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Partner Relationship Management
The buying and selling landscape has expanded to include not only leveraging direct sales and marketing teams but now includes 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 the direct sales and marketing teams. This shift in the go to market strategy is providing many great benefits ranging from 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 related to properly recruiting, enabling, supporting, and retaining those 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 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, emerging trend has created 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 and business’ success.
Assessing Your Channel Program For PRM
If you run a channel program, you may be asking yourself whether or not you need a PRM. 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, while 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 where your company is. Let’s look at your channel program and see where your program fits.
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?
- What KPIs will you expect of them and what level of support do they expect from you?
- 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 to these questions, 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 with understanding your buyer personas and their buyer journey so that your company can align resources to best serve them. They will also help companies develop competitive differentiators in the experience being delivered to the buyer. Similarly to the buying landscape, after understanding who your partners are, you should begin to think through your Partner Journey and the experience you provide them. 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 along side of yours in a co-marketing fashion?
- Where do they register deals and get visibility to 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 on these we have put together a tool for that here. This quick assessment will deliver a report on areas 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, 24 months from now what does your channel program look like? We recently conducted an industry survey and found five common areas channel leaders are using to define success:
1. Increase revenue from our channel / indirect selling programs.
2. Attract more partners and stay engaged with the partners we have
3. Decrease the time it takes partners to move from onboarding, through training, and on to producing results.
4. Delivering 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 see what we should do for next steps.
Yes, you need PRM.
Organizationally, you’re invested in the culture for channel success. You have set a revenue target that will come from the channel program and you even have partners in place (formal or informal). 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. This would be an ideal candidate to leverage PRM and is well aligned with our most successful customers. We have seen PRM eliminate the manual processes and poor partner experience while being the force multiplier they 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.
If you have an unclear picture of who you want as partners, how they will work with you and lack some clarity on how to add more partners or better enable the ones you have, PRM may or may not be right for you. We recommend gathering more information by engaging with industry experts, such as Gartner to discuss whether this is a potential strategy. You should also look at what your competition is doing and then interview potential partners to see what potential value they can bring to your product or service. From there if you are able to envision a partner journey with mutual benefit then 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 are not able to gather sufficient information on who your potential partners would be, how you would recruit them, or how to manage them PRM is not going to fix these things for you. We recommend that you keep an eye on your competition or analogues to your industry and see how others incorporate indirect sales motions to accelerate their growth.
Recently, I was talking to the CEO of an early stage company that was selling one new customer per quarter. This CEO was telling me that he tracked his sales activities in a popular CRM platform. I left the conversation thinking he was wasting his money on CRM and was likely to turn it off when he realized the CRM was adding difficulty, not removing it. Selling PRM to the wrong person would look very similar to this CEO’s CRM purchase. At Allbound, we have close collaboration with our customers to roll out PRM and that takes time and resources for both us and our customers.The more we can vet each other to see there is a fit early on the happier we both will be.
Just like CRM does not create sales, PRM does not create a channel program. CRM is a great tool to manage your sales function and report on progress. PRM similarly, is a great tool to add automation and analytics to your channel program.
We work with some of the fastest growing companies in the world, who are all accelerating their growth by leveraging partners. We take supporting this aspect of their business very seriously because ultimately our success is directly tied to their channel program’s success. Depending on what category of PRM readiness you find yourself in, it may be time to take the next step.
Those of you to do 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
so we can help you evaluate PRM technology and ultimately arrive at an informed decision.
Those of you who were still uncertain, I encourage you 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.
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