If you’re a vendor who heavily relies on channel partnerships to do business (say, in manufacturing or information technologies), understanding that your partners’ sales pipeline is yours too may take some time.
Then again, with no direct sales force on your side, the end-customer base can seem to be owned by partners though you as a vendor create products or services specifically with end customers in mind.
But End-Customer Visibility Matters
This diluted sense of ownership can prevent vendors from seeing a bigger picture, the one where they can positively influence sales growth with just the right level of visibility into end customer data. Below, we suggest one of the possible ways for vendors to source these data directly from channel partners by integrating partner portals with vendors’ CRM software. And if you think that we’re looking for a solution in very odd places, read on.
In channel partnerships, sharing information is down to the partnership culture, policies and strategies on both sides. Still, there is a positive correlation between the transparency of partners’ sales processes and the following benefits:
Related Article: Not Just for Sales: CRM Uses You Didn't Know Existed
For the vendor
- Informed decision-making about the product portfolio, pricing, new market trends, etc.
- Timely assistance to help partners that may have some issues with sales (a negative dynamic, stagnation, tough competition, etc.)
For the partner
- Optimized lead management and transparency with no competition over the same leads in the partner network
- Better lead generation and customer acquisition capability
- Winning bigger opportunities with the vendor’s help
These benefits can only be achieved through cooperation that is supported with technology. With partner portals as the cornerstones of digitally enabled channel partnerships, their integration with vendors’ CRM systems is a logical and highly recommended step.
Gaining Insights via a Connected CRM
Even though in our CRM consulting experience we have seen how CRMs as such are used for partnership management, for example, by B2B manufacturing companies and national agencies with a country-wide network of partners, licensees, and sub-contractors, they can’t provide the entire spectrum of opportunities if they don’t enable sourcing data on end customers.
As two-way data supply from both vendors’ and partners’ perspectives is critical, this can take place either by first-hand data input in the partner portal that’s synchronized with the vendor’s CRM or by integrating partners’ CRM with the partner portal, which incurs additional costs and risks.
Either way, the vendor can tap into the following business functions through CRM plus portal features:
Related Article: On the Horizon: The Social CRM Market Is Expanding—Are You Onboard?
- Customer data management: end customer profiles are tied to respective partners’ accounts and are timely updated the moment new details appear in the partner portal. This includes sales pipeline visualization.
- Customer satisfaction monitoring: you know what’s good and what’s wrong with end customers’ experience if your partners supply their Voice of the Customer findings in the portal. This helps in decision making if some customer experience issues are on a vendor’s side, you can decide on changes and tweak your product or service with new features, restructure your partnership program, etc.
- Lead nurturing: visibility into the sales process helps vendors make decisions about special offers, discounts or additional advisory services in relation to particular customers that could help partners win more bigger deals.
- Market analysis: based on customer analytics by any applicable dimensions, vendors get to know their market better when making decisions on expansion, differentiation, launching a new product or changes to pricing.
- Partners’ performance assessment and development: this is made possible as CRM collects both quantitative and qualitative data and ties it down to KPIs via handy report dashboards. Vendors can see all issues, challenges and successes of their partners and get involved accordingly when they see their own specific competencies or brand strength can come in handy, especially when dealing with big accounts.
On Incentives for Partners
Providing such detailed information through the partner portal (or, even duplicating it from partners’ own CRM systems) is hard if there’s no common understanding of how important this could be for driving sales growth. It is down to the vendor to incentivize their partners, drawing a direct line between partners’ activities and rewards.
Rewards can come in different shapes but they mostly deal with personalized discounts (for specific partners’ bids) or more favorable terms of cooperation for those who fulfills certain conditions (e.g. deal registration via the partner portal).
Related Article: CRM Myth Busters: Think You're Too Small for CRM? Think Again.
In Few Words…
Visibility into end customer data brings multiple benefits for both vendors and their channel partners. To help achieve this, there comes a technology, in our case, CRM software, that can be effectively customized to provide access to partners’ sales data through its integration with the partner portal.
This approach is by no means easy, but it enables transparency over leads and competition, better management of opportunities and broader capabilities for winning bigger deals, which makes vendor CRM a necessary link in making dynamically growing sales in channel partnerships possible.
If you wonder if you could keep the balance between IT spending on system integration, partners’ incentivizing and ROI, don’t hesitate to contact our CRM consulting team for a free consultation.