What’s in a name? In sales, the answer is: a lot. The terminology we choose to describe the sales tools we use can set the tone for how we think of them, how we use them and how often we engage them to meet our daily needs and whether. In the channel, the same be said of the tools we use to empower our channel partners. For nearly three decades, the term PRM (partner relationship management) has been the go-to category for the over-customized portals and clunky software packages that have driven many-a-wedge between channel leaders and his or her partners.
So, how do we change? How do we convince analysts and legacy PRM vendors to stop hanging on to the old, start relinquishing decades of code debt, and finally embrace new modern technology? How does the channel stop iterating and start innovating?
I’ll be the first to tell you that changing a few words can’t change an industry. But it’s a meaningful place to start. And that’s why we’re recommending - asking - for you and your channel team to stop using the term PRM as soon as possible. Sound drastic?
Maybe it is. But it’s important (we even wrote its eulogy). So important, in fact, that Gartner tried to kill the category in 2005, declaring “PRM is Dead,” only to be left in the cold by vendors who simply failed to innovate, resorting instead to hiding behind new branding and new names. This is “lipstick on a pig” at its finest.
So let’s take a look at some of the assumptions that are built into the concept of PRM. Why it never really stood a chance against the last 7-10 years of digital innovation and changes to the buying cycle. By the time we’re done, you’ll be as convinced as we are that your sales team and channel will be better served – and better set up to sell – if they adopt a new way of talking and thinking about the tools they use to enable and empower partner collaboration - and finally feel comfortable calling it “software.”
When we think of a PRM, we think of a platform. An infrastructure. A flat foundation that you and your partners log in to, poke around in, and log out of. A custom portal.
Nearly a decade before the onset of software-as-a-service (SaaS), when these types of software packages were first coming into being, this alone was an improvement. They provided a means for an organization to record and manage information that had never been possible.
But it’s 2016. We’ve seen exactly how easily PRMs can become passive repositories - dumping grounds. We have seen them fill up with duplicate files in different formats, information that exists in multiple, difficult to reach places, and directories filled with files with unstandardized naming conventions -- and dates on them that indicate they have been sitting there untouched since before anyone currently at the company even worked there.
Point blank, PRM is passive. Channel partnerships and the people within them are active, dynamic, living relationships. Partner sales acceleration software, on the other hand, facilitates organization instead of chaos. It actively facilitates complex relationships while focusing on a simple user experience through top-notch information architecture and design, making it easier for businesses to work together.
PRM tools are just barely good enough, whereas partner acceleration software keeps getting better.
Another part of the term PRM is the M – management. We think of managing as often being a top-down phenomenon. There’s one central figure or figures laying down the law in a hierarchy, and everyone else below them listens.
But partner relationships aren’t top-down in this regard. Partners are people, too! Partnerships aren’t about the supplier giving orders, but complex networks and communities of individuals, each with their own motivations, who should be building off of each other’s strengths toward a common goal.
That’s why partner sales acceleration software more accurately describes this technology and its use – it doesn’t set you up to be the boss – it sets you up to move your business, your channel partners and their people forward - together and fast!
“The one constant in life is change.” Greek philosophers dating back to 500BC knew so much was true. And with all change comes evolving ingredients for success.
In years past, simply having a partner management system in place was a huge step forward. Something was better than nothing. But in today’s digitally-driven, connected economy, something isn’t enough. It’s a recipe for disaster.
The new rules for a successful partner program can be defined by four “C”s that, when joined together, are proven to improve the speed, efficiency and agility of a business:
The technology that enables suppliers and channel partners to work together has finally caught up with the needs of the channel. That means it’s time for the way we talk about that technology to catch up as well. We’re past the point of fumbling attempts to get multiple businesses talking through different pieces of software, and having to use workarounds to wring value out of the platform. We’ve entered a new age of streamlined selling and complex collaboration – so it’s time we started talking like it.
That’s why the term PRM is old news, and when we talk about tech-enabled partner collaboration, we should talk about partner sales acceleration.