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featureed image Published 2015-07-26, by Seth Jacobsen

PRM Versus CRM: Why You Need Both

Both PRM and CRM enable a more productive sales flow, both have "RM" in them for "relationship management"...so they gotta be the same, right?

Plain Differences

There are distinct functionality differences between PRM and CRM platforms. To begin, PRM is an acronym for Partner Relationship Management, and CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. The latter were designed, developed and implemented with only the direct selling environment in mind. PRM systems on the other hand are launched to manage indirect channel relationships where the OEM is at least one-step removed from the end customer.

Conventional CRM systems  enable the collecting and sharing of data, not only throughout the entire selling sequence from lead to deal close, but also for  managing client relationships post-close across other enterprise business processes. PRM, on the other hand, is designed to manage a complex ecosystem comprising legally independent partner organizations.


The PRM space surged 10 years ago, and went dormant for a while CRMs accelerated. Now, it has become apparent to those companies with CRM systems alone, that they are lacking. When it comes down to managing an extended sales enterprise - particularly channel partners, dealers/distributors and franchisees - CRMs are deficient. While the likes of Salesforce.com, SAP, Oracle are adding partner support modules to their customer management functionality, many believe that there is a place for a specialist PRM solution with robust functionality specifically for the purpose of managing partner relationships integrated with CRM platforms. 

The One-To-Many PRM Model

PRMs often have multiple layers and different types of re-seller partners, revolves around aligning business processes, work-flows and goals across what is called the extended sales enterprise. This complex environment requires system functionality that is role-based and very sophisticated in order to accommodate a value life-cycle that is bi-directional, from OEM to channel partner, to end-user customer and between every entity in the value chain and back.

Why PRMs Are Stronger For Managing Indirect Channel Relationships

  • Can launch powerful online communities that foster collaboration and knowledge-transfer within the extended sales ecosystem
  • Communicates role-specific messaging dependent on position, region, re-seller model, brands they sell etc., controlled by the OEM
  • Provides learning management, including comprehensive on or offline training and certification to ensure everyone is prepared to sell effectively
  • Has sophisticated Content management functionality
  • Conducts performance management including managing incentives
  • Integrates all existing partner-facing systems into one platform with a single sign-on
  • Exposes progress in real-time on the OEM dashboard 

At the end of the day a PRM is all about making it easier for a re-seller partner to do business with a manufacturer; whereas a CRM provides greater visibility deeper into a sales process.

Every partner has their own way of running their business; processes and business goals are often misaligned. This makes reporting and measuring channel results incredibly difficult if not impossible. CRM systems were not inherently designed to manage this level of complexity. To truly manage indirect business relationships, enterprises need a PRM system to close the loop between all participants.

Is there a difference between CRM and PRM? Yes.  Should companies have both CRM and PRM?  Yes again. Because both sales business models--direct and indirect--require systems specifically designed to obtain peak performance.