SAP Goes Social to Recruit Partners

Looking to greatly expand its base of resellers, business software vendor SAP is drafting its employees to use their social networks to find solution providers to join its channel program.

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A vendor communicating with solution providers and customers over social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn isn’t uncommon. A vendor using social networks to recruit partners is less common, but it happens. A vendor getting their employees to use their social connections to uncover new partner prospects is virtually unheard of.

SAP AG is doing just that; it’s drafted employees into a global social networking campaign called “Everyone is a Recruiter” to find qualified solution providers to join the SAP channel program. The effort, launched last July, already uncovered a significant number of SAP partner candidates, of which the firsts are now becoming full partners.

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“We thought that if there’s a way we can rally employees and the networks of employees to fill the funnel of quality and effective partners, we said let’s try it,” John Scola, vice president of channel recruitment and development, told Channelnomics.

SAP is ramping up its channel program to expand its presence in key technology segments, including mobility, cloud computing, business applications and analytics (Big Data). The channel is seen as a mechanism to grow revenue and market share, but also to keep competitors such as Oracle and IBM at bay. By 2015, SAP wants 40 percent of its revenue driven or flowing through channel partners.

The “Everyone is a Recruiter” initiative is just one of several recruiting techniques being used by SAP to find and sign on solution providers. The social media avenue is casting a wide net, but SAP doesn’t want to give the impression that it’s looking for all takers in its channel expansion efforts. The software company has a defined profile for reviewing and qualifying channel partners.

Scola says SAP’s goal is building a channel of  quality, highly qualified partners who can specialize in business software solutions, and deliver sales and revenue performance. The review process, Scola says, can take months, and even then the solution provider must agree to make significant investments to developing an SAP practice.

Everyone is a Recruiter isn’t localized either. The program is global, and SAP reports seeing strong interest among employees in various regions around the world. SAP facilitates the social messaging by providing employees with suggestions for what to say on Facebook and Twitter. Scola says employee have taken it upon themselves to come up with their own creative messaging.

Amazingly, Everyone is a Recruiter is a volunteer effort. SAP is providing no incentives to employees to participate, unlike common human resource programs that rewards workers with bonuses for referring new employees. Even without rewards, employees are tweeting away about the virtues of the SAP channel program, which is resulting in increased traffic to the SAP channel Web page.

Other vendors are using social media as a means of communications. McAfee leans heavily on LinkedIn to communicate and collaborate with partners. Cisco Systems and Microsoft are strong proponents of Facebook and Twitter to drive messages to channel partners. And Dell is a pioneer in promoting products and sales promotions through social media. While other vendors talk about their partners and channel programs in social channels, SAP is arguably the first to institutionalize social media as a recruitment platform.

If proven successful, “Everyone is a Recruiter” could become the model by which other vendors look to find and qualify future partners.

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