CRM: Partner Management
Partner Management processes and systems support a variety of third-party reseller business models to achieve the goal of extending the business reach to a larger customer base. Business models range from very simple (lead generation or customer referral, for example) to extremely complex (where a partner would have access to register new customers and maintain 100% of the ongoing relationship without intervention from the parent entity).
A robust PRM solution can enable the partner to move through the monetization ecosystem seamlessly to capture leads and opportunities, quote, process orders and even manage renewals. Some PRM systems allow an additional level of capability to manage various aspects of customer service regarding the product being sold.
Partner channel business models that allow partners access to register and manage an ongoing customer base must have some level of system access to achieve this goal. In many cases these are somewhat restricted systems from the core selling business and should offer analytics suites for the partner to sufficiently report on their performance, as well as an overarching analytics suite that allows the parent entity to ensure system security, prevent fraudulent activity, and monitor the performance of the overall partner landscape in comparison to their core business and provide sufficient data to understand the overall business and drive future business decisions.
Additional comparisons can be made to the core business, comparisons between partners, and the success of the various products or services being sold by each partner. This data can provide insight for product development, marketing, and business intelligence for future business decisions.
Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, is perhaps the most consistently misused term in our industry. The ‘Customer Relationship’ that is being managed by a software category is an exceedingly broad term that must be narrowed in order to make sure we are comparing similar software. ATG breaks CRM into four distinct categories, based on the channel that is being used to manage the customer relationship. The categories are:
Sales Force Automation (SFA)
The tools used by Sales teams to managed sales people, prospects, and opportunities.
The tools used by a service provider’s customers to manage their own services or accounts.
Call Center | Customer Success
The tools used by Customer Service agents (historically in a Call Center environment) to manage customers.
Partner Relationship Management
Tools used by a service provider’s Partner to manage customers.
Partner Management Components
The sales process in Partner Channel generally fits into one of the following scenarios:
Partner refers the customer to the parent company and the parent entity owns the entire relationship moving forward.
Partner Registration/Parent Retains Customer
Customer moves through registration directly with the partner and the process is transparent to the customer that services are being purchased from a third party. The parent entity will own the customer relationship over the customer lifecycle with little to no involvement from the partner proceeding customer registration.
Partner Registration & Customer Retention
Customer moves through registration directly with the partner and the customer is aware that services are being purchased from a third party. The parent entity will have little to no involvement directly with the customer over the customer lifecycle.
Dual Customer Responsibility
The deal is a hybrid of the two above options, where the customer may or may not know they are purchasing from a third party and the customer management can be fully managed by both the partner and the parent entity, depending on the customer support channels that the end-customer initiates on a given interaction.
White Label Partner Selling
The selling process is completely re-branded, known as white-labeled, where the partner may be using the parent entities systems or selling the parent entities services. These offerings may be combined with additional services offered by the partner independent of the parent entity. The customer likely does not know the parent entity exists and the relationship is solely with the individual partner.
If systems are shared between the parent entity and the partner, leads may reside in the same source system and be assigned to a specific partner or the parent company depending on how the lead was generated or based on other factors such as customer geography.
In many cases, the partner channel may have their own sales support systems that live outside the purview of the parent entity and may only be visible to the parent entity after the order is placed.
Managing sales opportunities in a Partner Management business model can vary depending on the business model and the relationship between the customer, the partner, and the parent entity.
Below are some common scenarios for opportunity management and generation:
1. Partner generated opportunities are passed to the parent entity for the remainder of the sales process. The partner may get a commission or financial payout for generating the opportunity or may get financial incentive only if the deal is closed.
2. The opportunity is passed from the parent entity to the partner. This scenario could be common in areas where a certain partner has a physical presence (for example, in a certain region or with expertise and specific area).
3. The partner generates and manages all of their own opportunities and continues the sales process. Depending on the system architecture and design, the parent company may or may not have visibility to partner generated leads.
Quote / Order
Handling complex selling environments with complex quoting needs require systems that can support a complex structure. The more complex the quoting system is required to be, the more likely a quoting systems will be maintained by the parent entity, where the partner is given access to the system in order to manage the quoting process.
If the partner is managing the order process, there must be sufficient system access for this process to be initiated with as little friction as possible, while also ensuring sufficient system access controls are in place to ensure the order meets the defined business rules for selling services. Ensuring the business rules are satisfied is generally handled by the configuration and access of various systems, though may also include manual review of orders being processed for verification of the ordering process prior to the provisioning of the service to the end-customer.
Cases are created when an action is needed based on an end-customer or lead-initiated interaction. Cases can be created from very early in the sales process to indicate sales leads or other sales-related processes. They can also be created to support ongoing customer support related inquiries.
Depending on the specific business model, supporting system’s capability, and the relationship between the customer, the partner, and the legal entity, cases created on behalf of end-customers could be worked through by either the partner or the parent entity. Based on the structure, the case was created, cases may only be visible and in the queue of either the partner of the parent entity, in a shared queue that could change hands throughout the lifecycle of the case, or could be routed based on predefined criteria.
When customers are registered through a partner channel, the customer service will be driven based on the business model and relationship between the end-customer, partner, and the parent entity.
Below are some common scenarios of customer service models when a partner sells the service to the end customer:
1. The customer must contact the parent entity for all ongoing customer service. This is common when the customer is unaware they purchased services from a third party or when the partner is truly just a reseller, but the customer knows they are receiving services from the parent entity.
2. The customer has the ability to contact either the parent entity or the partner for customer service. Systems must be in place to give some level of access to the partner to be able to provide the level of service needed to handle customer inquiries. In many cases, the partner may only have system access to handle simple customer inquiries and may refer the customer to the parent entity in more complex scenarios.
3. The customer must contact the partner for all customer service. The customer may not know the parent entity exists or relationship is such that the end-customer will only deal with one person throughout their entire lifecycle. These high-touch business models are usually B2B low-volume, high-revenue environments.
Sales and marketing efforts in a partner channel can vary depending on the business model and the partner structure.
Below are some common scenarios:
1. The parent entity provides 100% of the marketing effort in a business as usual manner without any specific reference to the partner. The partner will naturally receive leads from this process.
2. The parent entity provides 100% of the marketing effort in a business as usual manner and the partner will naturally receive leads from this process.
3. The parent entity may be very brand conscious and require the partner only use the parent entity marketing collateral for all customer communication. In this case, the contact information may include partner information, but the message and experience from the marketing campaign will be consistent.
4. The partner drives 100% of their own marketing campaign efforts with their own collateral. Depending on the business model, there is a possibility that the parent entity may provide access to content that can be used in the partner collateral.
When a customer is approaching the end of their contract and due for a renewal, the partner must be actively engaged to ensure the customer is retained while also attempting to increase the revenue from this particular customer to drive up Customer Lifetime Value (LTV).
Below are some possible renewal scenarios present in a Partner Management landscape:
1. The partner has 100% ownership over the renewal effort and the parent entity may or may not have any marketing communication with the customer.
2. The parent entity has 100% ownership over the renewal effort and there may or may not be any financial commission passed on to the original partner who registered the initial customer.
3. The customer may be available for either the partner or the parent entity for renewal. There may be additional rules on timing of customer engagement that the parent entity will follow prior to actively pursuing the lead.
PRM Key Vendors
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