Being in a partnership brings a lot of good things to an MSP. On top of splitting costs and responsibilities, you get access to a far larger base of customers than before, along with invaluable knowledge and industry expertise from a fellow IT business owner.
Of course, the other side to any partnership is management over it. Partner relations, much like ones with customers, can’t just be signed and left alone. It takes constant upkeep and communication to keep these connections in good order, which threatens to eat up a lot of time for small MSPs.
Fortunately, there’s a whole field of business related to this partner management — rather unsurprisingly, it’s called partner relationship management (PRM), and much like the customer relationship management (CRM) its name resembles, it’s all about combining the resources you have to approach your partnerships with maximum care.
So let’s have a look at just what is PRM, and at all the ways it can help streamline your partner relationships.
What is PRM?
In short, partner relationship management is all about optimizing the business relationships you use to get your product to market. And as you might expect, there’s a lot that goes into this kind of partnership management: the term covers systems, procedures, processes and even software used in service of partner relationships.
So all partner relationship management really boils down to is streamlining the various ways you interact with that partner. That means defining the relationship, sharing databases and laying down production processes are all part of playing a partner relationship manager — plus, of course, establishing preferred modes of communication between the two parties.
When you use PRM, you’re typically trying to improve elements of your partnership by doing things like:
- Reducing overhead
- Eliminating redundancies in product delivery
- Keeping accurate records
- Setting target goals
- Measuring sales and delivery performances
Since these are all goals to set for any partner relationship, PRM is a big deal for any company that’s entered a partnership.
What Does PRM Involve, Specifically?
Unsurprisingly, PRM incorporates many different means of partnership management. But there’s a lot of detail the acronym still hides.
Specifically, companies use PRM to do things like:
- Create partner portals for data sharing
- Set access controls on who can view data
- Request funds through an official channel
- Receive or issue training, certification and accreditation
- Share lead generation and end-user referrals
- Report and collaborate on sales pipelines
- Pool marketing, sales and web content for shared use
- Plan operations and campaigns
Lots of systems may be in place to allow partners to handle all this, of course. And PRM is the sum total of all those systems, working as guard rails to ensure both you and your partners are on the same page in all your activities.
Is Partner Relationship Management Like Customer Relationship Management?
If all this talk of guidelines and systems over a relationship makes you think of customer relationship management (CRM), that’s because the two are definitely quite similar. There’s a lot of overlap in meaning for the two procedures, and as a result, you’ll also find some similarities in executing both.
However, you should always approach partner management with the understanding that it doesn’t involve the same approach as CRM. Here, you’re working with business partners — not consumers — so your goals and approach won’t line up one-to-one with how you handle customers.
In a partnership, relationship management happens with the understanding that both parties are making more money together than they would separately. And since both parties share power under that setup, PRM focuses on those partner relations, not “management” of people like in CRM.
Sure, it’s fair play to recommend they make changes if they’re not holding up their end of the agreement. But “partner management” here doesn’t mean you have the power to enforce those changes the way a manager might enforce rules on an employee. If a partner doesn’t like your setup or even your attitude, they have every ability to pack up and walk out on that partnership.
Basically, PRM means you’ll exercise less control compared to CRM. Yes, “partner management” is in the name, but the thing you’re managing here is the partnership itself, not the partner — overstepping your authority in that regard will quickly damage rapport and, ironically, mean you’ll need to carry out a lot of emergency partner management to stabilize that connection.
What Tools are Used for Partner Relationship Management?
Where PRM does work a lot like CRM is that it also leans heavily on software, especially cloud-based solutions. In fact, plenty of CRM solutions already have PRM capabilities built in (though there are also plenty of stand-alone PRM systems as well).
Those PRM systems will typically feature capabilities like:
- Partner onboarding
- Data and educational resource sharing
- Lead assignments
- Partner portals
- Sales pipeline overviews
- Online payments
Putting all that together in the cloud makes collaborating with your partners a lot simpler and eliminates a lot of confusion. By sharing the details of your ongoing deals, for example, you can constantly keep partners up to date on who they should sell to next — or, who to not sell to at all, as the case may be.
PRM systems get easier still when you use them alongside other solutions, especially your suite of digital communications. That’s why Wildix integrates with plenty of options: Salesforce, Hubspot, Zoho and more major CRMs with partner relationship management capabilities are all fully compatible with Wildix right out of the box, instantly putting your most important points of discussion together on a single screen.
Partner Relationship Management: Closing Thoughts
If partner relationships are something you benefit from, then you’ll also find big advantages in using partner relationship management. With or without accompanying software, PRM helps lower operating costs, streamline work procedures and make sure every party is on the same wavelength.
All that said, though, with just how much work is involved in partnership management, adding on some software to help just makes sense. With an effective PRM system, especially one in the cloud, everyone involved in the partnership can log work right as it’s being done to share updates as quickly as possible. That ease of use only goes up when you integrate the PRM directly into your communications suite, unifying more of your channels into a single interface.
Whatever process you prefer, however, put it in place early and use it often. Playing the role of partner relationship manager will in almost every case take extra work and a great deal of additional coordination between a lot of different parties. But with the right PRM systems and strategies in place, everyone involved will at least have a solid foundation of rules and procedures to refer back to.
So long as you’re using partner relations in your business, you’ll be glad you built that bedrock for the added stability it brings.
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