Best Practice PRM: Providing Service & Support II


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Last week, we started to consider the best approaches for providing a service and support offering to your channel partners for which the investment required is proportionate to the return yet the quality of offering is consistently high regardless of partner status.

Last week we talked about segmentation versus quality of service and the challenges of nurturing lower tiered partners to encourage growth. This can be a difficult and time consuming task. It is for this reason that many vendors simply don’t bother to try. But in difficult business and economic climates such as those we currently face, failure to exploit all of the sales and marketing resources and opportunities available to you is quite simply inexcusable. Our advice would be to invest in:

• Profiling your lower tiers

• Building a comprehensive database of your entire partner community

• Segmenting your partners based upon qualitative as well as quantitative metrics

• Targeting those partners with high growth potential

• Offering a consistently high quality of service and support to all regardless of tier

RelayWare concern ourselves with collaborative partner relationship management process automation and we know from experience that getting these essentials right and providing the tools and resources to your field channel account managers and call center agents delivers great results. What we will not attempt to do here is to discuss human partner management best practice as this is a topic best addressed by sales force development companies.

Let’s take a look at some of the tools and resources that can tangibly improve sales force productivity, channel intimacy and ultimately drive indirect channel revenue growth:

Account & Contact Management

Any relationship management system will provide sales people with the ability to populate your database with company and contact information. This will not only improve their own effectiveness in managing their accounts but will also support marketing communications and channel marketing program effectiveness. This helps to ensure that partners receive the most appropriate communications to their job roles and needs and improves the perception of the vendor’s level of partner intimacy.

Activity Management

As important to sales managers as to the sales people themselves, activity management tools help to improve productivity and activity levels and monitor sales person interaction with their accounts. This also serves to increase the amount of proactive interaction and hence support time offered by the account managers to their partners.

Partner Management

A partner relationship management system can provide sales people with tools to oversee their partner’s interaction with many aspects of the partner program. This will include tiering and accreditation, training participation and personal certification, MDF accruals, claims and expenditure, sales incentive performance etc. This helps make account managers more knowledgeable about their accounts, have greater visibility at a detail level and facilitates consultative account support thus enabling them to deliver substantially more value to their partners.

Partner Portal

Tier-driven selective content presentation via the partner portal ensures that field and telesales managed partners activities can be backed up with tools, content and resources on the partner portal providing 24×7 partner support.

Lead & Deal Management

Manual lead management processes often involving telemarketing, telesales, field sales and partner reps can be fully automated along with deal registration programs to maximize productivity, speed up lead closure and deliver improvements in marketing campaign ROI. Well run, efficient and effective lead management programs are highly valued by partners.

Opportunity Management

Relationship management systems will enable filed and telesales partner account managers to input and manage their sales pipelines tracking run-rate and project-specific business and provide managers with roll-up facilities to gain a top-to-bottom view of all sales opportunities.

Sales Forecasting
With all partner leads, deals and run rate business captured in the same system, forecasting is made easy and the process is dramatically simplified saving sales reps a great deal of time whilst improving accuracy.

Data Quality Management
Making sales reps responsible for managing and maintaining partner data takes a little time but helps them to engage in effective partner management and contact management ultimately improving partner relationships and sales rep productivity.

Document Management
By making your partner database the master repository of partner data, you can associate all documents from correspondence, marketing communications and price lists to contracts with a partner’s record making them easy to catalog and retrieve by anyone in your organization. What is more, when a sales rep leaves the company or changes role, no documents will be lost or left on their hard drive. What is more, documents can be made accessible by the partners themselves via the portal on a self-service basis.

Contract Management
Managing contract management and renewals online via the portal and automating the approvals processes will save sales rep time and help improve productivity, accuracy and consistency for both vendor and partner.

Basic email Marketing and Communications
By driving all partner email and communications through your relationship management systems, data can be captured in the contact history ensuring that all contacts are recorded centrally rather than distributed on individuals PC’s or laptops. Email templates for standard communications can be made available to sales users to improve consistency of look and feel and minimize duplication of effort whilst improving the quality, relevance and timeliness of communications to the partner.

Sales Out Data
Integrating sales data from ERP systems, CRM systems or sales out data reports from 3rdparties into partner databases places all of the necessary performance management information into the hands of the partner account manager and ensures that the partner relationship management system becomes their most essential tool.

Reporting Tools and Dashboards
To avoid forcing partner account managers to seek out performance data from your disparate systems, provide them with easy to use, self-configurable reporting tools and dashboards that give them instant access to key performance metrics and allow them to extract reports to insert into business plans and presentations at the click of a button.

In summary, greater automation and process simplification leads to improved productivity. Increased productivity in turn leads to more “face time” with partners or more time to build relationships with more partners. Essentially equipping your channel sales team with the right tools and resources with which to do their job is essential to providing high quality front line service and support to managed accounts whether they are looked after by field-based or telesales reps because of the substantial productivity and capability enhancements they offer.

Next week, we’ll look at ways of delivering high quality service and support to “unmanaged ” or Tier 3 accounts.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mike Morgan
Mike has over 20 years of ICT, OA and CE channel sales and marketing management experience and is responsible for Relayware's global go-to-market strategy as well as the sales and marketing functions while overseeing the company's operations worldwide. Mike is recognized as one of the industry's leading experts in indirect go-to-market strategy best practice.


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