Partner Sales Acceleration Blog | Allbound

My Vendetta Against PRM (and my mission to defeat it)

Written by Scott Salkin | September 26, 2016

Vendettas are dangerous, especially in business. But when you set out to truly change and disrupt an old way of thinking – or in our case, an old way of selling – a good, solid vendetta (or arch enemy) can be a powerful and motivating tool to fulfill a mission.

And boy, do I have one: PRM.

Metathesiophobia

Fear of change. You may not have even known there’s a word for it. I didn’t. But, I feel a little bit better now that I do.  Because it makes perfect sense. Consultants have built lucrative careers on change. Businesses, frameworks, platforms, even industries have been built on the sole premise of Change Management – identifying, controlling and reducing the potential risks and impacts of change for the sake of change, oftentimes not even considering what’s changing until it’s already changed.

But, when is change actually most dangerous? Well, there’s actually two factors to that answer:

  1. When it’s most needed
  2. When outsiders can benefit – financially or otherwise – by keeping things the same

Unfortunately, businesses looking to accelerate growth through channel partner programs are caught in a perfect storm – in dire need of change, yet held back by legacy software companies desperately worried about losing their grip on millions in revenue tied to selling “the old way.”

The Tragedy that is PRM

Never sell alone. It’s a simple concept I’ve followed since I started my career in technology sales and marketing 12 years ago with Cisco where, as an Account Executive, I never walked into a meeting without a partner.

CRM was in its infancy. In fact, Salesforce, which had launched as a SaaS platform just a few years earlier, was just being implemented across the organization. Meanwhile PRM, which had hit the market in 1997, had been put in place to help IT channel managers merge a partner portal with a contact database to help control their channel activities. It was a novel concept at the time – a Frankenstein-esque toolset to manage and control partners during the pre-big data, pre-digital marketing, pre-social selling time in which management and control with a sturdy hand was more or less how business was done.

More than a decade later – having seen Salesforce build an entire economy insomuch a software platform – PRM has barely changed. Meanwhile, upon talking with 100+ SaaS and channel leaders while developing the concept for Allbound, nearly 9/10 reported that:

  1. Their channel partners were underperforming or, worse, they were unable to determine how they were performing.
  2. PRM couldn’t meet the needs of financial or productivity requirements of their modern, digital businesses, modern, digital employees, and modern, digital partners.
  3. Their channel programs, and as a result their partners, had become disconnected and under-resourced because of the lack of innovation and willingness to change.

In other words, PRM’s steadfast persistence to maintain the “management and control” strategies and features of years past was now holding businesses back, failing an evolving industry, and potentially costing revenue and jobs. It was time to break down barriers.       

Lipstick on a Pig

Despite channel leaders’ loud and clear requests for change, the PRM space has partaken in or contributed to five very concerning happenings over the past 2-3 years:

  1. Legacy vendors investing millions in re-branding and re-messaging old platforms while overlooking decades of code debt and continuing to ignore innovation.
  2. Industry thought leaders jumping from analyst firms to PRM vendors and back again, sometimes even profiting by continuing to push businesses towards “old” rather than “new.”
  3. A continued focus on overcomplicated channel processes and hardware-first strategies that fail to meet the needs of SaaS platforms or the subscription economy.
  4. An ongoing reluctance and inability to recruit and/or build a culture that attracts forward-thinking Millennial and Generation Z business leaders to the profession.
  5. Job losses, consolidation and even the complete disassembly of once lucrative channel programs, as well as industry-wide confusion on how to succeed in today’s economy.

After years of warning, the channel somehow lost its way. Worse yet, it was hustled.

One Sign of Success: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD)

As we continue to build Allbound – the company, the platform and the methodology – two things have become unremittingly clear:

  1. Industry leaders’ refreshing hunger for education, thought leadership and change.
  2. The anxiety and viciousness this is causing for legacy PRM platforms.

As we’ve scaled our own business with a relentless focus on helping our customers scale theirs, the truest sign of disruption (aside from the ROI) has been the fear, uncertainty and doubt that’s turned into a long list of chalkboard material for our team and our partners.

Fear of SaaS. Fear of digital. Fear of affordability. Fear of change. Fear not – our mission to change the economics of partnership grows stronger by the day.

A Warning of Sorts

Channel leaders, listen closely: your job is safe. But, it is evolving. So, celebrate. Collaborate. And embrace change. And next time you’re offered a tube of lipstick, ask for a pair of wings instead.