Forrester estimates that across all industries, businesses bring in 35% of their revenue from indirect sales, and that 75% of world trade flows through indirect channels. Businesses everywhere rely on a network of channel partners to sell and service their products, expand their footprint, identify new opportunities, enhance delivery capabilities, and much more.
Now, businesses are starting to invest in technology that helps them manage these crucial and complex channel relationships.
To be sure, it’s an area that could use a jolt of innovation. Partner Relationship Management (PRM) systems have been around for nearly two decades but traditionally existed in silos and did not integrate with ERP, sales, or marketing systems. Now, with cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) as the single source of truth and the foundation of customer engagement, PRM applications are integrating with CRM to manage all aspects of the entire partner ecosystem. That’s key to gaining a more holistic view of partner activity across sales, marketing and service, which ultimately drives a superior experience.
As Forrester notes, “as brands increasingly use channels, partnerships and alliances as a primary vehicle to reach customers, managing these relationships in a consistent, predictable and productive way is critical. Strong partner programs that serve indirect routes-to-market will differentiate companies in the next decade. Managing a channel program today has become less of a linear approach and more on-demand with automated workflows, personalization, customization, and scalability.”
Channel management supports new partner landscape
For businesses to successfully expand their relationships with and enhance the outcome of channel partners, they need technology that helps them connect their data more effectively, and manage these relationships in a consistent, predictable, and automated way.
PRM applications built on a CRM platform can address the drawbacks of the custom portals that many businesses use today. Those drawbacks include lack of scalability and speed, and a narrow view of customer activity and sales opportunities. A blended PRM and CRM provides a more collaborative approach for channel managers and partners. One example: They benefit from leveraging CRM analytics to gain insight into customer segments, identify joint opportunities, and share objectives.
Moreover, as the competition for mindshare among channel partners becomes more intense, top partners will seek out brands with the technology that helps them more efficiently drive new opportunities, engage in proactive self-service and knowledge transfer, and smooth the overall business process. That includes elements like templates, personalization, business logic, and advanced analytics, all of which are becoming key differentiators for modern channel management systems, and help brands scale a partner program quickly.
PRM has always been about making it easy for third parties to sell and service products on a brand’s behalf. Partners often have a choice in which products they sell, so ease of doing business is a deciding factor. And there is nothing easier than a single platform for partner management and B2B commerce.
B2B commerce is a key component of PRM
In some industries, such as automotive and manufacturing, the vast majority of sales are completed via channel partners. Because technology has made so many more vendors’ products accessible to a wider pool of partners, the competition for mindshare is incredibly intense. Brands must not only recruit and train effectively; they have to educate partners to sell the right products and services, and empower them to improve the end customer experience.
As in every industry, B2B buyers are looking for the same experience they have in their lives as consumers. That’s why B2B commerce — being able to execute a transaction inside the partner management solution — should be part of a brand’s overall channel management strategy.
When B2B commerce is part of the same platform that powers PRM, brands are more easily able to:
- Provide visibility to order history and fulfillment
- Enable auto-replenish
- Support new strategies like endless aisle with B2B2B and B2B2C marketplaces
- Simplify buying with fast reorders, account hierarchies, contract pricing, custom catalogs
- Create co-branded sites and portals
As more businesses adopt a distribution channel as a sales strategy, partner management technology is being transformed from a one-off static application to an integrated part of an agile, intelligent, scalable CRM platform spanning commerce, service, marketing, partner enablement and more.
And brands are getting on board because, as Forrester notes, “strong partner programs that serve indirect routes to market will differentiate companies in the next decade, and B2B channel pros need the right technologies to scale them, providing personalization and self-service at every interaction point.”
Read more about transforming the manufacturing partner experience here.