While customer relationship management (CRM) and partner relationship management (PRM) systems provide distinctly different functions, there’s no reason why a company can’t use both. In fact, the integration of CRM and PRM systems has been a growing trend over the past few years. Combining information from CRM and PRM systems can provide a more global view of the entire sales channel, from vendor to dealer to customer, without negating the benefits that each system provides.
Before we delve into this further, let’s take a look at the basic properties of each system and examine what types of solutions they provide. CRM is just what the name implies, a method to monitor and manage your customer base, focusing on the entire sales process. CRM systems are designed to work in the direct selling environment, which includes a company’s internal sales force and sales managers. The system stores important customer data, such as contact information, sales, service arrangements and sales leads.
CRMs, however, are not designed to manage indirect sales partners. An indirect partner is a dealer or reseller who is not your employee but does sell your products. Because the partner does not work directly for you, he or she might also sell other products, including those of your competitors. That makes the vendor/channel partner relationship complex and creates the need for a more robust software solution: partner relationship management.
Unlike CRM Systems, PRMs Provide the Following:
- Identifying customers and territories
- Integrating lead management
- Training and certification
Managing Your Channel Partners
Many vendors use some sort of CRM software but due to a lack of resources and/or awareness of the benefits, many of them don’t monitor and manage partner performance at all. Other companies try to “shoe horn” partner data into their CRM system but it is not a strategy that provides the functionality or accessibility of a PRM system.
In very basic terms, PRM is all about making it easier for a reseller or dealer to do business with a manufacturer and a CRM provides greater visibility into the sales process.
The two systems are compatible, however, and can be configured to interface with each other. Both systems use sales automation, account and contact management, marketing communication and channel data management. Thus CRMs and PRMs can co-exist quite nicely within a company.
In addition, each channel partner probably has his or her own CRM system. Unless your partners sell your brand only—and that’s relatively rare—it’s going to be difficult to convince them to convert to the same CRM that your company uses. And it’s cost prohibitive for you to pick up the bill for this type of change.
The solution is integrating these individual CRM systems with your partner relationship management software. An effective PRM system has the ability to “talk” with the CRM systems, sharing and transmitting data. For example, if a sales partner registers a lead in a CRM, your company will receive the information through your PRM system and can approve, disapprove or redirect it, taking an appropriate action that harmonizes with your overall sales strategy.
It’s not an Either/Or Situation
Your company doesn’t have to choose between a PRM and a CRM. If you have an indirect sales network, a partner relationship management system is the best way to seamlessly interface with CRM systems. This combination, which is becoming more common every day, provides the functionality required for an efficient and profitable sales channel.
Using PRM software, in conjunction with CRM systems (including your own), can help your company get a jump on the competition by using a pragmatic, systematic approach to managing channel partners. Although this is a highly complex process with many variables, the proper software can be a valuable tool that not only simplifies these procedures but also makes for a more efficient workforce. Ultimately, that means more revenue and higher profits.