Many companies use customer relationship management (CRM) systems to coordinate and manage their interactions with customers. CRM software provides an excellent system for automating the sales process as well as storing and analyzing sales data. Although CRM systems are generally recognized as the best tool for managing direct sales, they do not provide an adequate solution for managing indirect sales partners (also known as channel partners).
In fact, CRM systems were developed well before the advent of sophisticated Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software. CRM was not designed or intended for use with channel partners.
Indirect Sales Present a Challenge
Vendors who use indirect sales partners face a unique set of challenges because their relationship with them is far more complex. Channel partners are independent; they are not employees who are part of a direct sales force. In addition, they may be located in different parts of the country (or the world), making communication more difficult.
And in many cases, they sell your competitors’ products. A loosely-managed indirect sales force can wind up competing with your direct sales staff – or other channel partners.
For those reasons, a PRM system is the best option for managing, engaging and communicating with the reseller. Unlike CRM software, it is specifically designed for this purpose. PRM software effectively manages resellers, tracks and coordinates leads, identifies and analyzes sales opportunities, and provides an easy-to-use system for training and certification in the indirect sales channel.
Despite their inherent limitations, customer relationship management systems are still widely used for managing indirect sales. When used in this capacity, here are three key functions that CRM systems lack:
- Identifying customers and territories
- Integrating lead management
- Training, certification and collaboration
Identifying Customers and Territories
Since communication with channel partners can be a challenge, it is critical that an effective system is in place to clearly define territories and accounts for all sales channels. Unlike CRM systems, the PRM platform ensures that all personnel understand which accounts and territories belong to them, thus eliminating the potential for competition between direct and indirect sales partners. This not only removes potential duplication of effort, saving time and energy, but also reduces tension and increases “mindshare,” the amount of energy, time, and thought that resellers dedicate to the brands they sell.
Integrating Lead Management
Lead management is an important feature of PRM that CRM systems lack. PRM systems require channel partners to register new leads, which reduces indirect sales conflict and protects new sales opportunities. It also enables management to access important sales data. Because PRM software is specifically designed to enhance lead management, the entire sales process can be easily monitored through a single, universal portal.
Training, Certification and Collaboration Tools
Although training and certification are integral to successful sales, they are not functions included in customer relationship management systems. In a PRM system, however, training and certification can be offered to channel partners through online instruction, in-person classes, webinars and other web-based activities. These programs enable the vendor to increase communication and collaboration with channel partners as well as monitor performance and progress. In addition, the learning curve for new partners is eased significantly through effective training and certification.
Using PRM software can help your company get a jump on the competition by using a pragmatic, systemized approach to managing (and training) sales staff and dealers. 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.