Any manufacturer that has built a successful sales channel knows that maintaining their competitive advantage in the marketplace rests on their ability to evolve as an organization while adapting to the changing needs of their partners. This requires proper planning, consistent communication, and an understanding of what it takes to build long-term relationships. A company’s ability to make good decisions on the path to building positive long-term relationships with its channel partners typically depends on the accuracy and timeliness of data from a variety of sources and systems.
Industry trends show the increased importance of data visualization, predictive analytics, and the need to make clear sense of large amounts of data in real-time. A recent study by Forbes showed that 87% of manufacturers surveyed indicated that data analytics has become either their highest priority relative to other corporate needs or within the top three priorities overall.1 Extending data analytics to a manufacturer’s indirect sales channel is especially challenging since there are typically a number of disparate systems being used to support channel partners, and channel partners themselves have their own systems. So, what can you do about it?
Partner Relationship Management (PRM) systems are specifically built to make important data and information easily available to sales channel partners. Channel managers at the manufacturer level and managers at the partner level control who sees what content and information within a PRM system. This capability ensures that the right people get the right content at the right time, every day. The goal is simple: PRM systems make it easy for a sales channel partner to do business with you.
Among the benefits of a PRM system is the ability to integrate third party systems into one seamless platform that allows your partners to access the information they need via Single Sign-On. However, data from these disparate systems is typically isolated within that system (”an island”) and is dynamic/ever changing. Oftentimes, correlating data from at least two separate systems and drawing meaningful analysis from it requires a labor-intensive approach that reduces the value of doing so. Conversely, applying a Business Intelligence (BI) technology layer over these integrated systems provides an automated way to consolidate data from separate systems in a timely manner and in a more user friendly format. The ability to easily correlate meaningful pieces of data into dashboards and customizable reports that give your team real-time insight into channel performance is the goal. The real trick is to be able to monitor key performance metrics automatically and continuously in visual dashboards with little or no manual effort. This goes a long way towards “making it easy” to do business with you.
For example, being able to correlate sales training and certification completion data with sales opportunity close rates clearly reveals the efficacy of your investment in training and certification programs. Correlating the consumption and use of marketing material to sales opportunities and pipeline data helps channel managers determine the effectiveness and ROI on their marketing initiatives. Better yet, being able to push the same business intelligence capabilities to your channel partners to help them manage their relationships with the end customer strengthens sales effectiveness at the point of sale.
Your ability to support your partners better and hold them accountable is now directly tied to a greater - and more measurable - understanding of how they are working to support your brand. Gone are the days of putting out fires and spending your valuable time reacting to the needs and problems of your partners in the absence of data. Instead, focus on a strategic approach to growing your business by actively promoting the needs of your channel partners using data to support your priorities. PRM systems with embedded data analytics provide a technology layer that tightly integrates the information and data sharing that needs to happen between channel partners and manufacturers in order for both to achieve their business goals.