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What is Partner Relationship Management (PRM) and Why Is It Important?

A picture of two professionals looking at a laptop reviewing an item much like channel partners do when working together. Partner relationship management or PRM is the software solution for developing, automating, and optimizing relationships between channel vendors and partners.

With a growing channel ecosystem, partner relationship management (PRM) is a software solution that gives channel program operators many tools they can use to optimize relationships and results with indirect sales partners.

While customer relationship management (CRM) enables the customer sales lifecycle, PRM simplifies channel partner management by automating several standard vendor-partner processes. Partner relationship management platforms and tools address the unique challenges facing channel program administrators and partners. PRM’s growth over a decade and continued optimism for the channel industry point to the software solution staying power in years to come.

See our top picks for the top PRM solutions in Best Partner Relationship Management (PRM) Software 2021.

What Is Partner Relationship Management?

Partner relationship management (PRM) is software for channel vendors managing and scaling indirect sales operations through marketing, sales, and enablement tools. PRM solutions allow organizations to create custom partner portals, promote and reward sales teams, manage lead and deal registration policies, and strategically develop partner relationships. 

These capabilities and more enhance communication, collaboration, and planning between channel vendors and partners.

Do I Need Partner Relationship Management?

Partner relationship management is ideal for organizations that want to develop their channel partner program, scale sales operations, or gain visibility into partner program data.

Starting a business is easier than ever with advancing technology and the Internet connecting entrepreneurs, developers, and startups to a world of opportunities. Cloud services have also made it easier to work with a multitude of companies and service providers. With more access and opportunities, PRM empowers vendor partner programs with more resources and structure for developing indirect routes to market.

A well-managed channel program can mean the difference in a vendor’s success when sales and marketing aren’t the vendors’ strong suit. PRM solutions fill a specialization gap by helping developers and manufacturers organize, manage, and scale indirect sales relationships.

Read more: Top Channel Partners | Finding the Best One

What Are the Benefits of PRM?

  • A more authoritative and collaborative relationship with partners
  • Turn-key processes for enabling channel marketing and sales activities
  • Prompt delivery of new products, services, and resources to channel partners
  • Granular view of the partner relationship lifecycle informing future strategy
  • Visibility into a specific partner or product segments with performance analytics
  • A user-friendly onboarding process for incorporating new and existing partners
  • A robust communication channel between vendors and partners for adapting
A look at the Zift Solutions PRM dashboard showing approved people, partners, specialization expires, certificate passes, and more. Provided by Zift Solutions
A look at the Zift Solutions PRM dashboard showing approved people, partners, specialization expires, certificate passes, and more.

How PRM and CRM Differ

Partner relationship management is like CRM for vendors with channel programs seeking to monitor and develop partner relationships.

Like CRM, vendors using PRM often conduct prospecting, marketing, sales, and follow-up, only with their business partners. The goal of PRM is to break down the channel partner relationship into optimizable processes, and PRM does this through new resources, tools, and automated systems for partner program operators.

CRM isn’t enough for organizations trying to optimize partner relationships. Therein lies the need for tools specific to the vendor-partner relationship and meeting channel program operator’s needs. PRM is far more explicit in addressing the nuance of channel relationships.

Also read: How to Model Channel Partner Programs for MSPs

What Is PRM Software?

PRM software includes a range of tools and features to help organizations enhance channel programs. Below are some of the most common capabilities with more on how PRM enriches existing vendor-partner processes.

  • Content management system (CMS) capabilities for storing and sharing resources
  • Integration with top CRM software and popular third-party applications
  • Lead distribution facilitating routing of sourced leads and assignment criteria
  • Marketing development funds enabling and incentivizing channel partner efforts
  • Promotions for specific partners, products, sales, or marketing objectives
  • Financial analytics providing detailed pricing and sales data
  • Portal builder with access control and resource and content hub for partners
  • Collaboration tools facilitating vendor-partner planning and productivity
  • Marketing resources to engage and enable channel growth
  • Dashboard offering visibility into KPIs, partner data, and administrative controls
  • Business intelligence informing product, sales, and partner strategy
  • Deal registration allows partners to claim and lock in sales on potential leads
  • Certification and training for enhancing partner knowledge in solutions
Impact Tech's PRM solution includes viewing partner performance that's configurable by pertinent metrics and searchable for historic trends. Provided by Impact.
Impact Tech’s PRM solution includes viewing partner performance that’s configurable by pertinent metrics and searchable for historic trends.

Training and Certifying Partners

A central part of any partner program is training and certifications that build product knowledge and brand awareness. With PRM, organizations can promptly grant new partners access to on-demand training content and certification resources aligning with their sales objectives. Channel chiefs can use PRM to streamline training initiatives, validate partner status and privileges, and expand support for more solutions.

Read more: Top Vendor Risk Management (VRM) Software 2021

Facilitating Deal Registration

When working with a list of channel partners, deal registration can get sticky. The process of partners informing vendors of leads and their intent to strike a deal can help avoid conflict between partners and protect both parties. With PRM software, channel administrators can quickly approve deal registration requests and work with specific partners on deals from a central console.

Allocating Marketing Development Funds (MDF)

With the evolution of the channel ecosystem, marketing development funds (MDF) are almost an inherent part of today’s channel programs. MDFs are the vendor-partner arrangements wherein the vendor provides general or discretionary funding to partners for specific marketing, sales, or performance initiatives. PRM software helps establish and maintain partner-specific funding arrangements, including stipends, rebates, discounts, and sales incentives.

Building Partner Relationships via Web Portal

With web apps being a convenient method, PRM software solutions offer customizable online portals for all or specific channel partners. These portals serve as a central repository for registering new partners and sales teams, logging performance, delivering marketing resources, and more. For the channel operator, portal access, configuration, and management help ease onboarding with partners and enable continuous communication and management.

Also read: Top Cloud Migration Service Providers 2021

Sharing Content Resources

The channel partners equipped with the most product knowledge and marketing resources can distinguish themselves when approaching customers. Through PRM’s content management features, channel managers can create, store, share, and manage content that enables channel partners. Vendors can configure content libraries with the latest product brochure and ensure partners have the resources to succeed.

Joint Business Planning

Though organizations don’t need a PRM solution to discuss business and revenue objectives regularly, the channel-focused software can enhance visibility into progress to goals and facilitate ongoing communication and collaboration. With joint business planning playbooks, PRM can help ensure mutual benefit, alignment, and buy-in from both parties. 

Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) Engines

Configure, Price, Quote software, or a CPQ engine is the sales mechanism used by CRM, ERP, and CMS solutions, allowing prospective clients to see quotes for a given plan instantly. Beyond a simple widget, CPQ offers administrators access to controls like product add-ons, order quantities, and incompatibilities for transparent pricing. PRM solutions are adding CPQ engines to extend the same sales technology to partners and indirect customers.

Read more: The Key to Channel Growth: Working with Vendors to Create New Solutions

The Zinfi PRM dashboard offers a comprehensive view of pipeline growth, registered deals by region, top performers, and more. Provided by Zinfi.
The Zinfi PRM dashboard offers a comprehensive view of pipeline growth, registered deals by region, top performers, and more.

Considerations for Buying a PRM Solution

  • What distinguishes this PRM solution from alternative products?
  • Can administrators track specific partner performance and metrics?
  • What resources are available to administrators and partners upon onboarding?
  • What collaborative spaces or tools does the PRM solution offer?
  • How does this solution enhance partner engagement and enablement?
  • What resources are available to administrators and partners upon onboarding?
  • How does the PRM solution automate channel partner processes?
  • Do administrators have configuration management capabilities for specific partners?
  • How long do end-user training and solution deployment typically last?
  • Is there a limit to the amount of content vendors can store and share with partners?
  • Does the PRM integrate with existing CRM and third-party applications?

Final Word on PRM

With an ocean of channel partner programs to choose from, it’s accurate to say some need more direction and resources. Partner relationship solutions can offer the needed tools and expertise to overcome roadblocks impeding a channel program’s progress. With the top PRM vendors automating standard vendor-partner processes, more channel vendors are sure to take advantage as the benefits become apparent.

For vendors running channel programs wondering if partner relationship management software is necessary – evaluate the current health of the channel program, partner relationships, and how PRM tools would fit into the vendor’s long-term strategy. PRM has already proven to be an effective solution in simplifying the complexities of channel relationships. Vendors with channel programs small and large can gain a competitive advantage with PRM resources, and perhaps, one day, it could be a solution no vendor channel operator can live without.

Also read: Why Channel Partners Need Automation from IT Vendors

Sam Ingalls
Sam Ingalls is a content writer and researcher covering enterprise technology, IT trends, and network security for eSecurityPlanet.com, Webopedia.com, ChannelInsider.com, and ServerWatch.com.

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