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Partnerships 101: What is a PRM and should I use one?

Note: This is the latest in our Partnerships 101 series. You can read the others below:

Time moves fast in the partnership world.

Every month, it feels like there's a new software tool vying for your attention. The partnership ecosystem is exploding, and there are no signs of a slowdown.

For tech and channel managers looking to grow their partner program, all these changes bring new challenges. Partner relationship management (PRM) tools can help you accelerate sales—but what, exactly, is a PRM? And how do you choose a platform that meets your needs, both now and into the future? What's the best PRM software for you?

Serving a wide range of partner ecosystems here at Crossbeam gives us an insider's perspective on which tools work best for different partners. To shed some light, we've put together a top-level overview of 10 common PRM tools on the market in 2020. For each tool, we'll highlight a few key features, describe the companies and partnerships best suited to each tool, and share an overview of pricing if available.

But first, let's get clear on the basics: what “PRM” stands for, how a PRM tool helps drive sales, and why you'd ever need a PRM.

Jump ahead:

What is a PRM?

Partner Relationship Management (PRM) tools help channel sales managers and channel marketers, connect and automate all the pieces of their partner management process within one tool. Think of PRM as a gated portal solely dedicated to serving your channel partners.  

This is not to be confused with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Although, confusingly, CRM makers also sometimes make PRMs.

Keeping everything in one PRM tool means partner managers can remove redundant steps from their workflow and optimize (or even automate) essential tasks like education or lead registration. Partner managers can achieve more in less time, keeping partners happy and productive—and happy partners lead to a growing ecosystem.

Common features for PRM tools

While every partner program has its differences, most PRM tools include the same core functionality: 

  • Automating partner onboarding
  • Providing partners with a central management portal that's easy to set up and manage
  • Sharing educational and sales enablement resources
  • Simplifying the process of logging leads and deals
  • Enabling fast payments of affiliate commissions
  • Forecasting channel sales and analyzing which partners are most effective
  • Preventing sales and channel conflicts by ensuring leads aren't assigned to more than one partner

A birds-eye view of the PRM software space

In 2018, Forrester reported 23 vendors offering some level of PRM functionality, driving $350 million in revenue per year. Since then, the tide continues to rise—Forrester predicts the PRM software market will grow to $679 million by 2023.

prm-software-tech-stack

An overview of channel software technology. Image via Forrester

"The PRM market is growing because more executive teams, as well as channel, marketing, and sales professionals, are recognizing the impact of third-party influencers in getting to new buyers," writes Jay McBain, Principal Analyst for Forrester. "They are placing trust in PRM providers to act as strategic partners, allowing them to broaden their reach and influence the partner journey in new ways."

With so many new tools in an already crowded space, the challenge becomes choosing the right PRM solution for your needs. There's no one-size-fits-all answer: while most partner programs follow the same best practices, every company has different workflows, different requirements, and different challenges.

To help you make the right decision, let's dive into our list of the 10 best PRM tools, starting with the ubiquitous Salesforce.

Salesforce Partner Relationship Management

Even the strongest PRM tool is only valuable if staff and partners understand how to use it. For companies already using Salesforce as their customer relationship management or “CRM” solution, Salesforce Partner Relationship Management is a strong contender in the partner management space.

prm-software-impactA screenshot of Salesforce PRM. Image via Salesforce

Salesforce PRM integrates tightly with the company's existing CRM functionality—users can launch and customize a complete client portal for both desktop and mobile, without needing to learn new tools or code. Salesforce also provides out-of-the-box lead management workflows, and channel performance report—companies can deliver qualified leads to partners automatically, prevent lead conflicts, and more. The numbers back this up: Salesforce claims that companies that use Sales Cloud PRM have observed a 46% increase in partner engagement, a 33% increase in deal registration, and a 33% increase in partner collaboration.

Salesforce PRM typically serves channel managers and channel sales teams across industries ranging from consumer electronics and computer software through to non-profits, real estate, professional training, and more. Reviews from G2 Crowd are evenly spread across small businesses, mid-market companies, and large enterprises. Salesforce does not publicly provide pricing information for its PRM solution.

Consider Salesforce if… you already heavily rely on its CRM.

ZINFI

Most companies selling through the channel have some existing infrastructure—it's often not practical to rip and replace what's already working. By splitting optional features out from their core platform, ZINFI's partner relationship management tool lets companies pick and choose only the features and tools they need, and integrate with what's already in place.

prm-software-zinfi

A screenshot of ZINFI's PRM platform. Image via G2

ZINFI's platform includes modules that partner managers can configure to fit the organizations' existing infrastructure. As your partner program expands and you define more procedures and policies, you can add more modules without increasing costs. This modular approach makes it easy for new partner managers to get started without feeling overwhelmed. 

ZINFI addresses the channel management needs of all types of organizations, from small, emerging companies to Fortune 100 enterprises. The company doesn't share pricing information publicly, but they do offer a 30-day free trial to test drive the software.

Consider ZINFI if… you want to automate your channel activities without throwing away your current processes.

Allbound PRM

Boasting well-known customers like Zoom, WPEngine, and Uberflip, Allbound's high reviews have earned them a reputation as an industry leader in the PRM space.

prm-software-allbound

An example partner portal built with Allbound. Image via Allbound

Partners can get onboarded and start leveraging the extensive partner portal immediately, without needing training or significant customization. Partner managers can make training materials like instructional videos and quizzes accessible to partners when they need it, simplifying the experience for partners and increasing engagement. Allbound also assigns a dedicated Customer Success Manager to each client—in addition to helping with setup, CSMs also share insights into best practices and strategies for overcoming common partnership obstacles.

The Allbound PRM platform starts at $1,595/month (billed annually). While higher-tier packages include some additional features, there are no limits on the number of users and partners.

Consider Allbound if… you value flexibility and intuitive design.

Bonus: We recently sat down with Allbound CEO Daniel Graff-Radford to learn how to modernize your partner program

PartnerStack

PartnerStack (previously known as GrowSumo) positions their PRM platform as a full-stack solution for SaaS companies to manage their partner marketing, referral, and reseller channel activities from a single platform.

prm-software-partnerstack

An overview of PartnerStack's PRM software. Image via PartnerStack

After launching in 2015, PartnerStack has expanded to become a leading PRM tool in the tech space, with top software companies like Asana, Drift, and Intuit using PartnerStack to power their referral and affiliate programs. PartnerStack also offers technology partners the opportunity to generate new revenue and promote their products through the PartnerStack Marketplace.

An analysis of PartnerStack's reviewers on G2 indicates that the tool is mostly used by small businesses with up to 50 employees and mid-market companies with up to 1,000 employees. According to G2, PartnerStack starts at $800/month for SMB (billed annually).

Consider PartnerStack if… you're a fast-growing SaaS company looking to break into channel sales.

LeadMethod

For companies selling through distributors but struggling to turn leads into sales, LeadMethod's PRM platform has your back.

prm-software-leadmethod

A screenshot of LeadMethod's PRM platform. Image via LeadMethod

Working with more than 40,000 suppliers, reps, and distributors, LeadMethod helps companies engage their distributors and help them sell more. The company claims that its clients observe 10-20% revenue growth. LeadMagnet's real-time dashboard helps sales reps identify high and low performers, visualize their sales pipeline and revenue estimates by region, and measure the ROI and conversion rates across marketing channels. The platform can be used as a stand-alone tool or integrates with over 65 CRM, marketing automation, and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

Looking at the platform's reviewers on G2 also indicates that LeadMethod is mostly used by small businesses and mid-market companies. Like most of the PRM tools on our list, LeadMethod does not publicly provide pricing information.

Consider LeadMethod if… you're selling primarily through distributors and outside representatives.

Zift Solutions

After their 2017 merger with software company RelayWare, Zift Solutions offers a platform for managing partner relationships and supporting channel teams.

prm-software-zift

Zift's partner relationship management tool. Image via GetApp

Designed for larger organizations with sophisticated partner programs, Zift's end-to-end PRM suite delivers a complete set of integrated tools for partner program management, recruitment and onboarding, and deal registration and management. Partner managers can measure and monitor prospects and partners based on activity to quickly identify which partners are most valuable to their business. New partners can also access self-service training and certification programs, with automated rules for pass criteria and validation.

According to Capterra, Zift Solutions best serves enterprise companies and established vendors that rely heavily on channel partners. Reviews from G2 back this up, with the majority of reviewers coming from large enterprises. Zift Solutions does not share pricing information.

Consider Zift if… your channel program operates at enterprise scale.

Magentrix

Particularly for first-time partner managers, PRM tools can feel overwhelming. Magentrix's PRM platform makes it easy for new users to get started—"It's not magic," states their website headline, "It's Magentrix."

prm-software-magentrix

An example partner portal built using Magentrix. Image via Magentrix

Playbooks let partner managers target different prospects at different stages in the sales cycle with the right content, and deliver content to channel partners to use as a sales enablement tool. Magentrix is also lauded by G2 reviewers for their quality of support, with staff often making adjustments to the platform itself to best meet the needs of their customers.

Looking at reviews from G2, Magentrix is most popular with mid-market companies, although some small businesses and large enterprises also use the platform. While Magentrix doesn't share pricing information publicly, they do offer a discount for non-profit organizations.

Consider Magentrix if… you're a tech company launching your channel program, and looking to integrate with the tools you're already using.

Impartner

Trusted by nearly seven million users across clients ranging from small and midsize businesses to Fortune 500 organizations, Impartner helps companies build a world-class partner experience in "as few as 14 days."

prm-software-impartner

An example of adding partner content within Impartner. Image via G2

Impartner's core platform includes features common to most PRM tools out of the box, like partner recruiting and onboarding and deal registration. Like ZINFI, Impartner also offers optional modules for features like partner location, business intelligence, co-branded collateral, and event calendars. Impartner offers real-time integration with top CRM tools like Salesforce. The integrated platform means partner managers can be up and running quickly—Impartner claims their proprietary white-glove onboarding process can go live in as few as 14 days.

Impartner's PRM is used by top companies in several industry verticals including high-tech, manufacturing, health sciences, and telecommunications. An analysis of the platform's reviewers on G2 indicates that it is more popular among mid-market companies and large enterprises. Pricing for Impartner PRM is not available on the company website.

Consider Impartner if… you're a mid-to-large company looking to launch a partner platform quickly.

TUNE

Small but mighty, TUNE (formerly HasOffers) is a growing force in the PRM scene, with clients like Shopify, Groupon, Chewy, and Rackspace.

prm-software-tune

A screenshot of TUNE's PRM software. Image via Capterra

Built specifically for advertisers, TUNE's primary benefit is flexibility. TUNE's well-documented API provides more than 650 endpoints, meaning almost every function of the platform can be automated or integrated into other applications. For companies that lack development support, TUNE also offers professional services to aid in migration and development. 

Taking a look at G2 reviews, the platform is most popular with small businesses with up to 50 employees and mid-market companies with up to 1,000 employees. TUNE is affordable compared to others on our list—the company offers multiple pricing plans starting at $279 per month for networks and $499 per month for advertisers.

Consider TUNE if… You're running an affiliate program or high-volume advertising network.

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