So, you've invested - or are about to invest - in a new Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform. A good PRM system will provide a lot of functionality to support your channel program, which means there are some complicated decisions to be made about implementation.
Trying to start using PRM without a plan for how you're going to use it will end up creating a lot of unnecessary challenges down the road. Likewise, simply throwing open the floodgates and trying to implement everything at once will almost inevitably lead to confusion.
While every business's needs will be different, we have some suggestions for how to get started, and which aspects of a PRM solution to focus on early. Start small and focus on priorities...
1. Develop and deliver your Marketing & Communications plan.
One of the most overlooked aspects of a PRM initiative is a formal MarCom plan that outlines your strategy and provides your existing channel partners with a set of expectations. Avoid the "build it and they will come" philosophy. Nearly all your channel partners will be wrapped up in their own daily challenges of running a business so it is extremely important to communicate your strategy for a PRM implementation.
Put yourself in your partner's shoes by answering the question "What's in it for me"? Let them know specific benefits to using the system, how it will make their job easier, how they can be more successful as a partner, and provide a general outline for expectations. The more you can let your partner know how your PRM strategy has been developed for their benefit, the more likely you are to encourage participation.
2. Create your content strategy.
One of the simplest - yet most powerful - features of PRM is its ability to serve as the primary source of content relating to support your partners. This should include marketing materials, technical documentation, sales playbooks, and training content. Understanding what content you currently have available and the way you expect to deliver that content to your partners is critical. This will also help you identify what gaps remain, and help you formulate a strategy to fill those gaps going forward.
Providing an intuitive platform for content delivery should be an immediate benefit to your partners, who very likely will have had issues obtaining the content they need, when they needed it. Don't forget you can easily use permissions content to ensure it is delivered to the right partners based on partner type, job role, geography, or a variety of other criteria.
3. Enable a few key support functions.
More than likely your search for a PRM solution started as a result of having some very specific challenges. Many vendors recognize they have at least one of the following needs:
- “…recruit partners and get them up to speed quickly.”
- “…manage sales leads better by getting leads to your partners and vice-versa.”
- “…train and certify your channel sales reps and/or service technicians.”
- “…fix the fact that you have too many systems that don’t talk to each other.”
- “…support your channel partners better with marketing material & incentives.”
- “…have access to real-time dashboards and keep track of KPI throughout the channel.”
A best practice here is to focus on a few key priorities to improve in the near term, knowing that other areas can - and should - be addressed going forward. Don't try to boil the ocean by solving too many of these at once.
4. Have a plan for moving forward.
If you have done a good job in sections 2 and 3 referenced above, having a plan for moving forward will be a logical by-product. Not only do you need to expect that there will be challenges down the road that are not necessarily challenges of today, but you need your partners to know that you have a plan to address these before they become too problematic.
A PRM system is built as a foundational support system for selling through an indirect sales channel, and one of the key elements of that is the ability to scale over time. Not all channel programs are created equally, and not all vendors have the same challenges at the same time. As a result, your needs - and those of your partners - are bound to change over time. Having a system in place to meet these shifting requirements is key.