Effective management of an indirect sales channel can pay big dividends, both at the start and over the long haul. And in most cases, Partner Relationship Management (PRM) systems provide a channel manager with the best technology to support, monitor, and train channel partners for continued success. Every company has its own unique requirements and characteristics, however, so careful planning is critical before considering a PRM technology implementation.
Before getting started on evaluating your options for a PRM solution, there are several strategic factors that need to be addressed.
- What are your plans to address change management? This impacts internal stakeholders (your colleagues in sales, marketing, IT) and also the external stakeholders (your channel partners). Have you already helped lay out a vision and let them know "whats in it for them"? You may need to create a formal marketing and communications plan or deliver a partner survey to make sure you have addressed these issues.
- What are the internal resources at your disposal? Who will be responsible for administering the system, keeping your organizational structure updated, and determining the functional requirements that best support your channel partners?
- What is your strategy for delivering content? Have you audited existing content to see what is already available and what still needs to be created?
As you can see, there are a number of mission-critical factors that come into play before selecting any PRM solution. Don't be alarmed if you do not have not have the internal resources to administer all of these areas on your own. Building out a successful channel program is a process of continuous improvement and one that requires someone who is responsible for managing the strategy behind the technology.
Once you arrive at the phase of evaluating your options in the PRM space, two of the most important factors in delivering a successful PRM solution are 1) ease of use and 2) ensuring access to information that will actually help partners sell your products more effectively. Quality (the usefulness and relevance of the available content and tools) not quantity is the essential factor.
Ease of Use
Based on past experiences with cumbersome and outdated portals, most partners may be resistant to adopting a PRM solution that their vendor provides. Their time and energy are limited, and they have little use for web-based programs that are complicated and time-consuming. Especially when there are additional systems they need to log into just to do business with you. So it’s up to you, the vendor, to select a PRM that provides an easy log-in and simple navigation. Give them the information they want - when they need it - and you'll likely have them returning more frequently.
It’s equally important to create a portal that is mobile-friendly. If the portal is easy to use on a desktop or laptop computer but isn’t optimized for mobile devices, then it’s less likely that partners will be logging in. Channel partners are constantly on the go, so making their jobs easier is a key component to increasing partner mindshare.
Provide Useful Information and Tools
If partners log in regularly but don’t find the information timely and relevant, they’re going to shy away from using the PRM as frequently as you would like. Thus it’s vital that the channel manager makes sure partners can access tools and data that actually help them convert leads into sales. Enabling a lead registration and lead management component also helps ensure your partners are logging in to the system to manageme their sales pipeline. This provides more opportunity for them to access updated content and gives you the ability to have oversight into existing leads within the channel.
The PRM also provides two-way communication that can address partners’ questions and concerns as well as provide an avenue for feedback. Because it is web-based, the partner portal can deliver training anywhere, at any time.
The bottom line is this: a PRM system should be designed with the partner in mind. By offering easy-to-access tools and information, new channel partners will recognize your company as a good opportunity and be willing to commit time and energy to selling your products.
Conversely, if you provide a partner portal that isn’t helpful, they’re going to look elsewhere. That represents wasted time and a lost opportunity on your end.
Without taking the time to address the strategic issues outlined above, you may find yourself trying to administer a system that is not in line with the exectations of your channel partners. This leads to frustration from both sides and can be difficult to recover from.
Looking for more information about how to ensure a proper channel strategy is in place? Check out our Channel Program Blueprint for more details: