Partner Channel Acronyms Cheat Sheet
April 29, 2020

Are you fluent in the language of the channel world? Every industry has its own jargon, and channel sales are certainly no exception. From PRM to ITSP it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to decode these acronyms. Still on the learning curve? We’ll help you conquer it: here’s a no-nonsense primer on basic channel partner-related terminology and their definitions.

Channel salesA mutually-beneficial structure where third-party persons or companies help sell a product or service. Learn more about channel sales software features offered by Allbound.

Channel partner: A third-party person or company that helps sell or promote a product or service. A channel partner can take on numerous forms (see related entries below). They are often provided with training and marketing material to enable them in their efforts.

  • Affiliate partners: A channel partner that recommends your product or service to their pre-existing audience. Affiliate partners are often web-based, using blogs, websites or social media accounts to market. For example, a book review blogger may have an affiliate partnership with a book retailer and link to their store in their reviews, receiving a commission per click or sale.
  • Alliance partner: A collaborative channel partnership type where company and partner, often in related businesses, spread mutual awareness and share customers. For example, alliance partners can often be found in tech. When their products jive well together in a tech stack, two companies may advocate for, or recommend, one another.
  • DistributorAn individual or company that is granted permission to distribute another company’s product or service. 
  • Referral partnersAn individual or company that refers potential customers, whom they usually have a pre-existing relationship with, to your company. Referral partners can provide high quality leads; they are often trusted by those they refer. For example, a realtor may act as a referral partner for mortgage or insurance providers.
  • ResellerA channel partner that purchases a product or service and re-sells it. A reseller can offer a branded product as produced, or may repackage or rebrand it. For example, a grocery chain may purchase a brand of cereal to sell on its shelves, or may buy bulk cereal to white label (repackage and rebrand) as a store brand product.
  • Value-added reseller (VAR): A reseller subset that adds its own products, services or expertise to a company’s product, creating an optimized offering. For example, a value-added tech reseller may bundle third-party software that works well with, or is an attractive add-on to, its devices.

IT Solution Provider (ITSP): These partners offer comprehensive IT products and/or services. There a few types of services: 

  • Managed Service Providers (MSP): This type of partner remotely manages a company’s IT infrastructure. In today’s cloud-based world many companies look to MSPs called “cloud service providers” to support their ecosystem. MSPs will also provide or sell their own cloud computing services or act as resellers for other cloud providers. 
  • Independent Software Vendors (ISV): This type of partner develops, markets, and sells software solutions that run on one or more computer hardware providers. Organizations or individuals who specialize in software solutions can become ISV Certified. For example, a company like Macintosh can offer ISV certifications for its iOS service, and individuals or organizations can become certified to sell and manage Macintosh computers. 
  • System Integrator (SI): This partner can be simply an individual or a company. SIs specialize in integrating various and often complex IT solutions. These partners map critical functional requirements with optimal solutions in order to create a cohesive tech stack for each of their partners. 

Co-brandingA marketing collaboration between a company and a channel partner. For example, a channel partner accesses professionally-prepared materials on their partner portal, adds custom content like their logo, then uses the material in their marketing processes.

Deal registrationA process established for a channel partner to call dibs on a potential sale, thus eliminating a source of channel conflict. This task can be time-consuming for partners and vendors alike. Some PRM tools offer real-time reporting on deal registration and other KPIs. 

KPI: Short for Key Performance Indicator. These metrics can be used to assess the status of a channel, thus revealing insight into its health. Examples of KPIs tracked by many channel managers include the number of times a channel partner uses a partner portal, downloads material, uses training materials, or registers deals. To learn more, visit our post 5 Partner Program KPIs to Measure Channel Performance.

Marketing collateralThe collection of materials used to advertise a product or service. In a channel environment, these materials are often shared with channel partners via their portal or PRM solution.

Market Development Funds (MDF): These funds are made available by a company in order to enable their partners to sell and/or market their products. There are various types of funding structures (i.e. stipend, fixed, discount, and rebate). Channel marketers use these funds to support a multitude of programs to support the indirect sales team.

OnboardingThe process of getting new partners signed up, trained and ready to go.

Partner portalA web-based service that provides a company’s channel partners all the training and resources they need. Learn more by visiting our partner portal page.

PRMThe short form, and the common term for, Partner Relationship Management. This defines the system or strategy a company uses to administer its channel partner program. It’s often multifaceted and may include processes for identifying potential partners, onboarding and training them, and providing them with resources, marketing material and other collateral. PRM software solutions are often employed to help companies do these things, as well as access analytics to assist in system optimization.

Lauren Gaines
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