According to Jay McBain, Senior Analyst of Channel Partnerships & Alliances at Forrester Research, having services that operate in silos or in isolation and do not share with the rest of the organization, tends to cause visibility problems and lacks collaboration between teams. It can also hinder partner relationship management. Over the next 10 years, it is high-performance PRM (Partner Relationship Management) software, integrated with CRM (Customer Relationship Management), that will make the difference in the growth of indirect sales by companies (1).
These arguments are being listened to by company management. Forrester, the Independent Institute, listed on Nasdaq and specializing in change management, is one of the most influential research and consulting firms in the world. Its analysis on the impact of technologies and the development of growth strategies are considered authoritative. According to Forrester Research, this is why Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software has become essential to partner relationship management and overall brand success.
According to Forrester Research, the indirect sales channel is a growing market that will continue to grow over the next 10 years. The total PRM ecosystem, including software and services, was $850 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $1.65 billion by 2023. However, the variety of partner types that are emerging in the business ecosystem is creating the need for better tools to facilitate partner relationship management. Channel managers need more visibility into their businesses, more data to help make right choices to drive partnerships in a consistent, predictable, and productive manner.
For Forrester, the indirect sales ecosystem is entering a period of unprecedented change. New channel partners, different from traditional resellers, are entering the market with new business models. These new partnerships, such as influencers, are profoundly changing the approach to partner management.
Channel partner managers need the right technologies for support and adaptation. These indirect sales professionals are now taking a fresh look at PRM platforms capable of customizing programs and offering self-service access to partners at every point of interaction in the relationship.
As a result, channel partner managers can no longer rely on Excel spreadsheets or old-school non-integrated isolated applications to manage partner relationships. Partnership managers need optimized solutions that can fully address the business logic of indirect sales. Namely, PRM integrated with CRM, which provides the capability to manage a large number of partners and adapt to their different profiles (ie: business contributors, resellers, influencers, etc.)
Another argument put forth by Forrester, requiring the establishment of a PRM, is the pressure exerted by the partners themselves. Today's partners want to save time and engage more with the companies or brands that offer them the best partnership.
A tool that helps them sell more and sell faster, facilitates business processes, improves their experience, and makes them evolve quickly. Partners favor companies that are able to offer them quick access to reporting and tracking, content, and training in a single optimized solution.
It's no surprise that PRM implementations have surged over the last 5 years. Integrated with a modern SaaS-based CRM (offering real-time information and a personalized customer experience), PRMs have become an essential tool for partner relationship management and offer a seamless partner experience.
According to Forrester, PRM platforms that emphasize personalization, reduction of manual tasks, and business intelligence, offer the dual benefit of creating a winning customer experience and an improved partner experience. Tools and workflows necessary throughout the partner relationship cycle connect:
Forrester emphasizes the importance of creating a partner program that includes: more specialized programs for different types of partners (resellers, influencers, and business contributors), improved workflows, customization at the corporate and individual level, and data analysis to optimize actions.
Another essential feature made possible by PRMs is the analysis of data channels. According to Forrester, partner data allows the most productive adjustments to be made to the program, and thus, optimizes the management of indirect sales. To take this one step further, let's look at another article posted in January 2019 by the research institute (2). Jay McBain argues that using data throughout the partner journey helps differentiate the program from the competition and accelerates the growth of indirect sales.
The article underlines the interest for companies to migrate to a modern platform offering a 360° view over partner data to make the best decisions. According to Forrester, lacking tangible business intelligence makes partner relationship management complex, and therefore, costly. Partner managers are exhausted with manual tasks for recruiting, tracking the sales cycle, and advancing opportunities. Inevitably, sales opportunities are missed.
A PRM allows alliance managers to get away from the daily, tedious tasks to focus on what is important: the human relationship with their partners. For an effective analysis, the 360° vision must include data on accounts, profiles, skills and certifications, commissions, and marketing data, as well as any other quantitative and qualitative data.
According to Forrester, brands that offer an enhanced partner experience through PRM grow faster, are more profitable, and generate greater customer satisfaction. The institute's research shows that the effective use of real-time data enables companies to:
Accelerate the time needed for a partner to get started
Make changes according to partners’ needs & improve sales processes
Quantify the Return On Invested Capital (ROIC) at the sales channel level
With a similar objective, partners expect a better business experience through improved partner segmentation and more advanced activation tools, including facilitating co-selling and co-marketing. To maximize their engagement, partners want their specializations to be recognized and are looking for innovative marketing incentives to stay in touch with the supplier. These are all arguments in favor of setting up a PRM.
To gain efficiency, companies must enter a cycle of industrialization in partner relationship management. This is the strategy that will prevail in the indirect channel over the next 10 years. Forrester even predicts that in the near future, brands will be using tools that can predict and prescribe actions in real-time to differentiate themselves. Integrating PRM with CRM for partner relationship management is therefore essential and critical to business success. And you? Where are you with your PRM?
1| The Forrester WaveTM: Partner Relationship Management, Q4 2018 2| Channel Data Is A Competitive Differentiator