Managing Partners

You know you’ve got a great relationship with your customers and you don’t need any more help from technology, but have you ever thought about your relationship with your partners’ customers? After all, they’re really your customers, too. And chances are, the bulk of your sales come through partners rather than your own sales force. “In CRM, most of the applications or solutions deal with sales forces selling directly to the customer,” says Donna Troy, president and CEO of Partnerware. “But 70 percent of customers are buying through partners.” The result: partner relationship management (PRM) and the broader concept of channel management are playing an increasingly important role in the CRM space.

So what is channel management? According to Troy, it’s management of the lifecycle process of acquiring partners and enabling them to drive revenue for you. “If you’re a sales executive with a limited number of reps, you’re probably spending a lot of your time trying to acquire partners, taking calls, figuring out which potential partners would fit your organization, running credit checks, etc.,” says Troy. “We’ve automated that process so now you can focus on [the partners’] selling.”

One telecomm company, for instance, had 1,500 partners, which it tracked on 1,500 different spreadsheets. Partners who wanted to apply for funding had to pick up the phone, ask how much money was left in their pot of funds, fill out claim paperwork, then call to find out the status of their check. Now the process is automated – partners can hop online to view their accounts, file a claim and track the processing of that claim. “We came up with $14 million in annual savings and saved 30 to 40 percent of channel managers’ time,” says Troy. That’s a lot of time managers can now spend focusing on their own customers while freeing partners to spend more time building relationships with theirs. Not only that, Partnerware’s technology gives users a real-time view of partner performance so managers can figure out which partners are performing, which partners would best handle certain leads and which partners need to be cut loose.

Partnerware spent the last year reinventing itself and rebuilding its software solution from the ground up, says Doug Miller, Partnerware’s vice president of marketing. Its new solution is easily configurable to each customer’s workflow; it is scalable since “there are often thousands of partners who are going to be using the database”; and it can be quickly integrated with other systems, such as accounting software, so a partner can see for himself that his check was processed yesterday.