Partner Relationship Management Explained

What is Partner Relationship Management (PRM) and how can it help you with your indirect sales?

Partner Relationship Management (PRM) is the link between a company who makes a technology product and the company who deals with the end customer.

If someone else sells your product, if someone else markets your product, if someone else communicates with your customer, then you need to have a very good relationship with them.

Having a channel of resellers, or Partners, can exponentially increase your sales volumes, globally. If you want a technology product to explode all around the world, then you need Partners. Most technology companies sell a huge volume through trade and channel, far more than their direct sales teams will ever sell, although they should handle highly complex technology configurations through their own internal teams.

Partner Relationship Management (PRM) encompasses the systems and platforms for the relationship between manufacturer and partner businesses (such as deal registration, lead management, sales incentives and marketing materials) as well as training, certification, margin share and marketing funding from the manufacturer to the company selling the product. 

Usually manufacturers empower a team of field agents to communicate with the Partners. They used to run or fund face-to-face events, focusing spend and attention on the Partners (and their customers) with the biggest potential for financial reward. 

This relationship needs to be handled very carefully in our new socially distant world. It seems prudent right now to listen first, before speaking. The best relationships have effective two-way communication with a high degree of trust. This has never been more important than today.

The interdependent business relationship between manufacturer and Partner is in every sense a relationship. It should be collaborative, as trust increases over time, with information, support and feedback increasing as that relationship grows.

Traditionally, Partners are tiered into something like bronze, silver and gold, to indicate the levels to which that Partner is technically certified by the manufacturer, or to indicate the volume of product that the Partner sells – are they really a specialist in that product? A Gold Partner means yes.

But these kinds metrics for classification are outdated and crude in this post-pandemic, remote world.

Instead of “Bronze, Silver or Gold”, think of your business Partners as “Acquaintance, Friend or Family”.  

Putting your trust into another business to handle your customer is a big deal. Paying another business margin share to deliver a poor customer experience is business suicide. 

Segmentation needs to be more intelligent than just sales volume or classification as Value Added Reseller, or Installer, B2B sales, or call centre. There are different kinds of sales organisations. Some can only sell an out-of-the-box product but they can shift millions of them. Others are much more consultative, designing solutions around their customer needs and blending technology to fit. 

Also consider, where is that Partner in their business cycle? Are they at the end of their life with semi-retired owners and old systems, or are they ambitious and energetic?

And what are their business values? Your customers will experience their values and associate them with your brand. If they only value margin and have no people-first culture, the people speaking to your customer are unlikely to put their needs first.

Blueprint brings years of Partner assessment to the table. We can audit, assess and pair up the right manufacturer with the right Partners, facilitate that relationship and keep it wonderful over time.  

We can also help you stand out in a crowd. There are lots of other manufacturers wooing them with Partner margins, exciting support programmes and grand promises.

At the start, like at the start of any relationship, usually there has to be a big effort to get some attention. High margins, rapid onboarding, simple proposition and even customer leads to follow up with straight away.

All too often, however, manufacturers launch a partner programme with a flourish, fanfare and promises that fade over time. Top tips for long-term, profitable success are:

  1. Keep the energy going – outsource your PRM with quantifiable KPIs against that team, so that your Partners still feel loved after the first month and allocate their business resources permanently to you. 
  2. Make sure you’re top of the agenda of your Partners’ board meetings. Winners in the game get their Partners to evolve their own businesses around your plans. 
  3. Stick to your promises. They’ll only prioritise you, when they trust you. If you say you’re going to launch a new product and give them priority allocation, do it. 
  4. If you say you’ll help them with marketing, then provide an intelligent agency that evolves and keeps up to date with marking technology. Don’t just give them a campaign template.
  5. Make sure your PRM is at the top table of your own company’s Board meetings. Every marketing agency knows if they are briefed by an enthusiastic client who is trying to work below the radar at their end, it doesn’t end in a big result. Force it up the chain because brilliantly executed PRM is too exciting and too important to shy away from. The MD or CEO needs to buy in.

If you want a brilliant Partner Relationship Management programme that delivers huge sales and revenues, then above all, more important than ever before, more important than anything else, you must listen, learn and adapt, as well as speak.

Your Partners are having to change their businesses faster than ever before right now. They are fighting in the trenches. Be the manufacturer who gives them what they really need and, what’s more, be willing to then change it a moment later as the battle changes. Then we all win.

Blueprint is here to help. We’re on your side, we move fast, we have the answers and experience you need. We can help you overcome the obstacles in your own organisation so that you can achieve success.