August 22, 2022 By Jenn Booth 5 min read

In today’s competitive, digital-first landscape, embracing customer intimacy is the most important key to success. Fostering user intimacy ensures that one-time buyers become lifelong advocates. That focus extends beyond traditional B2C & B2B customers — your partners expect personalized experiences that make doing business easy and efficient. Creating true intimacy with your partners requires an intense focus on who is engaging with your products and services. It’s important to prioritize these relationships, because a positive partner experience is an essential part of fostering customer intimacy and ultimately driving equitable outcomes.

When companies seek to understand who their traditional B2C buyers are and how to serve them best, they naturally explore the partner relationships that products and services pass through en route to the end customer. Investing in partner relationship management (PRM) strategies not only provides insights and collaboration at inflection points and decisions along the sales process, it also creates access to end-customer market data.

If you want to generate customer intimacy while successfully driving more equitable outcomes, then your resellers, distributors and partners need processes and tools to effectively share inbound leads and ultimately book and deliver business.

What’s happening with channel sales (PRM) right now?

If you manage partnerships and sell through resellers, brokers, distributors or dealers, one thing is certain: your success depends on the success of your partner ecosystem. As of 2022, 75% of world trade flows through indirect channels. Current trends in the PRM space further demonstrate the importance of generating intimacy from your channel sales motions. These include:

  • Increasing shifts towards SMB and indirect channels for revenue growth
  • Channel conflicts and inefficiency in optimizing indirect channels
  • Inability to use emerging collaborative tools to successfully drive indirect channel sales
  • Lack of visibility into channel activities, reducing overall channel effectiveness

With this increased focus on channel sales, enterprises need to understand the features that enable success in today’s digital landscape. The route-to-market channel is anchored in these core business capabilities that creates ease for your partners:

  • An account structure that aligns partners to geographies and tiers, tracks revenue and referrals, and reports operational and financial data in real-time
  • A partner onboarding process that reduces cycle time with automated forms and flows that gives faster speed to value and saves and tracks status
  • A deal registration process that includes guided, dynamic flows to capture and route info with clean, consistent registration experiences (UX/UI)
  • A partner community with customized branding that allows partners to collaborate on business plans, campaigns and shared docs, including robust reporting and analytics
  • Effective lead distribution so that the right leads get routed to the right partners and representatives that will reduce competitive issues and channel conflict
  • Partner support that allows you to promote important information, rewards engagement with tiered incentives and enables streamlined case management

Overcoming common PRM challenges

When you optimize the PRM experience through all aspects of their journey (onboarding, enablement, deal management, training and engagement), you create a sticky partner network that maximizes value for your business. And creating that network matters now more than ever. In fact, by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.

But as promising as the indirect sales business model is, many businesses struggle to unlock its full value due to these common challenges:

  1. Dated, manual business processes make it difficult to adapt to the changing needs of your channel partners. The culprit is often inflexible legacy systems that are overly complicated and clunky to manage.
  2. Winning partner mindshare can be difficult when partners may carry dozens or hundreds of different products, including those of your competitors. Being easy to do business with is the way to stand out – but static portals don’t create the seamless experiences that partners demand.
  3. The channel can present challenges with finding and accurately capturing data. Companies are tasked with making data-driven decisions to track and grow their businesses, but they can’t manage what they can’t measure. The lack of visibility stems from disconnected data that’s scattered across many systems.

To overcome these challenges, put yourself in the shoes of your users who are enabled by processes and technology. Part of fostering partner intimacy is understanding and helping them solve their pain points. Manual processes and static portals should become personalized, intelligent experiences. Clunky legacy look and feel must evolve into a more delightful B2C-like UI. Stale information should be replaced with fresh content and real-time data. And limited productivity must be overcome by making resources accessible on demand from anywhere.

Today’s businesses meet these needs and expand their growth by teaming up with their ecosystem partners, co-innovating to bring solutions to market faster, and co-selling collaboratively to accelerate deal closing and increase win rates. The most innovative companies partner with several co-sellers to offer a satisfying, whole-lifecycle experience to their customers.

By leveraging Salesforce Experience Cloud’s tools, you can become the preferred brand by giving your partners (dealers, distributors, agents) the resources they want. Strengthening your sales cycle with a strong PRM unlocks line of sight into the data flowing from interactions and helps ensure you provide the customer (and partner) intimacy your users expect.

Business outcomes of your PRM solution

Making it easy for your partners to do business with you makes business sense. By simplifying touchpoints and using the data at your disposal, you’ll maximize business value and build an industry-leading partner network. Implementing a consolidated, personalized, intelligent digital experience is the best way to achieve a variety of business outcomes:

  • 46% increase in partner engagement
  • 25% increase in channel pipe growth
  • 33% increase in deal registration

When your partners learn that it’s easier to do business with you than with others, revenue will increase thanks to better lead management and partner enablement resources. Cost to serve drops as collaborative forums and knowledge bases let partners answer their own questions. The smarter and faster dashboards and analytic processes made possible by a partner experience help achieve other goals as well:

  • Increase partner revenue and collaboration
  • Increase partner retention, advocacy and satisfaction
  • Reduce time to productivity and cost to serve partners
  • Improve partner communications
  • Manage partner performance
  • Increase conversion and shorten deal cycle time

How to implement a PRM solution in four steps

Implementing a PRM solution focused on intimacy will set your partners up for success, so they can be more productive and close more deals. With a full-fledged partner experience, you’ll streamline processes, boost visibility, enhance collaboration and unlock a centralized hub for access to resources. Regardless of where you’re at in your PRM implementation journey, there are easy steps you can take to get started.

First, you need to identify the key elements of your PRM:

  • WHO will be the key users of your partner experience
  • WHAT business processes and rules will be integrated to start
  • WHICH technology will be used to create the partner experience
  • WHO from your organization needs to champion this effort
  • HOW information will be captured, organized and structured

After taking these initial steps and regularly innovating within your experience, you’ll be able to see and analyze the progress your organization is making. You’ll know you’ve been successful when your partner experience:

  • Delivers partners relevant and impactful information
  • Enables partners to sell, serve and grow more effectively
  • Provides a unified way to engage with the vendor
  • Keeps partners informed about their leads, opportunities and business
  • Drives productivity by eliminating friction and streamlining processes
  • Fosters long-term partner relationships based on mutual success

IBM has guided dozens of Salesforce PRM strategy implementations, so we understand the best ways to empower and enable your channel strategy. Partnering with IBM is the best way to unlock these features and exceed your partners’ expectations for a positive experience. With tools and checklists in place, you’ll ensure that your PRM implementation drives customer and partner intimacy and maximizes value for your business now and in the future.

Learn more about IBM and Salesforce

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