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PRM vs CRM – Understanding the Relationship Between the Two

When building technology stacks, Sales and Marketing actively avoid tools with capabilities that heavily overlap in order to limit spending. This leads to a very common question: can I use my existing CRM platform to manage channel partners? 

The short answer? It’s not recommended to rely upon your CRM for partner relationship management (PRM). This is because it’s not equipped with specialized features that speak directly to channel partners’ needs, such as content co-branding, onboarding, and automated content curation based on group types. The lack of comprehensive yet targeted PRM functionality will force you to rely upon multiple tools in addition to your CRM, complicating processes and erecting barriers to scalable operations.

Contrastingly, a PRM is a centralized hub intended solely to help companies enable partners through a variety of features and automations triggered by user actions and customizable settings. What’s more, PRMs are increasingly essential to staying ahead of the curve, as Forrester predicts the PRM market will grow to $679M by 2023 across all industries. 

Still on the fence? Consider that PRM technology is relatively new and specifically designed to address CRMs’ insufficient abilities to service partners. 

 In this article, we’ll help you understand key differences between CRMs vs. PRMs and how to best integrate the two platforms. 


What is PRM? 

Partner relationship management software provides businesses with tools to track reseller and referral sales while also giving partners support, resources, and a portal to communicate with your business. The power of PRM comes from a personalized portal for partners where they can access documents, marketing content, market development funds (MDF), opportunities, and track deals. 

PRM is considered the 3rd evolution of SaaS tools, the first being CRM and then marketing automation. When the market started changing, PRM stepped up to fill in the gaps. 

What do PRMs offer in comparison to CRMs?

PRM software provides businesses with tools to track reseller and referral sales while also giving partners support, resources, and a portal in which to communicate with your business. When comparing it against CRM, PRM technology’s power can best be summarized by three points: 

  • It centralizes most functions and content within a partner-friendly interface – Content is housed in a library with a search bar. Features like market development funds (MDF) requests, deal registration, and prospect pages are all within a single platform. This allows both partners and your management team to be more organized, as well as to identify relationships between different portal activities and subsequent conversions. 
  • It grants partners controlled freedom – Partners can engage with training and quizzes when most convenient, co-brand select materials as needed, and find quick solutions using the portal’s search function. This results in partners having the autonomy necessary to be productive and achieve success on a mass scale.
  • It utilizes automation to improve the partner experience – The portal micromanages partners on your behalf based on commands you set up prior to deployment. This means that you can gate some features and content from defined partner groups and map out content recommendations based on users’ past responses.

Another advantage of utilizing a specialized PRM is that it shows your partners that you invest in their success. You’re willing to spend to accommodate their needs rather than asking them to fit their square bodies into your CRM’s round hole. 

Case in point, Serko, a technology solutions provider in the travel and expenses industry, uses Allbound to support their partners who manage over 6,000 customers globally. Channel sales managers at Serko were able to showcase a world-class partner program and portal in which each partner was provided with the right sales and marketing content for their needs. Serko now has 100% partner adoption, which you can read about here.

It’s not “PRM vs. CRM”, as you will need both

Your company’s CRM is not intended for managing your partner ecosystem. However, there are CRM capabilities that are indispensable to Sales and Customer Service that a PRM simply cannot provide. 

The Value Your CRM Brings to Your Partner Program

Remember, CRM is an acronym for customer relationship management, meaning that it helps businesses track prospective and existing customers within a single system of record, regardless of whether they came from Direct or Indirect. Advantages of a CRM (in conjunction with a PRM) include:

  • The ability for Customer Service to pull client information to better serve their needs
  • Customer base data for easier analysis, enabling companies to create and test retention strategies
  • The option to schedule emails to customers through the CRM and collect related open-rate data 
  • Comprehensive pipeline views and sales forecasting, achieved by pulling data from both your CRM and PRM into a single view
  • Customer segmentation for intelligent automation and more in-depth analysis

In short, your CRM is essential to keeping all the won leads your PRM helped generate. Additionally, it grants long-term insights into the quality of partners’ leads. For example, if a particular partner group consistently generates customers with high abandonment rates, this could indicate that they’re pursuing the wrong audiences or are setting false expectations, both which modified training practices can fix.

How and Why to Integrate Your PRM and CRM 

Your PRM and CRM should share real-time data with one another through integration. This will grant you:

    • The ability to block duplicate deals across both platforms – when Direct Sales and a partner both lay claim to a lead, the results are messy. Avoid channel conflict by enlisting data-sharing between your PRM and CRM so both platforms will immediately notify users that the deal already exists within the sales ecosystem. 
    • A fuller understanding of your pipeline and sales forecasting – Your PRM and CRM should generate reports that give you an overview of today’s (and future) performance. However, why look at two separate reports when you can dive deeper into one? 
    • For data comparisons between direct and indirect sales performance – By enabling your CRM to pull data directly from your PRM, you can do side-by-side comparisons of how different audiences react to various strategies. This enables you to create better-informed hypotheses and have the sales channels learn from one another. 

    Allbound’s PRM technology has standard integrations with a number of CRM solutions, such as Salesforce, Pipedrive, SugarCRM, and Hubspot. We also can do custom integrations in order to accommodate new customers’ existing technology stacks. In order to have the process go as smoothly as possible, designated integration specialists will sync up our PRM with your choice of CRM (as well as with other technologies). The end result is seamless interactions between the two software with minimal maintenance required. 

    What About CRMs That Say They Offer PRM Capabilities? 

    Because of the rapidly accelerating interest in channel partners, the Sales world is abuzz about PRM technology. It’s only natural that some related software companies would want to capitalize on this interest by laying claim to the PRM title, even if their products don’t quite meet the definitions. 

    Remember, a true PRM acts as a centralized hub for partner management and sales prospect interactions. Read Automate, Scale, Integrate – PRM System Criteria for a fuller understanding of what features to expect, and remember that a tool that offers only a fraction cannot call itself a real PRM solution.

    The Bottom Line About CRM vs. PRM 

    The market has already started moving to a comprehensive partner management approach. In fact, 65% of high-tech companies have already adopted PRM tools that deliver a significant amount of company revenue. Companies that continue to manage partners in traditional ways via CRM or spreadsheets are not only missing out on new end customer sales, but also valuable insight from the data provided by channel partners. Consider creating a great partner experience to see big returns on your bottom line.

    To learn more about choosing a PRM that fulfills your program’s needs, we recommend reading Partner Portal Best Practices and Design Checklist.

    Ali Spiric

    Marketing Specialist at Allbound
    Ali Spiric leads Allbound’s content marketing to cultivate awareness for the ultimate PRM solution. Ali is a digital marketer that thrives in the B2B space.