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Channel Partner Management Software 2020: A Comprehensive Guide

What is Channel Partner Management?

Companies can have a variety of partners in Marketing and Sales functions. Channel partners typically refer to Sales Related Partnerships - commission-based affiliate partners, resellers, and VARs value-added resellers (who can provide services component of your offering, or bundle other products needed by the customers). There are other partnerships such as Alliances – which could be about the bundling of products, co-marketing, etc.

This document primarily focuses on channel partnerships related to sales activities as described above.

Some examples of Channel Partners are:

Value Added Reseller (VAR), who don’t just sell the product, but also possess expertise in installation/implementation, and maintenance.

Distributors, who stock the product in bulk and sell it to the next tier of suppliers.

System Integrators, who bring together a variety of products and integrate them to build turn-key solutions for the end customer.

Independent Retailers, who could be stores selling on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.

Agents and Consultants, who sell for a Commission on the sale price.

Channel Partner Programs, with participation from any combination of the above types of partners, are commonly run by B2B organizations, but such programs can be drawn up and run for B2C businesses too. Computer software and hardware are sold B2B and B2C through various combinations of channel partners, who have markedly different selling strategies depending on whether the sale is to an individual or to a business, besides other factors such as the size of the sale.

Adidas, which sells its merchandise out of its own stores, franchisee stores and multi-brand retail outlets, in addition to selling directly to end-users through its own online store would be a largely B2C example.

Singapore Airlines selling tickets through intermediary sites like Kayak or Trivago is an example of online B2C channel partnering. Other online B2C channel types exist too. Advertising Based channels are where sites like YouTube, which attract large volumes of traffic, make themselves available as channels for advertising and selling. Community-Based channels are sites like Facebook, which can be used to target consumers based on users’ demography and geographical location. Fee-based channels are sites like Netflix, which charge a small fee so that users can access the content that has been licensed to it by content owners.

Channel Partners work on either Commission-based Partner Programs or Discount-based Transfer Pricing Programs.

Why Channel Partners are Important?

Most importantly, Channel Partners give you a head-start. They already have a set of ready customers with whom they can kick-off the sales process. A single Partner Manager can handle multiple Channel Partners and drive the sales process to bring in the same amount of revenue at a lesser cost. Channel Partners help in experimenting with new ideas, products, promotions, exhibitions at a viable cost. With proper training and certification, Channel Partners can help in not just acquiring new customers, but also in extending after-sales support. They also prove handy at the time of maintenance contract renewal, thereby allowing the Partner Manager to focus on nurturing new partners, sales operations management, and escalation measures related to implementation and support.

I do a lot of research into the company to find out what they are trying to achieve. Are their clients matching up with ours? Are their goals aligned with ours? Do they have the skill set they need to for a successful implementation?

M K

Marj Koppelaar

Head of Strategic Partnerships, Mirakl

For organizations looking to expand their horizons to new territories – domestic or international – Channel Marketing can prove to be the ideal platform to operate with. Instead of setting up a complete organization in new geography for customer acquisition, it can be worthwhile to test new waters by engaging with Channel Partners to reach out to prospective Customers and also to gather competitive intelligence.

Channel Partners can maintain stocks and spares too, which makes quicker deliveries possible, leading to faster realization of revenue.

Channel Partner Program

A Channel Partner Program is an association between the Product Organization and its 3rd party Affiliates who agree to team up and sell to the marketplace under pre-drawn terms of the agreement. The whole idea of this program is to maximize reach, harness the existing customer base of sales affiliates, increase and improve touchpoints, conduct sales, and increase revenue in the least possible time to maximize ROI. This whole process is known as Channel Marketing.

What is Channel Partner Management?

The tool which can put all of these activities together with a Channel Strategy, Channel Model, Sales Management, Operations Planning, Partner Performance, Conflict Management between partners, Pricing Mechanism, and Distribution and Revenue Management is known as Channel Management. It facilitates the principal business to manage partners and aligns internal organizations of the enterprise with the aim of satisfying the customer needs consistently in accordance with the brand promise.

What is Channel Partner Management Software?

The key to making this relationship successful between Companies and their Business Partners is Transparency and Turn-Around Time which can be automated with the help of a Channel Partner Program software.

Channel Partner Program Software is a tool that aids Leaders in an Organization to manage Partner ecosystems. This helps them to track, manage, and measure the value that each Partner contributes to the growth of the organization.

It is a software platform made up of various modules driven by technologies depending on the targeted distribution channel in an Industry Vertical.

What is Channel Partner Management Software?

Some of the key features of a Channel Partner Program software are:

Partner Portal

Product Information Module / Product Catalogue

Pricing and Discounting

Training & Certification Module

Incentive & Rewards Module

Sales Analytics

Inventory Management

Logistics Management

Post Sales Management

AMC Modules

Revenue Management

Reports

Compliance Management

Communication Module

Who are the Users of Channel Partner Management Software?

This is a horizontal software platform and can be used by any industry segment that engages Channels to seek and acquire new customers.

This can be a very useful tool for International Marketing, where this platform is extended to international channel partners for engagement management. One can do proper campaign management while running marketing campaigns sitting perhaps tens of thousands of miles away from the site of the campaign. The country partner also functions as the business’ legal anchor and ensures that that nation’s law and statutory regulations related to running a business in a particular industry are complied with.

Some of the leading Industry Vertical users are Telecom Companies, Manufacturing, Insurance, Retail, Finance, Healthcare, Hospitality, and Automotive.

What are the Key Benefits of Channel Partner Management Software?

Faster Partner Onboarding

This software begins with the process of enabling partners to onboard, get trained on various products and solutions designed for the marketplace, obtain certifications, have access to marketing collaterals, resource library, pricing charts, know more about incentives, motivational bonus and rewards, create co-branded collaterals and have access to partner dashboards.

We saw building and supporting a partner ecosystem as a massive opportunity. Early on, the agencies kept getting in contact, wanting to engage, and there was no clear way to do that. So we started building out the partner program.

C S

Chris Samila

Optimizely

Better Lead Management

On the sales cycle side, it can not only help monitor and manage to generate new leads but also help manage the status of orders and revenue cycles. This can be a very important tool for the Channel Manager for engaging and doing follow-ups with channel partners on lead generation and sales performances on a collaborative platform.

Enhancing sales is the final objective, and the key to the success of this objective is proper lead/pipeline management. This platform enables a Channel Manager to know all about the sales-leads product-wise, territory-wise, partner performance-wise, and on various other parameters to draw strategy lines for successful sales closures.

Improved Partner Engagement and Relationship Management

The Channel Manager gets to do a deep-dive and assess the amount of relationship management that a Channel Partner or an end-Customer requires for creating success. This is a handy tool for the Channel Manager for Sales Performance Management of not only the Channel Partners but also the individual Sales Representatives who are the feet on the street and engaging with the end customers. It is the output of this Sales Performance that will help drive a Channel Manager to run an incentive program and a motivation bonus program to enhance sales and see an upward spike in sales efforts.

Many software executives consider the independent channel partners as a readily available, flexible and inexpensive sales resource and nothing could be further from the truth.

H P B

Hans Peter Bech

Author

Transparent Pricing and Discounting

Channel Partners, based on their performances, projects, and territories, obtain a discounting related to the pricing of products to sell to the marketplace. This is a key module for the Partner Manager to keep a tab on the discounting and pricing structure and to manage the profitability of the business.

Seamless Global Operations

When an organization has operations across countries and continents, a unified platform with the ability to manage such a heterogeneous environment helps in meeting statutory and regulatory obligations to adhere to the law of the land. Imagine the complexities an organization having operations in, say, USA and India, who follow not only different accounting methods but also have different periods defined as the financial year, would face in the absence of such modules. Even consent-based marketing guidelines are different in the two countries!

Unified Channel Partner Management Processes

The whole objective is to consolidate all the processes related to Channel Partners on to a single platform and bring it under one login thereby making it easier for a Channel Manager to have a consolidated and unified view monitoring from one location, and the Channel Partners to have access to all information that they need while in their respective locations.

The Communication Management module provides a platform for sharing information on leads and clients.

Most importantly, the software provides segment-wise reports for better analysis and desired actions.

AI in Channel Partner Management Software

The prime application of AI and Machine Learning is to enable this program to help convert leads into sales orders by understanding the customer mindshare.

It’s a known fact that AI and Machine Learning can help analyze huge amounts of data and segment them into a manner to reach out to a specific target audience with a targeted message and call-to-action.

AI helps the Channel Manager strategize for sales performance through predictive analyses by studying the customer behavior patterns to appraise the right quantum of resources to commit to each sales account. AI can also help in fraud detection, and processing applications and claim forms. AI can be used in marketing and branding targeted at individual customer segments to automate the co-branding templates for visibility purposes of Channel Partners.

The integration of AI on this platform is at a very nascent stage, and it is just a matter of time that it will soon penetrate in the coming years to perform complex and critical operations easily and efficiently.

Buyer’s Guide to Choose Right Channel Partner Management Software

Industry Vertical

Every industry vertical has its own operational process to manage its Channel Partners. The major challenge is to automate the process at both ends and extend it seamlessly into the existing legacy systems. For example, the needs of manufacturing, retail, and supply chain organizations all have different ways of managing their channel partners and the business processes would vary. For manufacturing organizations, partner order management is critical, for retail order management, price optimization and shipping would be important. It is important to assess the strength of the business process supported in the software before making the selection.

Maturity of the Channel Partner Program

The organization and their partner ecosystem might be in various phases of maturity in terms of the Channel Partner Program. It is important to assess this and also understand the readiness of the organization to adopt the software. It may be a good idea to implement in a phased manner and choose to implement module by module rather than the whole software at one go. While the Principal Organization may be capable of accepting the whole software, the same may not be true for the Channel Partner. The inability to adapt to such a change by the Channel Partner might lead to a loss in investment and break-down of the complete process.

Standalone or CRM Based

Many CRM systems provide extensive capabilities to cover partner management. These include popular ones like SAP CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce CRM. Standalone Channel Management Software are increasingly rare and they include Impact, Zinfi, Allbound PRM, Leadmethod PRM. There are specialized Partner Management portal software like Channeltivity, Huddle.

Cloud-Based or On-premise

The market trend is towards the adoption of SaaS-based software and they provide ease of management. All partners can easily access the system through a web-based interface. Even on-premise software is expected to provide a web-based interface for partners to seamlessly operate. On-premise software will be useful when the organization has a lot of legacy software that needs tighter integration with the backend systems.

Software Capabilities

While choosing such software one must look at scalability and interoperability with other systems. Also, it is important to assess key functionality like web integration, automated order processing, mobile device support. The software should provide integration and customization capability - specifically to tailor the central partner portal.

ROI of Channel Partner Management Software

Employing effective channel relationships and sales managers to support their Distributors, Resellers, Solution Providers, Dealers, or Agents gives the Principal Organization a competitive edge. In today’s environment, if B2B organizations are going to make it, they need to grow sales intelligently. Channel partnerships can be a big boost in terms of accelerated growth, higher brand awareness, and increased revenue.

In a survey with large IT solutions companies, it is noted that with proper onboarding, training, and incentive parameters for partners, companies can see visible positive results. The survey results showed that on average the revenues increased by 32%, and the market share increased by 30%.

Some of the key indicators which can help calculate the ROI could be the reduction in the cost of onboarding the partners through an online process instead of traditional means by visiting and signing them up for a Partner engagement program. This is a direct time and cost-saving exercise.

Another direct time and cost-saving exercise could be the online training and certification program. It also allows the partner representatives to undergo these learning sessions at their convenience.

Providing all sales collaterals online is another direct cost saving for the organization. One can save the time and effort spent on printing and sending stacks of documents through courier. All information is available in a single repository making it easily accessible anytime, anywhere.

Lead and Pipeline Management is another aspect that requires mention here. Collection and Distribution of leads on a unified platform helps in monitoring the development of these leads.

Such software reduces the time and effort of Channel Manager to a great extent. A structured and unified platform means that all information coming from various Partners will all come in a single unified structured format, and the Channel Manager doesn’t have to manage multiple formats and structures to read similar kinds of information.

Availability of Partner-wise dashboards helps a Channel Manager to manage each individual partner at the click of a button. And also have a complete overview of the Partner Marketing Program.

Challenges in adopting Channel Partner Management Software

The key to the successful implementation of a Channel Partner Program Software is the coming together of Principal Organization and its partners on a common platform in a seamless manner and also being able to integrate this software into their legacy application systems for operational efficiency. In doing so, the elements of success are classified as Partners, Processes, and People.

The Partner's readiness to automate at their end is key to the system, and it can be driven efficiently only if the automation process aligns with the needs of the Partner. The Partner must be able to understand the actual benefit arising out of this automation. The speed of adoption of automation at the Partner’s end might be slow and one has to be patient with the whole scenario while this change mechanism takes place.

Understanding and appreciating one another’s process is another ingredient essential to the success of the implementation of this software. The changes that the current processes might undergo once automation takes place and how such changes will fit in the new framework and lead to better results will be a subject of iteration and constant evaluation.

The leading challenge in making this implementation successful will be to find a set of people with the right skill sets, understanding of operational excellence, flexibility to bend and create new processes and help redefine the existing system to make a new and better system.

Social Media and the Channel Partner Program Software

There is no denying the fact that social media has become an integral part of our personal and professional life. It has also become the fastest way of sending and publishing communication to spread the word. The ability of Channel Partner Marketing Programs to conduct Social Media Management and run Social Media analytics to harness the benefits through such broadcasts helps in reducing time, effort and cost while running campaigns – be it for brand management, product surveys, new product launches or any aspect of marketing as a means of sales enhancement strategy.

Today, many of the Channel Partner Program software available in the market have the ability to launch social media campaigns from this software portal. They help not only in sending and publishing communication but also in managing and analyzing the output of such campaigns. The use of social media analytics tools helps in understanding the end-user behavior based on the treatment of the touchpoint message. Data collected about such behavioral patterns can feed into predictive analyses, thereby making an Organization smarter and better prepared to attend and address upcoming scenarios.

Top 29 Channel Partner Management Software

ZINFI Icon

ZINFI

4.71
★★★★★
★★★★★

ZINFI - Partner Relationship Management

LeadMethod Icon

LeadMethod

4.66
★★★★★
★★★★★

Distributor Lead Management Software | LeadMethod

Allbound PRM Icon

Allbound PRM

4.63
★★★★★
★★★★★

Allbound: Partner Relationship Management Software (PRM)

eZee Centrix Icon

eZee Centrix

4.61
★★★★★
★★★★★

Channel Manager - eZee Centrix

Magentrix PRM Icon

Magentrix PRM

4.59
★★★★★
★★★★★

Magentrix: PRM and Collaboration Solutions for Business

Cubilis Icon

Cubilis

4.47
★★★★★
★★★★★

Cubilis Hotel Software: User-friendly Hotel Software

PartnerStack Icon

PartnerStack

4.45
★★★★★
★★★★★

PartnerStack

channelIT Platform Icon

channelIT Platform

4.45
★★★★★
★★★★★

channelIT Platform | Transforming Channel Program Execution..

Channeltivity PRM Icon

Channeltivity PRM

4.42
★★★★★
★★★★★

Channeltivity: Partner Portal Solution ‚Channel Partner ...

PartnerPath Icon

PartnerPath

4.41
★★★★★
★★★★★

PartnerPath | GROW YOUR CHANNEL SALES

CROSSBEAM Icon

CROSSBEAM

4.37
★★★★★
★★★★★

Crossbeam: Supercharge Your Partnerships

Salesforce Partner Relationship Management Icon

Salesforce Partner Relationship Management

4.19
★★★★★
★★★★★

Partner Relationship Management - Salesforce.com

Elioplus PRM Icon

Elioplus PRM

4.18
★★★★★
★★★★★

Free PRM software to manage your partner network | Elioplus

PartnerPortal Icon

PartnerPortal

4.17
★★★★★
★★★★★

PartnerPortal Platform- A Centralized and Customizable Platform

RezNext Channel Manager Icon

RezNext Channel Manager

4.12
★★★★★
★★★★★

Distribution Channel Manager | Reznext Online Booking Engine

Oracle Partner Management Icon

Oracle Partner Management

4.02
★★★★★
★★★★★

Better Channel Performance At Lower Cost - Oracle Partner Management

ChannelOS Icon

ChannelOS

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

ChannelOS - ChannelXperts

Simpleview Referral Engine Icon

Simpleview Referral Engine

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

Simpleview Book Direct | The Ultimate Booking Referral Engine

Partnerize Platform Icon

Partnerize Platform

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

Partnerize: The Power of Partnership

Model N Rebate Management Icon

Model N Rebate Management

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

Rebate Management Software - Create effective rebate programs

Webinfinity Icon

Webinfinity

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

Webinfinity - Redefining the Partner Experience

Qollabi Icon

Qollabi

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

BRM sales software to plan, collaborate and measure

TravelClick Channel Management Icon

TravelClick Channel Management

4.00
★★★★★
★★★★★

Channel Management |Boost bookings across all OTA channels....

WorkSpan Icon

WorkSpan

3.58
★★★★★
★★★★★

Ecosystem Cloud | WorkSpan

Everflow Icon

Everflow

4.69
★★★★★
★★★★★

Everflow - Partner Marketing Platform

Affise Icon

Affise

4.54
★★★★★
★★★★★

Affise - Performance Marketing Software

Impartner PRM Icon

Impartner PRM

4.46
★★★★★
★★★★★

Impartner PRM We Accelerate Your Channel

ZiftOne Icon

ZiftOne

4.37
★★★★★
★★★★★

ZiftONE - Zift Solutions

Mindmatrix Icon

Mindmatrix

4.32
★★★★★
★★★★★

Mindmatrix | Single Unified Platform that combines PRM software, Direct Sales and Channel Enablement, Channel Marketing .