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Partner Relationship Management (PRM) applications have been around for 18 years, but have yet to take hold in the market. Over the same period, CRM spend has seen explosive growth across every industry in companies small to large. So with one-third of the world’s business generated by third-party sellers, why hasn’t the PRM category grown or at least kept pace with CRM?

The short answer is PRM has kept pace. The caveat is that this growth is not visible.

Most businesses have created custom portals that cobble together siloed processes such as ordering, lead distribution, and training that are connected to various systems and data sources. A few niche PRM vendors have tried to create point solutions for partners. However, these solutions have not gained traction because of their narrow focus on partner enablement without considering partners as part of a broader CRM strategy. PRM initiatives work best when they are part of an overall CRM strategy where a company and partner channel collaborate to optimize end-customer experiences.

CRM + PRM

PRM applications built on a broader CRM platform directly address the pitfalls of custom portals or niche provider approaches. A key challenge facing most companies has been making CRM actionable for partners and facilitating a more collaborative go-to-market approach. For example, partner or channel managers would love to leverage CRM analytic capabilities to gain insight on customer segments against partner coverage and performance. Providing clarity to the partner and the channel manager on what is happening across the joint pipeline/shared business objectives is foundational to any PRM strategy. The high tech industry has recognized the value of blending PRM and CRM to create a better experience for partners. These companies use this new blended approach to improve partner recruitment, manage partner profiles, distribute leads intelligently, optimize market development funds, and create quotations.

I say “partner,” you say “reseller.”

An overlooked issue holding back PRM is the term itself. The term “partner” is not universal across industries. The following is a short list that demonstrates how different industries use different terminology for describing their partners.
 

Partner Term

Value Added Reseller, Channel Partner

Agent, Broker

Dealer

Industries

High Technology

Financial Services, Insurance

Automotive, Industrial Products, Telecommunications

Regardless of which term a company uses for its partners, they share the same business objectives. Companies must recruit the right partners, train them to sell the right products and services, help them generate profitable business opportunities, and empower them to improve the eventual customer experience. Unfortunately, many companies who could benefit from this technology forgo evaluating PRM applications because they just don’t identify with the “PRM” terminology. This has led companies to build custom portals that fail to deliver the capabilities partners need, lack the agility to adapt to business changes, and suffer from limited integration to their core CRM system.

Missed Opportunities

Insurance companies exemplify the need to look past the terminology issue (partner versus agent) to identify how PRM can help agents grow their business. It starts with demand generation, where agents receive leads generated from an insurance provider’s CRM. Once an agent starts following up on these leads, a PRM can streamline need assessments with pre qualification questions to help align a customer’s needs with products. PRM uses partner profile data to target the exact digital content agents need to help agents better explain the value proposition of a set of products. And once an agent is ready, PRM provides the automation needed to create a professional quote or proposal to close business. Even post-sale, the agent can then leverage PRM to help coordinate and service customer claims.

In automotive and industrial product manufacturing, partners are often referred to as dealers. Again, the value of PRM starts with demand generation driven by a vendor’s CRM. The leads passed to dealers are often highly educated buyers who are well versed on a product’s features, price, and competitors. PRM empowers dealers to exceed these high expectations and improve close rates through on-line training and certification, recommending content to support customer value propositions, and providing easy-to-use configuration, pricing, and quoting tools to help dealers quickly generate branded and accurate quotes.

PRM makes selling easier.

At its essence, PRM is all about making it as easy as possible for a third party to conduct business on your behalf. In some cases, partners have a choice of whose products they sell. Ease of doing business is often a deciding factor for those selling on your behalf. I could continue to go through how PRM provides value industry by industry, but the key takeaway is that PRM has a definitive value proposition, no matter your industry. The following points are key guiding principles to creating a partner relationship strategy:

  • Do not get caught up with PRM as a term. Instead, focus on the enabling capabilities and the value PRM delivers helping external partners sell more and improve service experience.

  • Make sure PRM is part of your overall CRM strategy to better align your go-to-market strategy with partner performance and customer needs.

  • Leverage a PRM application that can seamlessly integrate with CRM applications and data while enabling you to quickly support changing partner needs.

  • Incorporate multiple channels such as mobile and social technologies to boost collaboration among partners, customers, and your company.

This is not an exhaustive list of capabilities but more a set of guiding principles. The bottom line is, if your company relies on external partners (regardless of what they are called), PRM should be on the top of your priority list.

PRM initiatives work best when they are part of an overall CRM strategy where a company and partner channel collaborate to optimize end-customer experiences.”

Rob DeSisto | Chief Value Officer, Salesforce

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