Treat Partners Like Customers, Not Salespeople


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Want to share more of your business risks (and rewards) with partners? Say please.

Want to share more of your business risks (and rewards) with partners? Say please.

The Manifesto for PRM Success

How does treating your channel partners like customers manifest?

It starts by remembering to always answer this question: “What’s in it for my partners?” That’s important as many companies today are trying to share more of the risks, as well as the potential for rewards, by transferring more marketing and sales responsibilities to their partners. But what’s in it for them?

Partners are like customers because you can’t rely on them to share oodles of information on leads and sales efforts. Your salespeople might enter all of this into your CRM system, because their compensation is tied to doing so. Partners, however, have little incentive to share too many details. Accordingly, it helps to err on the side of simplicity—whenever possible, create a more lightweight PRM program.

Partners are also like customers because you have to convince a partner to work with your sales leads. Remember, your partner’s salespeople most likely aren’t sitting around breathless, awaiting any morsel you throw them. In fact, they’re probably developing their own deals by working with your competitors. That’s a business fact of life. And it means you need to get your partner’s attention with high-quality leads, delivered in a format they find useful.

Sell Your Leads To Partners

One business requirement for partners is the ability to retrieve leads, and PRM lead-sharing typically occurs via one of two ways:

  • Portals: Smaller partners often lack their own CRM system, and use the PRM portal as a pseudo-CRM system
  • Integration: Larger partners often have their own CRM systems, and will want to seeall leads in that system (thus requiring data integration), as opposed to having to log into a PRM portal

Unfortunately, the above isn’t an either/or scenario. Rather, to create a successful PRM program, you typically need to pursue both a portal and integration. Otherwise, you’ll disenfranchise some group of partners. Remember, the goal of PRM is to match each customer or lead with the most appropriate partner, be they large or small.

Support Your Partners’ PRM Goals

Selling leads isn’t just about portals or integration. Rather, you must first determine your partners’ business needs and preferences, and then build something to suit.

So then, what do partners want from a PRM program? Typically, they want to devote more money to high-return items:

  • Closing new deals
  • Upgrading their partner level (from bronze to silver to gold)
  • Collaborating to make the deal cycle shorter
  • Determining which product is best suited for deal
  • Receiving commissions

Your partners also want to spend less money on low-return items:

  • Trouble tickets
  • Complaints
  • Administrative overhead for registering deals or finding the right OEM sales rep
  • Training compliance
  • Contract renewals

While the above are general rules of thumb, actually deducing all of your partners’ business requirements can be challenging. And the process gets even trickier if you have lots of partner levels. For example, some of our clients—especially in high-technology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices—have four (or more) partner levels. Understanding all of these partners’ requirements as part of a PRM program requires considerable time and effort.

Build a Proper PRM Portal

With your partners’ business requirements in hand, you’ll then have a template for building a PRM portal. Again, this is only a rule of thumb, but in general your portal-using partners will want a PRM portal that helps them manage:

  • Products
  • Literature
  • New pricing
  • Assigned leads (pre-qualified)
  • Shark tank (to grab miscellaneous, not pre-qualified leads)
  • Lead-sharing
  • Deal collaboration
  • Certifications
  • Training classes and course sign-up
  • Trouble tickets and accessing “preferred service”

Strategies for PRM Success

Regardless of whether you’re pursuing portals, integration or both as part of your PRM program, if you want your partners to share more of the sales and marketing burden, as well as the risks, then always remember to ask: “What’s in it for our partners?”

And if you nail the above PRM best practices—helping partners focus more on high-return items and less on low-return items, and giving them enticing leads in a highly usable format—they’ll know precisely what’s in it for them.


Cloud Sherpas is one of the world’s leading cloud services brokerages and helps businesses adopt, manage and enhance their CRM investment by identifying desired business goals, finding the right tools and technology for the job, and delivering rapid implementations that remain focused on achieving the desired business capabilities.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Darwin Bell.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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