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Keys to a Thriving Partner Relationship Management Strategy

Today’s business-to-business (B2B) selling models are remarkably different than they were five to ten years ago. Partner networks are one area where we’ve seen big changes. In various geographies, cultures, and industries, a partner network may be the primary channel to sell a company’s products. Additionally, the adoption of mobile technologies in sales organizations has not only provided better market penetration to the channel partners through on-the-go access to guided selling applications, it has also accelerated the speed of information in B2B sales. However, very few companies are able to successfully harness the power of technology to aid and guide channel partners. Partner relationship management (PRM) and configure, price, and quote (CPQ) solutions fill this gap as more and more companies look to third-platform applications such as the cloud, mobile, social media, and the Internet of Things to accomplish their sales and marketing goals. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2018, 20% of B2B organizations will extend their commercial suite to include PRM capabilities. 

Researchers and analysts suggest that analytics and a better incentive structure are the foundation of a healthy partner channel management strategy. Along the same lines, sales and marketing functions are now adopting applications that offer end-to-end solutions, seamlessly integrated with their partners’ commercial applications. 

Sales leaders want deal- and transaction-level details in real time for forecasting as well as strategizing the territory and partner sales incentives, and they want that to be 100% accurate. Marketing leaders, on the other hand, require an effective way to gather customer insights (key information, often hidden in the partner organization) as well as guide the channel partners to position the right product at the right time and the right price. Above all, manufacturers are looking for a uniform sales experience and strong consistency of price and products across all the channel partners.

That said, for effective channel management, partners have to buy in to PRM and CPQ technology and understand their benefits. Adopting technology is a key factor that can either make or break your channel management initiative. Driving adoption encompasses the usefulness and effectiveness of the application as well as manufacturers’ willingness to share their business best practices with partners through the application. For effective channel management, manufacturers must first understand the day-to-day challenges of the partners and then pick a combination of technology and selling best practices to help them achieve their goals.

The first step in this process is to understand how the partners can add value to your business. Depending on industry, geography, and sales model, there are seven types of channel partners: distributors, value-added resellers (VARs), resellers, agents, dealers, retailers, and online. In summary, manufacturers should take the following approach:

  • Fully understand their go-to-market strategy, select a partner model and partners that align with that strategy, and then pick the appropriate technology that can easily support that strategy and be adopted by partners.
  • Engage technology vendors and small and midsize enterprises to build robust training programs for their partners. They must establish the partner satisfaction and adoption metrics and periodically measure their partner performance to continuously help the relationship evolve. 
  • Once they are able to drive adoption, they can leverage deal-level insights, such as relative price points and seasonality of demand, to reinforce partner relations and potentially improve product offerings. 

By leveraging the insights from deals, manufacturers can understand customers’ buying behaviors and willingness to pay. They can identify price-sensitive segments and also understand the correlation of partner incentives with price sensitivity. The manufacturers must continuously incorporate these insights from their extended network into their products and services as well as the partner incentive structure. 

For many companies, it’s imperative to leverage the extended partner network, while empowering and educating them on best practices using best-in-class technologies. 

 

Learn about Oracle’s best practices for partner relationship management.

 

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