By Robert DeSisto, Chief Value Officer at Salesforce
Partner Relationship Management (PRM) applications have been around for 18 years, yet have struggled to take hold in the market. Over the same period, CRM spend has seen explosive growth across every industry in companies small to large. So with one third of the world’s business generated by third-party sellers, why hasn’t the PRM category grown or at least kept pace with CRM?
The short answer is PRM has kept pace. The caveat is that it is not visible. Most businesses have created custom portals that cobble together siloed processes such as ordering, lead distribution, and training that are connected to various systems and data sources. A few niche PRM vendors have created point solutions for partners. However, these solutions have struggled to gain wider traction because of their focus on partner enablement without considering partners as part of a broader CRM strategy.
PRM initiatives work best when they are part of an overall CRM strategy where a company and partner channel collaborate to optimize end-customer experiences.
An overlooked issue holding back PRM is the term itself. The term “Partner” is not universal across industries. High tech and manufacturing firms work with value added resellers and channel partners. Financial Service companies refer to partners as brokers or non-captive agents. Automotive and industrial products makers tend to sell through dealers.
Regardless of the term a company uses for its partners, they share the same business objectives. Companies must recruit the right partners, train them to sell the right products and services, help them generate profitable business opportunities, and empower them to improve the end-customer experience.
Unfortunately, many companies who could benefit from this technology forgo evaluating PRM applications because they just don’t identify with the “PRM” terminology. This has led companies to build custom portals that fail to deliver the capabilities partners need, lack the agility to adapt to business changes, and suffer from limited integration to their core CRM system.
PRM applications built on a broader CRM platform directly address the pitfalls of custom portals or niche provider approaches. A key challenge facing most companies has been making CRM actionable for partners and facilitating a more collaborative go-to-market approach. For example, partner or channel managers would love to leverage CRM analytic capabilities to gain insight on customer segments against partner coverage and performance. Providing clarity to the partner and the channel manager on what is happening across the joint pipeline/shared business objectives is foundational to any PRM strategy.
The high tech industry has recognized the value of blending PRM and CRM to create a better experience for partners. These companies use this new blended approach to craft targeted distributed marketing campaigns to help channel partners build their business, optimize market development funds, streamline opportunity management, and create quotations.
At its essence, PRM is all about making it as easy as possible for a third party to conduct business on your behalf. In some cases partners have a choice of whose products they sell. Ease of doing business is often a deciding factor for those selling on your behalf. I could continue to go through how PRM provides value industry by industry, but the key takeaway is PRM has a definitive value proposition, no matter your industry.
The following points are key guiding principles to creating a partner relationship strategy:
This is not an exhaustive list of capabilities but more a set of guiding principles. The bottom line is if your company relies on external partners (regardless of what they are called), PRM should be on the top of your priority list.
Robert DeSisto is Chief Value Officer at Salesforce. Previously, he was Vice President and Distinguished Analyst in Gartner Research where he was responsible for managing the software as a service (SaaS) research agenda, CRM sales agenda, and business application research community.