Subscription Renewal Plan Resonates With Channel

SonicWall's Program Streamlines Customer Service and Yields 30 Percent Renewal Rate For Partners

Network security vendor SonicWall says implementation of its “Partner Enabled Renewal of Customer Subscriptions” (or PERCS) program has resulted in a greater than 30 percent increase in subscription renewal rates for its 3,000 channel partners that use it to manage their customers’ software subscriptions and support contracts.

PERCS, powered by Encover’s ChESS solution, automatically notifies channel partners when their customers’ subscriptions are about to expire, allowing them to choose either to handle the renewal directly or have PERCS handle it for them. Customers can then review quotes online and make purchases through the system by using a credit card, check or purchase order.

SonicWall sells its products exclusively through two-tier channel distribution worldwide, according to Zachary Yarnes, the company’s director of worldwide field operations. The only clients who work directly with SonicWall, Yarnes says, are legacy clients acquired through the company’s purchases of other providers (including Aventail in 2007 and MailFrontier in 2006). “We’ve got an enterprise sales team, but the enterprise sales team takes deals to the channel,” he said.

Yarnes added that SonicWall sees that as a key differentiator. “We could be selective and hunt-and-peck certain deals – there are vendors out there that do that – but we provide value by being an alternate to some of the other vendors that are squeezing margin out of the channel,” he explained.

According to Yarnes, VARs that serve, for example, dentist’s offices and accountants, are SonicWall's bread and butter. And when they’re renewing thousands of $100 or $200 service contracts,  that can be a major challenge, particularly when there are high-value renewals also vying for attention. “So the problem that we’re addressing with PERCS is, how do you enable a channel of thousands of SMB resellers and solution providers to action on these high-volume deals without disintermediating them from the customer lifecycle?” he said.

To that end, the PERCS program matches each purchase to its distributor and/or reseller and generates renewal quotes for those records on a weekly basis. Partners can then log into a Web portal and view all renewal opportunities that are coming up in the next 90 days – and can choose one of two options with a single click. “They can look at the quote and say, ‘I don’t want to deal with this: I want the PERCS program to handle it for me,’” Yarnes explained. "Or they can say, ‘I want to take this on my own, because there’s probably up-sell or cross-sell opportunity there.’”

The point is that PERCS isn’t just about automating the lower-value renewals. It’s also about prioritizing the partner’s workload. “We’re leveraging this program to free up cycles for these partners to work on the larger deals,” Yarnes said.

If the partner passes the deal over to PERCS, Yarnes added, that partner still receives a full report on the result. “The partners are able to look and see what closed and what didn’t close and have a follow-up approach: contact the customer, inquire how the process went, and ask if they had any questions," he said.

And since SonicWall’s offerings are all security products there’s always a real need to follow up on renewals as quickly as possible. “A customer who is allowed to expire is exposed to tomorrow’s threat,” he said. “All of our products are dynamically licensed, and we send out a signature sometimes on an hourly basis. If a customer is allowed to expire, they’re not getting those signatures.”

Terry Green, CEO of CPU Distributing, a SonicWall reseller that’s been part of the PERCS program since its launch, said the program has eased the burden of customer care. “For us, it’s been great because we have so many customers that it’s just impossible for my sales staff to be calling all of them on the renewals. In particular when it’s a $100 or $200 renewal, it’s not really worth their time,” Green said.

The follow-up opportunities within PERCS, Green added, are a key benefit. “Besides just doing renewals, if there are upgrade opportunities on a customer that we’ve handed over to them, they’ll contact us and let us know what’s going on so we can then follow up with the customer and give them their options on purchasing current, up-to-date equipment.". 

And in the larger picture, Green said, PERCS is just one example of SonicWall’s general focus on meeting its partners’ needs. “They’re very channel-oriented. They say it in the meetings, and then they follow through all year long. And that’s really why we like them so much.”

TAGS: security,software,support,SMB,subscription

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