The question is not which is better, CRM or PRM. The question is, where does each one fit and why should organizations not try and use their CRM as a window or portal for their partners.
At their core, both tools share a common purpose, to manage relationships. One seeks to manage relationships with customers (or commonly prospective customers), and the other seeks to manage relationships with partners.
That is where the similarities start and end. A Partner Relationship Management (PRM) tool should be a tool that is used and interacted with by partners. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is used internally. A PRM, especially as it relates to things like deal registrations is vague often referring to deals as Approved, In Progress, Negotiation, and Closed. A CRM provides the level of granularity your internal team needs to measure stages of revenue, stages that partners simply would not care about.
To be blunt, partners simply do not care that inside your CRM your organization has 8 different Opportunity stages for the deal registration they submitted. They care that it has been approved, and it has been Closed/Won. Remember, your partners interacting inside your PRM are often working with 40 plus different vendors, they cannot be expected to remember the nuances of the stages of your sales inside your CRM.
Pricing models prohibit all but the largest companies from even offering partners a view or limited access to their CRM in the first place. Aside from the user-based, or login-based pricing models, organizations must account for the hours of custom development necessary to build correct user permission levels, object layouts, and access roles before even considering granting access to partners for your CRM.
Trying to leverage your CRM for managing indirect, partner-sourced deals is not going to go over well. Usually, it results in poor time to value recognition on your investment in channel management technology, frustrated partners, and a frustrated CRM ops team.
What is PRM?
Communication is the basis of building any business relationship where a partner is involved. Partner Relationship Management maintains a healthy relationship with the partners and ensures that the trust between both parties remains intact. PRM provides aid to partners by providing support, resources, and a portal to communicate with the business. PRM comes with a personalized portal for partners to access documents, product details, marketing content, Market Development Funds (MDFs), opportunities, and track deals.
A well built out PRM solution, when properly deployed to partners accounts for the fact that the common users are often sales representatives moving between vendor partner portals on a daily basis. They are fully inclusive of all the tools needed for that external resource who only thinks about your organization once a month to execute on their job. PRM comes with the ability to personalize the experience for that user by providing access to only the relevant documents, product information, and sales enablement materials and gives them easy access to quickly understand what it takes to get a deal registration approved.
Over the past couple of years, PRM solutions have played a significant role in helping organizations make the shift to “digital first” as partner sellers have become even more dispersed across geographic locations around the world.
What does PRM bring to your business that CRM cannot?
We often talk about Salesforce as a big box of Legos. With unlimited time, resources, and money anything can be built. So, while technically most CRM solutions on the market today can function as a PRM, it would not be advised. PRM solutions bring purpose-built functionality and features that place an external to your company individually at the forefront of the user experience. CRM systems simply do not do that, they were not designed to be used that way. It is a central hub that with simple configuration can enable the entire revenue lifecycle of a partner sales rep. CRM systems simply cannot deliver on this.
A well-designed PRM tool is an indication to your partners that you care about their success, more than you care about technology stack consolidation.
CRM and PRM working in tandem
Even though both systems serve to deliver unique functionality, and experiences to their end-users, it is very fair to say that one cannot operate well without the other. Expecting a PRM to be able to deliver the ROI analysis on MDF (Marketing Development Fund) Campaigns and Deal Registrations is simply not possible as the Campaign information resides in the CRM.
Deal registrations submitted in the PRM must be checked against duplicate records, existing customers, and competitive partner registrations, and linked to existing opportunities. Again, none of these would be possible with an integration between the PRM and CRM solutions.
At their core, these two solutions have a different audiences, but seek to deliver on the same promise. By effectively deploying them to their respective users, businesses are now given insight and data to make informed decisions.
It is becoming the norm for organizations looking to go to market with partners to invest in PRM tools that deliver significant improvements in automation and revenue generation activities.
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