-house counsel really don’t need to be so involved, day to day. Non-self-serve processes bury legal teams in low-value work. Digging out the same templates over and over and checking the same terms have been used – particularly if it’s a low-value contract – is an expensive use of legal’s time. By allowing partnerships managers to self-serve on channel partner agreements, as part of an automated workflow, legal can spend more time doing the high-value strategic work they were hired for, while still retaining oversight and approval rights.
In a manual workflow valuable data on the contract lifecycle is lost: negotiation history, edits, timelines, activities by both sides - this is all valuable data that could be used to improve the contract process, as well as its outcomes. But if channel partner agreements are managed manually across several systems, this data quickly becomes incomplete, or is lost altogether. With a self-serve workflow, template owners can track analytics and use these to improve individual and team performance when it comes to contracts.
How to achieve self-serve for channel partner agreements
Self-serve is a question of process, rather than content. The exact provisions and commercials in channel partner agreements are still matters for legal and commercial teams to decide together. But the following elements will help you create a frictionless self-serve workflow:
An intuitive platform
Automating your contracts will be a cross-functional effort. There’s no point using a platform that’s too complex for non-lawyers to use. Find a contract collaboration platform with a friendly, design-first UX that any business user can pick up with minimal training.
Create the perfect template
Spend some time researching your historical contracts data, optimize your terms and create your perfect channel partner agreement template. This template should codify the most up-to-date thinking around terms, clause language, commercial positions, and so on, and it should be well-designed and easy to sign.
Counterparties may want to make changes. And it defeats the purpose of self-serve if this has to happen in Word, over email and by telephone
A Q&A flow
A Q&A flow captures the key data that might vary between contracts. This is best handled with a natural language Q&A, with questions like “What’s the counterparty name?” and “What’s the effective date?” Contract creators (usually partnerships managers) will answer these questions to populate the self-serve contract with all the right data.
Counterparties may want to make changes. And it defeats the purpose of self-serve if this has to happen in Word, over email and by telephone. Find a solution that offers negotiation and commenting in-browser. That way audit trails and version histories are all in one place.
Although commercial colleagues will be empowered to serve their own contracts, you’ll still want legal to have sign-off. Using an approval workflow means that you can give the legal team approval rights before contracts are shared with counterparties – just to be safe. It’s common for legal teams to create playbooks that set out their negotiation positions, empowering sales teams to negotiate within acceptable parameters.
Provision licences and train colleagues
No matter how intuitive a process, it can be tough to get colleagues to adopt a new workflow. Make sure that you’ve made the simple things easy, such as logging in, and provide plenty of training so that teams can self-serve effectively and with confidence.
Check out the ‘Modern contract handbook’, in which experts explore every stage of the contract lifecycle.
Useful features for self-serving channel partner agreements
If partnerships managers and their legal team are ready to try automation, then the following features will come in handy:
CRM integration. Partnerships managers typically live in CRM, and their contract workflow needs to live-sync its data with CRM (usually Salesforce) to make sure revenue recognition and forecasting are accurate.
Companies House integration. Specific to the UK, a contract collaboration platform that integrates the Companies House API will pull the correct names of legal entities into contracts every time, reducing the risk of error.
Visual timeline and audit trail. If your contract collaboration platform has this feature, you can scroll back through previous versions in just a few clicks to see how the original template was changed.
Export to Word. A self-serve flow should be handled entirely in your contract collaboration platform. But on those rare occasions that partners insist on negotiation offline, in a room or on the phone, the ability to export to Word will give you that option. This is handy for high-value deals, where counterparties want to negotiate in person.
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, self-serve 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.