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PRM Software Is Only as Good as Your Workflow

The fact is that at first, the process of initiating new channel management systems sometimes makes things more difficult

Technology can do amazing things, but we’re still a long way from a program that can design and optimize a human work process. This is important to keep this in mind as you shop CRM or Partner Relationship Management (PRM) solutions. Too often people forget to first outline the source of their channel challenges, fall into the trap of unrealistic expectations, and implement software that only serves to automate the inefficiencies they’re trying to correct.

The fact is that at first, the process of initiating new channel management systems sometimes makes things more difficult. Implementation will only point out all the flaws in your current process. But that doesn’t mean don’t bother. Setting up a PRM program is hard if your process isn’t in good shape, but the good news is the exercise of doing it will make you think about things in a systematic way, which should lead to significant improvements in your process.

A well-documented, efficient process is especially important in the partner channel – whether you’re looking at PRM software or not – because products and process have to be explained to an external audience: your channel salesforce.

Like Making Cupcakes Without a Recipe

Stacy Desrosiers, Director Worldwide Channel Marketing at CTERA Networks, likens the way many companies go about their channel process to the success her daughter would have baking cupcakes if all she brought to the process was flour, eggs, sugar, and muffin tins. “She’d just be pouring all that stuff into a bowl, turning on the oven and hoping for the best,” she says.

Without a recipe, she can’t know what temperature the oven needs to be, the optimal proportion of flour to sugar, or how long the cupcakes need to stay in the oven.

“Baking without a recipe is what people are doing in a lot of channel sales organizations. Since they have no process to get them from A to Z, to help them understand or monitor their business, the CRM or PRM is not going to help, no matter how many amazing features it has,” she says.

Begin with the End in Mind

To get your process in shape for PRM implementation, start by thinking through exactly what your business goals are for the channel. What are you trying to get to? “Unless your program is going to help drive partners in the direction of producing revenue for you, you’re just spinning your wheels,” Desrosiers says.

That means looking at all phases of the process and determining what internal resources and channel partners should be doing in each phase – recruiting, onboarding, deal registration, enablement, engagement, etc. – to ensure partners are incentivized and able to easily take those actions that will lead to that result you want: revenue.

For example, if your deal registration process currently entails the partner emailing and the channel manager plugging the deal into a spread sheet, how does that lead to revenue? Can you track the result each sales person is producing? Can you tell which sales person is the best one to pass a high quality lead?

Tracking all this manually is very labor intensive, and PRM can help reduce that burden, but it can’t create the data management process for you. You’ll need to plot out how the information will get into the system, who’s on point and what you’ll do with the data when you have it.

Be Realistic About Where You’re Starting

“You may think you’re at Point B, but it may actually be that you’re at point A,” Desrosiers says. Even if your organization has experience operating in the channel, that doesn’t necessarily mean a repeatable process exists or is particularly efficient. Being honest about where you are will save you steps in the long run.

Desrosiers recommends writing your process down or whiteboarding it out. “And do that with a number of people in your organization, because different people will have different influences – whether directly or indirectly – on your process. Make sure you involve all key stakeholders,” she says. And always data test your process before implementation.

Any process has to be a living one – it will be tweaked over time. Make sure you have a system that will work with you through those tweaks. But having no process and bringing on PRM before you plot one is the wrong way to go.

 

The Channeltivity team can recommend steps, process stages, which will help the process along but you still need good clarity on your business and how the channel generates revenue for you.

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Jason Jacobs is the CEO of Channeltivity.