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PRM vs CRM – Why One is Infinitely Better for Channel Sales

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

Using a CRM system to manage both your direct deals and partner-sourced deals won’t provide the comprehensive functionality you need–and could make your job even harder. Building a thriving partner ecosystem requires a powerful Partner Relationship Management (PRM) solution. 

PRMs enable businesses with indirect sales channels to more effectively and efficiently manage activities related to leads, opportunity management, and deal registration. They are so popular that Forrester predicts the PRM market will grow to $679M by 2023 across all industries. Make sure your business has the tools to attract partners and help them succeed.


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. 

How does PRM differ from CRM? 

Your company’s CRM is not intended for managing your partner ecosystem. 

Customer relationship management software helps businesses track and manage direct customer interactions in a single system of record. It tracks interactions between a business, its prospects, and its existing customers. All relevant customer data–like contact information, history, and transaction summaries–are stored as a living record. 

If your business has a hybrid selling program with direct and indirect sales channels, you need to have both tools. A CRM is intended to be used as an internal tool, which means your partners have no visibility into their deal progression. Another advantage of utilizing a portal is that partners have a central hub where they can onboard, train, register deals, co-brand, receive access to MDF, and more. Giving your partners a PRM tool shows your partners that you are invested in their success. By providing on-demand training materials, they can learn at their own speed, pass tests, and most importantly, make money selling your products. 


How does a PRM help channel sales managers? 

Using a PRM tool gives your channel sales reps the crucial functionality that they need to track a complex partner program and optimize their relationships with channel partners. There are key features provided by PRM software that no other system can support, especially when tracking partner sales, including:

•  MDF distribution to partners

•  Branded content to keep partners on message

•  Incentive programs to increase channel sales

•  Legal and contract compliance features

•  Onboarding, training and certification for new partners

•  Workflows for major business processes including alerts and notifications

•  Reporting that tracks and measures the effectiveness of partner activities


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. 


How does PRM work within a complex partner ecosystem? 

Channel partners are your company’s selling allies, an extension of your sales team. PRM tools give you the functionality to support a variety of partners and their end customers. 

PRM tools automatically gather and analyze performance data and metrics, with a clear focus on revenue and activity metrics. Rewarding your most profitable partners with MDFs for hitting revenue targets, or training completions, ensures that you see ROI from your investment.

PRM and tracking revenue

The revenue metrics for partner programs are unique to the indirect sales model, which is why PRM tools have extensive features to track leads and revenue including:

•  Partner portal software for easy communication and data exchange

•  Access to relevant parts of the customer database

•  Dashboards for tracking leads, deal progression, deal registration, and sales KPIs

•  Data about which partners perform well and which individuals fail to generate or convert leads

•  Integrations with contract, scheduling, expense, and content tools 

What are the benefits of PRM? 

Overseeing a partner program has traditionally involved complex spreadsheets and manual correspondence for every deal, which required switching between a CRM and other tools to fill in the gaps. This is a huge competitive disadvantage and makes it almost impossible to correlate partner activity and training to closed business. That’s why PRMs provide partner management specific features like: 

•  Business intelligence, automation, and template-based workflows

•  Visibility on the impact of 3rd parties on reaching new buyers

•  Partner segmentation for targeted experiences

•  Partner channel avoidance through clear registration processes and pipeline integrations

•  Planning, recruitment, onboarding, enablement, co-selling and co-marketing, and incentives

•  Overview that channel managers can use to track how well training and content is performing in relation to deal registrations 

Integrating your partner tool with your CRM

For a complete view of your entire revenue org, both indirect and direct, integrate your PRM with your CRM tool. Look for a PRM vendor that helps you get your integrations in order. 

Allbound let’s users bring their existing sales tools with them into the partner management process. You can pass information between your PRM and CRM to create a consolidated pipeline that is your single source of truth and stays relevant with real time updates on deal registrations. Syncing your data also avoids duplicate deal registrations, making partner conflict resolution much simpler. 


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.

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.