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.

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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 (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is perhaps the most consistently misused term in our industry. The customer relationship that is being managed by the software category is an exceedingly broad term that must be narrowed 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.

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Sales Force Automation (SFA)

The tools used by sales teams to managed salespeople, prospects, opportunities, and pipeline
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Customer Service

The tools used by customer service agents (historically in a call center environment) to manage customers or prospects
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Commerce

The tools used by a service provider's customers to manage their own services or accounts.
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Partner Relationship Management (PRM)

Tools a service provider's partner to manage customers or prospects

Partner Management Components

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Deal Registration

The sales process in Partner Channel generally fits into one of the following scenarios:

  • Partner Referral - 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.

Lead

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 its 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.

Opportunity

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:

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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 incentives only if the deal is closed.

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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 in a specific area).

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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.

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 in a specific area).

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 system 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 a manual review of orders being processed for verification of the ordering process prior to the provisioning of the service to the end customer.

Case Management

Cases are created when an action is needed based on an end-customer or lead-initiated interaction. Cases can be created 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. Case management is the aggregate of these cases, typically segregated by customer.

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 in which a 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.

Customer Service

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The customer must contact the partner for all customer service. The customer may not know the parent entity exists or the 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.

Marketing MDF

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 may be very brand conscious and require the partner to only use the parent entity's 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.

3

The parent entity may be very brand conscious and require the partner to only use the parent entity's 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.

Renewal

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:

The partner has 100% ownership over the renewal effort and the parent entity may or may not have any marketing communication with the customer.

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.

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.

People, Process, and Technology of CRM: PRM

People

Seven of the 10 orgs within most B2B companies have a hand in the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) domain.

Sales

Customer Service

Product

Operations

MARKETING

FINANCE - Billing

I.T.

Process

ATG maintains a set of more than 100 key business processes to support the management of Customers and Revenue for Service Providers. Thirty-one of these processes originate or are impacted by the Partner Management domain. Below are the key processes that are touched in PRM, categorized by the Organizational Unit that owns the process:

SALES

External/Partner Transaction Management

Management and integration of any of third-party resellers/partner, or large enterprise customer, transactions that including selling, billing & collections, and account management.

SALES

Opportunity Management

Prioritizing, tracking, and managing of sales opportunities.

SALES

Partner Ecosystem Management

Overall category for Management and integration of any of third-party resellers, partner, or add-on marketplace business models and oversight.

SALES

Quote - Product Configuration

Configuration of features and attributes of products and services prior to a sale. Typical in a custom solution environment.

SALES / CUSTOMER SERVICE

Order Entry - Partners

Creating a new service for a customer that is originated via a Partner Channel, including capturing the necessary information to provision and bill for the service effectively.

SALES / CUSTOMER SERVICE

Renewal Processing

Methods used to renew a customer's services, may be manual or automated. This could apply to the renewal of maintenance and support for Perpetual products, or renewal of a subscription term for Cloud products.

PRODUCT

Bundled Product Introduction Process

Configuring and introduction of a bundled product or service to the product catalog and supporting systems. Includes definition of product/bundle attributes, pricing rules (usage, recurring, non-recurring), discounts rules, product/service lifecycle, revenue recognition, and reporting attributes.

PRODUCT

New Pricing Introduction - Existing Construct

This process is for creation of a new pricing rate for an existing construct. For example, creation of a $24.95/mo. plan for a geography that previously had been at $27.95/mo.

PRODUCT

New Pricing Introduction - New Construct

This process is for creation of a new pricing construct for an existing product or service. For example, creation of a monthly subscription where previously there had only been annual.

PRODUCT

New Product Introduction Process

Introduction of a new product or service to the Product Catalog and supporting quoting, ordering, contracting, provisioning, ticketing, invoicing, payment, usage, and revenue recognition systems. Includes definition of product attributes, pricing rules(usage, recurring, non-recurring), discounts rules, product/service lifecycle, revenue recognition, reporting attributes, and bundling concepts.

PRODUCT

New Product Introduction Process - Mobile

Configure attributes and introduce new products and services, with specific focus on making the product available on mobile devices.

PRODUCT

Promotion & Discount Introduction

The configuration of standard, pre-defined promotions and discounts of products or services.

PRODUCT

Trial Processing

Configuration and management of trial products that do not bill at all during an agreed-upon time frame, or under a certain set of use restrictions. Includes processes for provisioning and reporting.

OPERATIONS

Inventory Management - Logical

The process a company uses to manage the consumption of non-physical asset inventory levels including inventory creation and deletion.

OPERATIONS

Inventory Management - Physical

The process a company uses to manage the consumption and replenishment of tangible inventory levels.

OPERATIONS

Quote - Product / Service Approval

Configuration of required approvals for products, services, discounts, and pricing configurations prior to the sale.

OPERATIONS

Service Provisioning / Activation

The process of activating or de-activating a service or product for a particular customer.

MARKETING

Lead Management

The process of managing lead that have been generated and nurturing into new customers, or up/cross-sold existing customers.

I.T.

Cross-Training of Monetization Ecosystem Components

Process for training organizational resources

I.T.

Data Stewardship Across Monetization Ecosystem

Process of assigning ownership and sources of truth for data within the organization.

I.T.

Maintenance & Oversight of Monetization Ecosystem

Process around assuring that all touchpoints and connections in the ecosystem are optimized and working to their full potential.

I.T.

Monitoring & Testing of Vendor Functional Releases

As ecosystem components release updates and patches, each is checked and tested to confirm all systems are working together as required by the business' requirements.

I.T.

Security Oversight of Monetization Ecosystem

Process for maintaining and controlling access and permission to ecosystem components.

I.T.

Vendor Management of the Monetization Ecosystem

Management of ecosystem component vendors including proactive communication of changes and general relationship nurturing.

FINANCE - BILLING

Invoice Finishing & Delivery

Typically, billing engines produce raw invoice or statement data. Often, external applications are used to package this data for presentation on a paper invoice, electronic distribution, or alternate media. Most billing engines have rudimentary invoice presentation capability.

FINANCE - BILLING

Payment Processing

The steps taken to process different payment methods from customers.

FINANCE - BILLING

SOX/Regulatory Compliance

The ability to provide proof of internal controls to prevent fraud and material misstatements.

FINANCE - BILLING

Subscription Management

The processes a company uses to manage complex customer subscription attributes, including recurring billing, IN Proration (service sign up), OUT Proration (service disconnect/cancel), and associated usage, recurring, and non-recurring processing.

FINANCE - BILLING

System Auditability

Provides assurance that source system data is accurate, and a paper trail exists from a transaction to financial statements.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Knowledge Management

The ability of a business to identify, create, and distribute information quickly across their customer base, organizations responsible for managing customers, and other key areas of the organization.

ALL

Daily, Periodic, or Ad Hoc Reporting (ETL, Report, Dashboard)

Movement of data between domains to create a single source of truth for reporting and dashboarding. Includes key metrics such as revenue analytics and other KPIs

Technology

When a company has focus on the partner channel as a key contributor of revenue and customers, often partner relationship software is used. Sometimes, companies will just extend their CRM functionality to include partner activity, but work-arounds are typically required.

Key Partner Management Vendors

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ESSENTIALS

Founded: 1999
HQ: San Francisco, CA
Company Type: Public
Website: www.salesforce.com
Delivery Method: Cloud

OVERVIEW

Salesforce Communities is powered by advanced online community software that allows businesses of all sizes to connect to partners, customers, employees, and business processes. The Community Cloud is built on the Salesforce platform, so any third party system or data can connect directly with Communities.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

Communities allows businesses to:

  • Build communities to gain deeper relationships with customers or provide better service by enabling customers to find information and assist each other online
  • Connect external channel partners, agents, or brokers to reduce friction and accelerate deals
  • Empower employees to connect and collaborate wherever business takes them

TARGET MARKET

Salesforce Communities markets toward companies of any size that have a strong need for customer, partner, and employee engagement. Businesses that rely on dynamic customer relationships benefit most from Communities’ ability to connect directly with resellers, distributors, and partners to increase sales.

CUSTOMERS

  • Health Leads
  • Brown-Forman Construction
  • Toyota
  • GE Capital
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ESSENTIALS

Founded: 1977
HQ: South Jordan, UT
Company Type: Privately held
Website: www.impartner.com
Delivery Method: Cloud

OVERVIEW

Impartner, formerly known as TreeHouse Interactive, specializes in SaaS-based Partner Relationship Management (PRM) and Marketing Automation Platform solutions. Impartner has been profitable every quarter since its founding in 1997 because of its focus on multi-tiered PRM solutions supported by turnkey onboarding.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

Impartner’s PRM solutions delivers functionality in several areas:

  • Partner Management and Onboarding
  • Deal Registration
  • Lead Distribution
  • Market Development Funds (MDF)
  • Co-Branded Marketing

TARGET MARKET

Impartner tends to target high tech, data storage, and cloud-based companies that range from small and mid-sized businesses to global enterprises.

CUSTOMERS

  • Rackspace
  • National Instruments
  • Commvault
  • Quantum
  • Sungard
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ESSENTIALS

Founded: 2014
HQ: Phoenix, AZ
Company Type: Privately Held
Website: www.allbound.com
Delivery Method: Cloud

OVERVIEW

Allbound has three core products: Channel Sales, Channel Marketing, and Partner Experience Automation. These three core products are supported by automated features specific to PRM such as Co-Branding tools, Content Management Tools, Deal Registration, Integrations, Partner Portals, and Partner Journey Automation. Allbound has the power to eliminate mundane manual tasks, uniform partner processes, and lay foundations for scalable growth.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

  • Partner Journey Automation
  • Content Management Tool
  • Channel Marketing

TARGET MARKET

Allbound targets organizations of many sizes that want to scale their partner programs.

CUSTOMERS

  • Zoom
  • Gainsight
  • Box
  • Cambium Networks
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ESSENTIALS

Founded: 2006
HQ: Jersey City, NJ
Company Type: Privately held
Website: www.ziftsolutions.com
Delivery Method: Cloud

OVERVIEW

Zift Solutions has grown from a channel marketing software start-up to a global organization focused entirely on channel success. In working with thousands of the world’s leading companies selling through indirect channels, Zift Solutions saw the need to move beyond siloed solutions by providing powerful channel-focused technology and continuing to deliver the most comprehensive cloud-based solutions for channel marketing, sales, and operations.

In 2017, Zift Solutions acquired Relayware, a B2B SaaS PRM solution provider.

PRODUCT FEATURES:

  • Partner System of Record
  • Enterprise Integration
  • Content Management System
  • Business Intelligence
  • Business Rules Engine
  • Multi-Channel Communications

TARGET MARKET

Zift Solutions targets companies of all sizes and in any industry that are looking for cloud-based Partnering Automation (PA) and Partner Relationship Management (PRM) solutions.

CUSTOMERS

  • Kaspersky Lab
  • Lenovo
  • Avid
  • Adaptive Insights
  • NETGEAR

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