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The buying and selling landscape has expanded beyond direct sales and marketing teams to now include various partners that sell and market on your behalf. Specifically, organizations are leveraging partner relationships to get closer to the customer without the overhead cost associated with building out in-house staff.
This shift in the go-to market strategy provides many great benefits such as lower customer acquisition cost, increased customer lifetime value, and an extended network. Although there are a number of great benefits, leveraging partners can also create several challenges in regards to properly recruiting, enabling, supporting, and retaining these relationships.
Like most challenges we experience today, technology quickly arrives to the rescue. Partner Relationship Management (PRM) as a platform, is a relatively new concept. A typical PRM solution is an online portal provided by a vendor company for their partners with a focus on delivering an easy way for the partner(s) to do business. The benefit for the vendor company is that they earn more partner mindshare, eliminate the manual time consuming aspects of partner management, and receive data analytics helping to validate what is working vs not working in the partner program.
Forrester research shows 75% of products and services are being marketed and sold through indirect channels today, pointing to an emerging trend that creates a significant need for partner technology. That being said, PRM technology isn’t for everyone and deploying this technology at the right time is critical for the partner program.
Assessing Your Channel Program For PRM
If you run a channel program, you may be asking yourself whether or not you need a PRM tool. The answer is, it depends.
As the CEO of Allbound, the fastest growing PRM company, you may think I would want everyone to buy PRM. That is not the case. Some companies can greatly benefit from PRM technology, some are not ready for PRM, and a few simply do not need PRM.
In this comprehensive overview we plan to help you quickly assess whether your company is a fit and ready for PRM software or not. We see three basic choices companies make when deciding how to use tools to manage their channel:
1. Assemble some partner resources, then use manual processes to support partners
2. Select and implement a PRM solution
3. Do nothing
All of these options are viable for different programs. They will yield different results, but may be a fit for your company’s situation. Let’s look at your channel program and see what best applies.
Who are Your Partners?
All channel programs should start from the perspective of your current and future partners. To understand this start by asking:
- What are the partner personas that make up your ecosystem?
- How are they segmented and how will you treat them differently?
- What is their partner journey starting with recruitment, through onboarding, and on to being a successful producing partner?
- With KPIs, where do they get visibility into how well they are performing?
- Are they partnered with other vendors you may compete with and how are they supported there?
- Are you selling a technical product or service that will require a certain level of expertise?
- Do partners provide first level support to your customer?
These are important questions. If you don’t have the answers right away, that is fine. We recommend conducting partner surveys or even scheduling 1:1 or group meetings with partners to gain this understanding.
The Partner Journey and Experience
Top sales and marketing consultants will help you understand your buyer personas and their buyer journey. They will also help companies develop competitive differentiators in the experience being delivered to the buyer. Similar to the buying landscape, you should think through your Partner Journey and the experience you provide. A few questions to use as a starting point:
- What is the experience of being recruited into a partnership with you?
- What does onboarding look like?
- How does a channel partner get trained to represent your company’s brand?
- What is the process for them to get material to share with prospects?
- What opportunities do they have to elevate their own brand alongside yours in a co-marketing fashion?
- Where do they register deals and get visibility into the pipeline?
- How will you handle conflict on deals?
- If they provide customer support, how do you help them deliver world-class support?
- With KPI’s, where do they get visibility into how well they are performing?
There are more questions to ask. If you want to assess your company, we have put together this quick assessment which will deliver a report on the areas where you may be doing well or that need improvement.
How Do You Define Success For The Channel Program?
You are probably two pages into an assessment on channel programs because you want to level up your partner program.If you look out 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months from now, what does your channel program look like? We recently conducted an industry survey and found five common goals channel leaders use to define success:
1. Increase revenue from our channel / indirect selling programs
2. Participating partners and engagement growth
3. Decrease in the average time it takes partners to onboard and train before producing results
4. Creation of a a best-in-class, partner-first experience ahead of the competition
5. A combination of the above
With an understanding of what defines success, you’re ready to move on to deciding if (or when) PRM makes sense for your organization.
Let’s look and see…
Deciding if PRM is Right for You and What to Do Next
Let’s bring these concepts together to determine next steps.
Yes, you need PRM.
On top of that, you’re thinking through the partner acquisition strategies, the aspects of the partner journey, and would like to deliver a world class partner program setting your organization apart in this competitive landscape. If you relate to these statements, you would be an ideal candidate to leverage PRM. We have seen our software eliminate manual processes and poor partner experience while being the tool users need to achieve their desired success. We recommend from here you do business case analysis to see what the ROI would be for you.
Maybe…but still unsure.
PRM may or may not be right for you if you have an unclear picture of who you want as partners and how they will work with you. We recommend gathering more information by engaging with industry experts like Gartner to discuss whether automating your partner program is the right strategy for you. You should also look at what your competition is doing and then interview potential partners to see what value they can bring to your product or service. If you can envision a mutually-beneficial partner journey, you should explore PRM and how technology can support those efforts.
No, PRM will not help you.
If you are interested in indirect channel sales but haven’t done the research or started creating a channel strategy, PRM is not going to create these things for you. We recommend that you keep an eye on your competition or analogues to your industry to see how others incorporate indirect sales motions to accelerate their growth.
For those of you who see PRM as a potential fit, it’s time for us to talk about the information you’ve discovered and the state of your channel partner program. We can help you evaluate PRM technology and ultimately arrive at an informed decision.
I encourage those who are still uncertain to continue your research and scaling your partner program. Allbound, as well as other thought leaders in the space, have several great resources out there for you to utilize.
EMPOWER YOUR PARTNERS.
When your business relies on partners, it’s vital to empower them to sell better and more efficiently. Allbound is a flexible Saas platform that helps any size business recruit, onboard, measure, and accelerate growth through sales and marketing partnerships.
Make every engagement between you and your partners–and between your partners and their prospects–simpler, productive, rewarding and engaging.