The Ultimate PRM Guide
WHAT IS PARTNER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT?
If you’re like a lot of people, chances are you’ve never heard of Partner Relationship Management or PRM until recently. After all, channel sales and marketing technology has long been an afterthought when it comes to building a modern sales and marketing tech stack.
Perhaps, your knowledge of PRM is based on what you find as a result of a search engine result search – a plethora of complex, expensive, hybrid Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS technologies. You’re tired of spending hours sending partners the same piece of content countless times, not knowing where your partners pipelines are, and not seeing how many deals were registered. You’re ready for a solution but the search results may be so confusing that you might question whether incorporating a PRM program is a good idea. The purpose of this guide is to point out what PRM tools can do for you and your channel partners to increase the quality of your sales funnel, keep your pipeline full, and increase revenue.
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IN THE BEGINNING
Originally designed as a ledger to help Channel Managers track, manage and control their partners, PRM was the chief channel management software in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As channel programs grew more complex and varied across enterprises, so did PRM. Enough so, that many organizations turned to their own internal teams to build highly customized partner portals. Suddenly, PRM systems evolved into the proverbial dumping ground for complicated processes, disconnected systems, and ineﬃcient tools.
THE NEW GENERATION OF PRM
Today, however, a subscription-based model for marketing and selling technology has taken over and channel partner programs have a new lease on life. As a result, a new generation of API-based PRM tools have taken the industry by storm due to their ability to deliver real, measurable results. These tools focus on user experience, partner engagement, collaboration, integration, and real-time intelligent data.
ABERDEEN GROUP’S DEFINITION
OF A CHANNEL PARTNER PROGRAM:
“The strategic expansion of marketing and sales activities through external entities, providing additional marketing and sales capabilities for shared beneﬁts (partners) and/or external organizations offering access or expertise in speciﬁc communication or distribution networks (channels).”
TODAY’S PRM PLATFORM DRIVES YOUR PARTNER REVENUE
Today’s complex business-to-business (B2B) sales cycles demand more from channel technology, because:
- The workforce is becoming increasingly younger and more mobile.
- Cloud-based subscription models are dominating the industry.
- Buyers are using more information sources than ever.
These factors make it critical for businesses to understand buyer personas, motives, and attitudes. They enhance the notion that integrating channel technology into your marketing and sales stack can no longer be reliant upon complex, expensive, hybrid-SaaS platforms. Maintaining disjointed siloed systems challenge the eﬃciency of your channel partner program. Technologies have evolved and advanced, making these types of outdated systems no longer powerful on their own.
Implementing a modern PRM tool leads to a more productive team. Your sales teams and channel leaders no longer have to spend their time looking for content, processes and tracks can now be clearly and simply built, and you can finally have clear insight into your channel health.
Today’s generation of simple, powerful partner relationship management tools are the future of channel sales and marketing – and critical to successful partnerships.
Emerging from traditional PRM systems, these true SaaS platforms enable businesses to deviate from the chaos and expense of traditional or hybrid-SaaS software. They also substantially decrease the costs associated with extensive customization, service, and support. Modern partner management is about analyzing data across disparate departments to learn what is most successful. Now teams can build their channel programs around real, hard facts.
GROWING PARTNER PROGRAMS WITH A MODERN TOOLSET.
Approaching today’s channel demands without the right tools is like trying to perform complex, high-speed tasks on a dial-up modem. Sure, it’s possible. But it’s ultimately an exercise in futility because you’re limiting yourself–and your partners–while creating unnecessary headaches and expenses in the process.
To support your partners, you need to think about the future. You need to think about next-generation, cloud-based tools.
The right PRM platform can help move the needle by enabling teams to achieve key performance indicators (KPIs) and hit revenue goals. When your channel team is hitting its KPIs, you’re contributing to an overarching organizational goal of increasing sales and boosting company revenue. Today’s digitally-focused marketing and sales teams use a healthy variety of tools and technologies. This combination of software and technology is called your technology stack.
Ideally, the tools your team uses should enable your entire organization—including your partner channel—to be effective.
What’s worse than not having the right technology? Having too many tools that don’t talk to each other. You’ve already invested in technology, you don’t need more stacked applications. Synchronized tools eliminate wasted investments and resolve ineﬃcient processes. They provide your teams with access to reports and statistics that accelerate performance.
Augmenting your existing marketing investments with a plug-and-play platform designed around the needs of channel partners result in technology that helps your channel.
Let’s Review the Five Best Channel Partner Management Practices That The Next Generation of Partner Relationship Management Tools Provide
5 Key Components of Next-Generation Partner Relationship Management
1 STAND-OUT CHANNEL MARKETING CONTENT
We’ve already discussed how technology has empowered consumers by placing them at the center of the sales process. Because consumers can access content at any time, they are now in the position to lead their own purchasing journey. Content is everywhere these days. To sell in the channel, it’s important to leverage marketing content that engages with your customers.
ALIGN YOUR MARKETING CONTENT WITH THE BUYER’S JOURNEY AND YOUR SALES FUNNEL
Your content must empower indirect reps to meet the needs of your end users. Arrange content into playbooks based on verticals, personas, life-cycle stage, and business outcomes to take some of the heavy lifting from your partners. Customized, co-branded content keeps partners up-to-date on products and services and helps them reach customers effectively and efficiently.
BUILD BRAND POTENCY
Indirect reps need to know that content isn’t just something they attach to an email as a follow-up. It’s something that must be leveraged across every stage in the sales cycle to cultivate relationships with prospects. Strong content that’s properly utilized in an indirect sales channel will help you build brand potency. The right tools empower resellers to access content on the ﬂy, and enables channel then to track the content that converts browsing to sales. PRM tools improve end-user engagement with marketing content by making content discoverable, rankable, shareable, and usable; so you can provide access to the right people at the right time.
TURN YOUR PARTNERS INTO THOUGHT LEADERS
Ultimately, providing your partners with the appropriate content can transform them into teachers. They become sources of education information, rather than people who simply repeat a tagline. They become problem solvers who understand and champion prospects through challenges they face. Importantly, PRM tools empower partners to become coaches equipped to understand their prospects’ strengths and weaknesses. By providing the right content, your indirect reps become thought leaders.
2 A HEALTHY PIPELINE OF POTENTIAL PARTNERS
BALANCE LEAD MANAGEMENT AND SALES PROSPECTING
Balancing lead management with effective sales prospecting can be a challenge for any size channel program. As you already know, keeping your pipeline filled with qualified prospects is diﬃcult. Adding a partner layer to the equation creates even more complexity, as you’re tasked with keeping your partners’ pipelines full. Plus, lead management has become increasingly complex— especially in channel sales.
EMPOWER PARTNERS TO SHARE THEIR PIPELINE
Failing to empower your partners to extend their pipelines can result in inaccurate commissions and revenues. Who has time for that? It’s up to you to provide your partners with the tools they need to successfully market your products. That’s why it’s essential to enhance your partner practices and pipeline with your partner relationship management tools.
NURTURE LEADS AT ALL STAGES OF THE SALES CYCLE
While your customer relationship management (CRM) software may provide some visibility into the lead management process, your PRM tools should integrate with your CRM to provide a holistic view of the entire pipeline. Partner relationship management tools create and deploy lead qualification and scoring systems. They implement lead nurturing efforts at all stages of the sales cycle and provide appropriate information to all managers and teams that need to track progress.
3 PARTNER ENABLEMENT AND ONBOARDING
STRATEGIC, REPEATABLE ONBOARDING AND ENABLEMENT
Partner onboarding and enablement are two of the most important steps in building partner relationships. That’s why it’s critical for PRM tools to enable strategic, repeatable onboarding and enablement processes. Effective PRM programs establish communication guidelines and provide partners with the right information at the right time, thereby setting partners up for success.
ENCOURAGES PARTNER ENGAGEMENT AND LOYALTY
A PRM platform is also a partner recruitment tool. A PRM can help you:
- Show partners you have a place and content dedicated to them
- Allow you to enable partners to their fullest capacity and make them the most successful
- Show partners you care about their process/leads/customers they bring.
Partner onboarding and enablement should occur before partners begin selling, and should thoroughly support them throughout each phase of the sales cycle. They facilitate engagement and loyalty, which are especially important when considering the fact that resellers are selling for multiple vendors.
Below is what successful partner onboarding and enablement should look like:
- Outline beneﬁts and automate the application process. First impressions go a long way. To attract partners in the first place, be clear about the benefits of working with your company.
- Provide a warm welcome. Once partners are ready to start, schedule an executive kickoff call to convey enthusiasm and answer any initial questions. Consider providing a welcome kit with information and even some swag!
- Establish goals and expectations. Establish processes and create a document outlining what partners should tackle in the first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days.
- Simplify the process with consolidated tools and technology. Your partners should be set up for success— not inundated with technology. Your PRM tools must streamline the process by incorporating guided selling, deal registration, and gamification into a centralized, accessible tool.
- Empower partners with co-branded marketing content. In addition to partner relationship management tools, co-branded content and marketing collateral should be provided to immerse partners in your products and services.
4 A GREAT PARTNER TRAINING PROGRAM
CONSISTENT AND OPTIMIZED TRAINING
Ensuring your partners are ready to sell is only one step in building and maintaining engaged, productive channel partners. Once your partners are ready to sell, it’s time to start training. Your efforts must be ongoing and your partner portal must optimize your training techniques.
CONTENT AVAILABLE ANYTIME, ANYWHERE
Your PRM platform should present content and information in a way that resonates with your partners and ensures they can access it anytime, anywhere. In addition to providing your partners with an accessible knowledge base and partner playbooks, your training should mirror job conditions.
Immersive training models enable partners to solve real-life sales situations. New partners should use the same tools and systems that will be used on the job. It’s also important to foster an environment that encourages inquiry. Motivating partners with a culture of continued learning is the only way to foster long-term success.
PRM software should take your training and education methods to the next level. To ensure you’re getting the most from your partner systems, ask the following:
- Does your partner portal simplify onboarding and set your partners up for success?
- Does your partner portal enable you to keep channel reps up-to-speed with courses you create?
- Can you offer certifications within training to help your partners succeed?
- Can you create quizzes to keep your reps up-to-date?
- Does your portal incorporate gamification to keep partners engaged?
DID YOU KNOW?
Businesses using partner/channel technology, such as PRM, experience 48% greater annual revenue growth.
source: 2017 Aberdeen Group
5 ADEQUATE INTERNAL SUPPORT AND RESOURCES
ALIGN WITH SUPPORT SYSTEMS AND RESOURCES
Today’s increasingly complex sales landscape demands that organizations work to eliminate the sales and marketing barrier. From collaborating on marketing collateral to talking with clients and signing deals, both marketing and sales are engaged in promoting conversions. However, this collaboration and awareness must extend across your entire organization. Your PRM program must align with the support systems and resources required to be successful.
ALIGN ENTERPRISE WITH TOOLS AND TECHNOLOGY
Aligning your organization’s disparate departments around your tools and technology prevents confusion and ensures that everyone is consistently receiving relevant information. PRM tools provide your team with the ability to create a steady ﬂow of creative campaigns driven by results. Leveraging single SaaS systems ensures that content is delivered to the right people—both reps and marketers—at the right time. It guarantees that training materials, sales decks, and marketing messaging are centralized and distributed. Ultimately, it preps reps to close all gaps in the sales process.
SUPPORT YOUR PARTNERS
Supporting your partners is step one in creating a successful channel sales program. However, finding the time in the daily scheme of business operations to provide consistent support can be a challenge. It’s critical to have an accurate overview of your organization’s current capabilities and resources.
From overseeing partner relationships to managing the development of individual partners, it’s essential to ensure you can scale up and down as needed. To determine if your PRM can scale as your partners scale, ask yourself these questions:
- What personnel are dedicated to the channel team?
- From which departments are you borrowing resources (marketing, sales customer success, operations, etc.)?
- Do your partners have access to customer health data?
- Do your partners have resources for better supporting customers’ needs?
- Can you deliver resources to partners so they can self-serve— from onboarding through sales engagement?
Channel: A method of distribution used by a business to sell its products, usually by dividing its sales force into groups that focus on different selling conduits. For example, a company might implement a channel sales strategy to sell its product via an in house sales force, dealers, retailers or by direct marketing.
Reseller: a person or company that sells something they have bought to someone else.
Broker: a person who buys and sells goods or assets for others. Agent: a person who acts on behalf of another person or group.
Channel Partner: A company that partners with a manufacturer or producer to market and sell the manufacturer’s products, services, or technologies. This is usually done through a co-branding relationship.
Referral Partner: A referral partner is a business associate who recommends a particular company and its services in exchange for something of value.
Distribution partners: Distribution (or place) is one of the four elements of the marketing mix. Distribution is the process of making a product or service available for the consumer or business user who needs it. This can be done directly by the producer or service provider, or using indirect channels with distributors or intermediaries.
KPI: Key performance indicator, used to measure success of a company or initiative.
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