Understanding the “P” and “C” in relationship management
Most experts agree that some form of software-based relationship management system is fundamental to successful product placement and improved sales performance. CRM is the acronym that immediately springs to mind, and probably needs no introduction. Organizations of all shapes and sizes have taken advantage of a bewildering array of CRM vendors providing everything from off-the-shelf, turnkey software through to fully customized solutions. So when the key requirement is to manage direct sales and keep in touch with customers throughout the engagement life cycle and beyond, CRM certainly delivers.
The story would end there except for one significant and glaring omission; not all organizations sell direct to customers. Many of them have a go-to-market strategy which exploits a complex network of third party channel partners to reach end-users. This inevitably means that a very different approach to relationship management is needed. In this scenario, CRM cannot be the answer because it doesn’t provide the flexibility, functionality, or operational features required to manage what is, in effect, a greatly extended sales enterprise. Closing this gap is the rationale behind partner relationship management (PRM).
At first glance, CRM and PRM have a lot in common. Both are built on a similar architecture, are efficient at keeping records, and use business intelligence to run customized analytics and generate reports. Indeed, both claim to help organizations increase sales by managing client relationships but how they achieve that goal is very different. CRM software collects and distributes data along the sales pipeline, but is exclusively used within the organization itself. PRM software, by contrast, builds a collaborative online community with channel partners and encourages the transfer of knowledge in both directions.
What does this mean in practical terms? A typical PRM solution ensures the alignment of business processes, workflows, and goals throughout the extended sales enterprise. It offers a role-based approach to managing the complete channel partner ecosystem, and provides features not available in CRM. These features are key to the successful deployment of PRM and include easy access to training modules to keep the sales team current, rapid downloads of sales collaterals to encourage take up, and dedicated communications and news feeds to support specific campaigns.
The objective, of course, is to establish a loyal, motivated, and knowledgeable sales community to aggressively promote the organization’s products, thus driving sales and increasing market share. It used to be the case that a go-to-market strategy based around independent channel partners posed a major risk to organizations simply because it was very difficult to establish an effective and proactive management model. In this scenario, the reaction time to market events was slow and data was often unreliable. Overcoming these issues has been PRM’s key breakthrough, and all organizations utilizing third party channel partners should consider its adoption if they want to maximize sales performance and build long-term, valuable relationships aimed at market share growth. Click here to find out more.