Partnership programs are growing in popularity among B2B SaaS companies as a way for brands to reach new audiences, land bigger deals, and ultimately, drive more revenue. While you don’t need any fancy tools to launch a partnership, managing your partner program manually works best when it’s small. As your program scales, it can be difficult to attribute sales and coordinate payments for a growing number of partners across spreadsheets and emails. That’s where partner relationship management (PRM) software comes in.
Today we’ll break down everything you need to know about PRM software: what it is, how it works, and what factors you should consider before buying it.
What is PRM software?
PRM is short for partner relationship management. Partner relationship management software (PRM software) is technology designed to manage partner relationships and make it easier to grow partner programs like affiliate, referral, and reseller programs.
You might already use CRM (customer relationship management) software in your business today as a centralized place to manage your connections with customers and prospects, and connect that information to other tools. PRMs do the same thing for your relationship with your partners, providing you and your partners with a single source of truth.
What does PRM software do?
1. Manage all of your partners
Your PRM platform allows you to keep track of each partner’s information, pipeline, and performance all in one place (so you don’t have to coordinate across spreadsheets, CRMs, and emails). Using a PRM tool, you can easily search and filter your partner database so you can quickly find individual partners or groups of partners. You can navigate to each partner’s individual profile to see their sales activity and performance metrics. If you have training associated with your program, you may also be able to use your PRM software to track your partners’ learning progress.
2. Automate partner onboarding
As your program scales, you’ll be bringing in more and more partners into your program—and consequently, have less and less time to help them each get set up. That’s where automated onboarding can be a useful tool. You can use PRM software to create automated welcome flows to introduce yourself as your partners’ key point of contact, get them situated in their partner portal, and provide orientation on rewards, payments, and other frequently asked questions.
3. Communicate with partners
In addition to managing your partners’ data, PRM software allows you to communicate with them. While the exact communication capabilities may vary from platform to platform, broadly speaking, you should be able to use your PRM to contact individual partners or blast messages to all participants in your program. This might include communication channels like direct messages (DMs), banner announcements, or automated emails that trigger when partners perform a certain action.
4. Track partner-referred leads and customers
Crucially, PRM software allows you to track your partners’ conversions, whether those are in the form of purchases via an affiliate link, lead referrals, or closed deals. The tracking will vary slightly depending on what kinds of partner program(s) you’re running. For instance, your PRM will generate custom links for your affiliate partners that automatically track their conversions. Referral partners will use your PRM to fill out lead forms, which then sync with your CRM, so your sales team can follow up. Reseller partners will close deals directly in your PRM, which then sync directly with your internal CRM.
While some PRM software supports multiple program types, others will only allow you to run one at a time, so it’s important to keep your long-term goals in mind as you choose a platform. If you think you may eventually run multiple types of programs at once, be sure to choose a PRM that has that functionality.
5. Provide partners with resources and training
Rather than sending the same assets to each of your partners individually, PRM software allows you to create a centralized resource hub. Here, you can host sales collateral, digital assets, and any documentation explaining your program or answering partner FAQs—enabling your partners to self-serve these resources as they need them. If your PRM has an integration with channel marketing software, your partners may even be able to generate co-branded materials they can share with buyers.
Depending on your PRM’s capabilities, you may also be able to integrate a learning management system (LMS), so you can create training courses for your partners and allow them to earn certifications right from your partner portal.
6. Facilitate (or automate) partner payments
Late or miscalculated payments can cause engagement issues with partners—and a huge headache for you. If you want to keep your partners happy and committed to your program, it’s important to ensure they get paid in an accurate and timely manner. PRM software makes it easy to stay on top of your partner commissions and ensure they’re being paid correctly.
Rather than manually calculating your partners’ earnings, PRMs automatically calculate partner commissions and keep a log of payment, so you can be sure you’re not only compensating them correctly, but also you’re only dealing with one invoice every month. Some tools will even allow partners to withdraw their funds directly so, when their commission has been processed, they can collect their earnings with no intervention needed from you.
7. Motivate partners with rewards and incentives
You can also use PRM software to design a compelling rewards structure for your partners. For instance, you can create rewards tiers that partners unlock after reaching a certain revenue threshold and even offer bonus incentives based on performance, completing certification courses, and more. You could also set up monthly challenges for your partners to help achieve specific goals, like promoting a new product or boosting sales at the end of a quarter. This kind of gamification is highly motivating for partners and can be an effective way of boosting their engagement in your program.
8. Free your bandwidth for experimentation
With a PRM, you can rest assured that your routine partner administration tasks are all running smoothly in the background. This frees up your bandwidth to experiment and get creative with your program. You can spend more time engaging with your partners, perfecting your rewards structure, and running experiments to help grow your program. By doing less manual work, you can do more of what’s really going to crank up revenue.
Do I need to use PRM software?
You don't strictly need PRM software in order to manage partner relationships or run a partner program.
However, only partner programs at the very earliest stages should be managed manually. Storing partner information in a spreadsheet isn't scalable or secure. Paying partners manually every month will inevitably lead to delays or errors as you add more partners and the customers they bring.
If you’re feeling the pain of managing your growing partner program in spreadsheets, or your program is starting to show traction and you want to be ready for the next step, you can feel confident that it’s the right time to start using PRM software.
Does using a PRM benefit partners?
Yes! Most PRMs are not used solely by program managers, but also by the partners themselves. The section of a PRM that partners interact with is often referred to as the partner portal.
The partner portal is where partners can log in to get their referral links, submit leads and deals, access resources, and interact with you and your program. What a partner portal can do varies depending on the PRM software you look at; the main thing you need to keep in mind is that your partner portal is the primary way partners experience your program, and has a real effect on whether they stay engaged or not.
The partner portal checklist
Ask the below questions when reviewing different partnerships software to ensure you pick a platform designed to engage and empower partners.
- Do partners have their own dedicated portal or dashboard?
- Is the interface appealing and easy to use for partners?
- Can you segment partners and customize their experience?
- Is it easy to customize the program application form?
- Is there a place to host resources for partners?
- Can partners see their own reports and data?
- Can partners message you directly from the portal?
- Can you promote special offers and rewards to partners?
- Can partners withdraw their own payments?
Can a PRM bring me more partners?
While a good PRM improves the partner experience and can help partners stick with your program, it won’t necessarily bring you more partners. To bring in more partners from outside your own channels, you’ll want to connect with a partner network.
Most PRM platforms don’t come with any kind of partner network attached, but PartnerStack does. Recruiting partners can be one of the most especially challenging parts of launching a new program. PartnerStack can accelerate the traction of your program by connecting you to over 65,000 active, experienced B2B partners by making your new program discoverable through the PartnerStack Marketplace.
How is B2B PRM software different from B2C?
B2B partner programs have very different needs than B2C. Typically B2C partnership programs are quite straightforward: Partners share an affiliate link and when someone purchases through that link, they earn a cut of the profits. But B2B partner programs may have many different “conversion” points in a complex sales cycle—and your PRM software needs to be equipped to handle this added complexity.
Choosing the right software to manage your B2B partner program can make a huge difference in how fast your program scales. For best results, choose PRM software that’s built with the unique needs of B2B in mind. Look for a tool that lets you track conversions across the entire sales funnel, scale partnerships across multiple channels, and automate routine tasks like onboarding and paying partners.
Do PRMs work best for a specific kind of partner program?
Nope! PRM software can support all kinds of partner programs. The choice to start using a PRM isn’t so much about the type of partner program(s) you’re running, it’s more about the size of your program and its complexity.
PRMs allow you to scale your partnerships strategy by eliminating most—if not all—of the manual work involved in managing each partner. Affiliate and referral programs, for instance, can scale to include tens, hundreds, or even thousands of partners. Can you imagine running that program manually in a spreadsheet? Too messy.
PRMs also allow you to accommodate different kinds of partners, so you can tap into the distinct kinds of value they offer. You can run affiliate, referral, and reseller programs simultaneously, with minimal admin work required from you.
Plus, if you’re interested in building out another type of partner program, you can use your PRM to sort and filter promising candidates from your existing program. For instance, many companies use their top-performing affiliate partners as a source of referral partners, or top-performing referral partners as a source of reseller partners. With a PRM, you can easily identify promising candidates and invite them to participate in your new program.
What can’t a PRM do?
When it comes to supporting your partnerships program, there’s no better tool—but a PRM is just that, a tool. It can’t create a partnership strategy for you. That’s up to you, but we have a whole lot of resources to help you out:
- What kind of partner program is right for you?
- 5 questions to answer before launching your partner program
- Avoid the most common partner program launch mistakes
- Your guide to building partner personas (for more profitable partnerships)
- How to promote your program and recruit the right partners
- What great partner onboarding looks like (with examples!)
- How Unbounce onboarding 5000+ partners with automation
- Perfect your partner rewards and commissions with these 7 questions
- How Looka uses tiered rewards to grow its affiliate program
- Why partner education can make or break your partner program
- How to keep top-performing affiliates engaged—and how to push them away
- Partner program KPIs: the metrics you should measure and optimize
- How Monday.com grew partner-driven sales by 200% YoY by creating a clear path to partner success
Ready to pick a PRM?
Now you have an overview of everything you need to know about PRMs—how they work, what you can use them for, and what you should know before purchasing. PRM software is the ideal support system for any B2B brand looking to scale its partnerships program, but you have to be careful that the PRM you choose meets your company’s unique needs. Pro-tip: Check out different listings and do your research so you can make an informed decision that serves your company best.
PartnerStack is the only partnerships platform built with the unique needs of B2B SaaS in mind. Easily recruit partners through the PartnerStack marketplace, create templated onboarding flows, and automate partner payouts. The proof is in the partnerships.