The quest to maintain a successful channel sales program is never-ending. One that’s mutually beneficial to you and all of your partners requires constant care and oversight. It takes exceptional partner relationship management (PRM).
By having a system in place that identifies, streamlines, and even automates the processes and relationships between you and your channel partners, you’re bound to see some significant benefits. From onboarding to training to selling, reporting, and more — every step of your channel sales process can be simplified with PRM.
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What is Partner Relationship Management?
In a nutshell, PRM makes it easier for your partners to close deals. It helps program managers maintain a healthy relationship with partners while forging trust among all involved parties.
Often defined as a combination of software, methodologies, best practices, templates, and workflows, PRM helps you:
- Get partners recruited and up to speed to sell faster
- Drive more demand and increase channel ROI
- Deliver immediate metrics and performance insights
- Offer real-time assistance, education, and training
- Quickly scale and add new partners
Think about it. The most successful channel programs have hundreds of interactions with partners every month. So, having clear and consistent systems, processes, and procedures for partners selling on your behalf is absolutely essential.
Partner Relationship Management Helps with…Everything
Partner relationship management is a broad concept. From general oversight and standard processes to sophisticated automation software that runs the show, its extent depends on the size and complexity of your partner program
Take a moment to consider all of the things that go into creating an empowering experience for your channel partners. It’s a lot, isn’t it? With proper partner relationship management, you’ll be able to harness and standardize all the tools, resources, communications, and interactions with your partners, including:
Lifecycle management. Partner recruitment, creating profiles, onboarding, assigning territories, and more.
Contracting. Drawing up, storing, archiving, and renewing partner contracts.
Enablement. Partner orientation, training, certification, and continual education.
Engagement. Communicating with partners through emails, messages, newsletters, community building, and registering for events and webinars.
Business planning. Documentation and resources on customer profiles, personas, sales, marketing, and training plans.
Transactions. Everything from price listing to renewals, lead referrals to and from partners, demos, opportunities management, product cataloguing, and more.
Offers. Any special partner promotions and discounting, bundled solution packages, and multi-vendor solution packages.
Incentives and rewards. Partner commission management, rebates, loyalty and rewards programs, growth incentives, and gamification.
Marketing. Marketing development fund (MDF) management, curation of digital assets and branding materials, market insights sharing, and co-op marketing funds.
Support. Knowledge base development, support ticketing system, best practices and FAQs for partner support.
Performance management. Scorecard display for partners, revenue and profitability metrics, as well as opportunity metrics.
Once you’ve set up an effective partner relationship model with a standard set of forms, templates, resources, and best practices, you can almost go into auto-pilot when onboarding and implementing new partnerships. In the end, proper PRM is the engine that continually drives more and more channel sales.
Stepping Up Your Partner Relationship Management
As the name suggests, partner relationship management encompasses all aspects of “managing” your channel program partners. It’s everything that goes into structuring your partnerships, implementing a sales model, recruiting, empowering, motivating, and measuring your channel partners. Partner relationship management is a broad concept, and its extent and complexity depend on the size of your partner program.
For larger programs and those looking to scale up quickly, it will be difficult to oversee all of the points we covered in the previous section without a PRM software.
PRM software typically includes a variety of tools and options that allow you and your partners to track and manage:
- Leads/lead distribution
- Deal registration
- Marketing development
When it comes time to plan and implement PRM software, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Involve your partners. Your PRM system needs to align with your channel strategy, and that means considering the different requirements of your partners. The last thing you want is to create and roll out a program that no one uses. And because each of your partners probably does business a little differently, they will have different needs and be looking for different features in order for it to provide true value. Engage them in the process early and often.
- Involve your entire organization. From executive buy-in to technical setup to data integration, marketing, communicating with/training partners, and more — implementing PRM software is an initiative that goes well beyond just the channel sales team. Develop a cross-functional team to help with strategy, selection, and implementation.
- Consider your customer relationship management (CRM) system. When you think about it, a PRM is really just a specialized version of a CRM. One is built to optimize channel sales and help nurture healthy partner relationships, the other helps internal teams manage interactions with potential and current customers. So in order to get a full 360-degree view of the business (pipeline of direct sales and contributions from indirect/channel sales), the PRM system should integrate with your CRM.
- Communicate often and train thoroughly. With PRM systems, it’s not as simple as “build it and they will come.” You need to drum up anticipation and excitement to ensure adoption among your partners. If you want to get partners on board, send them regular progress updates leading up to launch (and beyond if you continue to scale and enhance the system), along with interactive trainings and live demos.
Other PRM Enablement Solutions
PRM is often a phased approach for many organizations. One that’s well thought out, flexible, scalable, and agile. To get started, a lot of companies choose to outsource with organizations like Inside Sales Solutions to do their PRM heavy lifting. Outsourcing aspects of your partner relationship management can help ensure both you and your partners are equipped with the tools to see more results by:
- Recruiting more partners
- Maximizing MDF
- Improving lead routing and tracking
- Giving you and your partners 24/7/365 access to your KPIs
How is Your Partner Relationship Management Experience?
Whether your program is large or small, think about how well your partners are set up for success. Do they have all the tools and resources they need to get your products and services in the hands of more customers?
If everything is streamlined and efficient with your current process and oversight, great. If, however, a more sophisticated PRM implementation could energize your portfolio of resellers, it might be time to consider leveling-up your approach to partner relationship management.
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