The truth is, as long as you’re working to engage with partners and grow your channel, you could invest in a PRM platform—but should you?Ask any partner program manager and you’ll no doubt hear a different opinion about when a company should invest in an integrated partner relationship management (PRM) platform.
While some partner program managers might recommend investing in a PRM tool as soon as you start searching for partners, others make do with homegrown solutions well beyond the point where it becomes a hindrance.
How do you know when it’s the right time to invest in a PRM platform?
The Risks of Starting Too Late (or Too Early)
The simple answer is that you should invest in a PRM platform once your partner program has established partners and is generating revenue.
But, as with anything in business, it isn’t quite that easy. If you start too early, your lack of established processes and unproven revenue numbers can make such an investment difficult to justify. The longer you kick the can down the road, though, the more difficult it will be to collect scattered partner data and to break bad habits that inhibit your ability to scale.
Waiting too long to invest in a dedicated PRM platform has plenty of pitfalls:
- You don’t have a single source of record for partner data. In-house partner management solutions tend to be pieced together as partners need new features, like automated deal-registration flows or sales content management. Data becomes scattered across many different tools and locations, so combining that data into a single source of record becomes a time-consuming and expensive proposition.
- You’re likely missing out on deals. Emails go unseen, spreadsheets get misplaced, and partners frequently forget how to let you know about new deals.
- Your partners start to feel neglected. Piecemeal communication and disorganized marketing efforts can give the impression that your partners are near the bottom of your priority list, leaving them unmotivated to make referrals and help sell your product.
- You start to develop bad habits. Knowledge of how your partner program operates becomes scattered across your organization, and your team compensates by creating hacks and shortcuts to get their work done. These bad habits are difficult to break and can inhibit your ability to scale your program.
Rolling out a PRM platform before your team is ready also can create headaches:
- Your processes aren’t mature yet. When you’re first starting out, you’re still working out how your partner program needs to operate. Rolling out a unified platform too early makes it more expensive and time-consuming to make sweeping changes to how you run your partner program.
- You need enough partners to make the investment worthwhile. Asking executives to sign off on a dedicated PRM platform is far more likely to succeed when you can show hard numbers that prove how the investment will help grow the business.
How to Know When You’re Ready for a PRM Platform
To help you out, we’ve put together five key questions you can ask your team to determine whether it’s the right time to invest in a PRM platform.
1. Does your team have an organized, documented sales process for partners?
Just like having a well-oiled pipeline is critical for direct sales, your channel team needs organized and documented procedures for managing partners, deals, and leads before investing in a PRM platform.
The concept of a “partner pipeline” is probably more critical than the PRM technology itself. Thinking about your end-to-end partner experience as a pipeline forces you to streamline your efforts into a measurable and repeatable process with clearly defined stages and actions. It nails down a shared understanding between your team, your organization, and your partners that will make your partner program more actionable and more scalable.
It’s important to define and implement partner-facing processes that are in your partners’ best interests—and then to shape your technology platform around those interests. The flexibility of Allbound lets you shape your PRM platform around your partners’ needs and processes, so it’s essential to have your partner pipeline established before rolling out additional tools.
2. Does your team find it challenging to keep all your partner program information and communication organized?
When you have only a handful of partners, things are easy to manage. A shared spreadsheet can suffice for tracking partner contacts, marketing materials can be easily distributed using file-sharing services like Dropbox, and partners can submit referrals and deals manually through email.
As you grow beyond a few partners, though, most teams notice they start losing their overview of relationships with potential and existing partners. Who submitted this deal again? Where is that white paper my partners keep asking for?
As soon as this begins to happen, either you’ll make mistakes or your team will need to invest extra time and energy into keeping everything in order—time and energy that would be best used elsewhere. This is the ideal point at which you’ll want to consider rolling out a unified PRM platform. As you continue scaling your channel, a tool like Allbound can help bring order to the natural chaos of communicating with multiple partners.
3. Is your team having trouble motivating your partners to make sales?
In addition to running their own business, your channel partners most likely sell more than one product or service. Of course, that’s to be expected, but it does mean that if you want them to put effort into selling your products and services, you’ll be competing for your partners’ attention and loyalty. Without a centralized system to communicate with your team and to track their progress, partners can often feel neglected and unmotivated to make sales or refer customers to your company.
Channel partners are most likely to sell the solutions of companies that they like working with. Keeping a personal connection can go a long way toward motivating your partners, and PRM tools like Allbound help maintain that personal connection as you scale your partner program. Keeping the lines of communication with your partners open and being able to quickly provide them with any assistance they need will help them focus on your products and services.
It’s also critical to make it as easy as possible for your partners to sell. Your partners will always take the path of least effort—they want products that are easy for them to sell, from companies they’re familiar with. Having a centralized platform for partners makes it easy for them to get the information they need to sell your products and services, and it motivates them to make referrals and sales through rewards, gamification, and friendly competition.
4. Is your team having trouble providing sufficient sales and marketing support to your partners?
Time is your team’s most valuable resource; you need to make sure they’re able to use their limited hours as efficiently as possible. Once your channel has grown beyond a few partners, providing customer support and helping them one-on-one with sales and marketing takes up a significant amount of your team’s schedule—time that could be spent reaching out to potential partners and growing sales.
Without growing your team, then, how do you continue supporting your partners? The answer is to focus on creating universal sales, marketing, and partner support resources, distributed through a shared self-service partner portal. PRM tools such as Allbound make it easy to set up a user-friendly, professional portal where your partners can register deals, track sales targets, access sales and marketing content, and more.
5. Are you looking to scale your partner program quickly?
The ideal time to invest in a PRM platform also depends on how quickly you’re looking to scale your partner program. Generally, the faster you need to grow, the earlier you should look into a partner management solution. If your plans involve a team (or multiple teams) of partner managers that all need a consistent view of the program, a PRM tool like Allbound can help keep everyone in sync as you scale.
Without a PRM platform, partner program performance data is spread across many different applications, users, and systems. This makes it impossible to gain insight that could be used to improve your partner program. As you scale, measuring your efforts will help you determine, for example, which partners are performing best and which partners could benefit from a little help.
Is Investing in a PRM Platform Worth the Risk?
Absolutely! Getting a PRM platform in place too early is far less risky for your business than waiting too long. A PRM platform like Allbound gives you the flexibility you need to grow from a handful of partners to a thriving channel. If your team is losing track of partner communications and deals, struggling to capture the attention and motivation of your channel partners, fighting time constraints, or growing rapidly, now might be the time to invest in a PRM platform.
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