Enterprise Apps

Salesforce Offers Alternative to Old-School Partner Portals

Salesforce on Wednesday announced the Sales Cloud Lightning Partner Relationship Management app as a replacement for partner portals and electronic data interchanges that lack modern features such as built-in mobile, social analytics and AI capabilities.

The PRM app has an interactive Guided Setup Wizard that lets channel managers configure, customize and deploy the app in days. It manages lead distribution, deal registration and marketing development funds, and it automatically assigns partners into meaningful tiers for targeted promotions and customized content. It also has AppExchange Components such as Xactly and NetExam.

Among Sales Cloud Lightning PRM’s Features:

  • Lightning CMS Connect, which lets channel managers drag and drop existing website content, graphics and videos to keep branded partner experiences up to date;
  • Einstein Content Recommendations, which use machine learning to recommend files such as logo graphics, product placement instructions, and pricing documentation for a new product; and
  • Channel Marketing Automation, which lets companies build, track and analyze email campaigns using the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, to deliver 1:1 customer journeys on any device.

“Sales Cloud PRM is all about making your partners an extended part of your sales team and giving them the tools and information needed to accelerate deals,” said Greg Gsell, senior director of Salesforce sales cloud product marketing.

It’s “a turnkey app … built entirely on the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform, which includes Service Cloud,” he told CRM Buyer. Service Cloud “helps companies globally … deliver intelligent, conversational customer service.”

Partners account for one third of the average company’s revenue, and more than two-thirds of revenues for companies in high-tech, manufacturing and telecom, Salesforce has found.

Salesforce’s Rationale

“PRM is not new,” noted Rebecca Wettemann, VP of Nucleus Research.

“What’s new is Salesforce’s approach, which brings a modern UI and AI capabilities to PRM,” she told CRM Buyer.

The app “gives customers the advantages of Salesforce’s workflow automation and other tools for partner management, not just community collaboration,” Wettemann said.

It will improve partner stickiness for users, because “in a cloud world, partners can switch alliances more easily and quickly,” she pointed out. “Providing them with modern tools and more ready access to support will make switching less attractive.”

Partner relationship management “used to just be lead distribution, but now companies must deeply engage with partners to drive channel success,” noted Gsell. “You need PRM blended with CRM to deliver a great experience.”

Manufacturing companies are placing increasing emphasis on customer relationships, customer service, and new technologies such as AI, because technology makes it easier for customers to switch, said Salesforce.

Einstein “can help partners with content recommendations, and I can see it progressing to suggest optimum product and solution bundles,” observed Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

Target Market

The PRM app “is for any company or industry … looking to increase partner engagement and deal velocity within their channel sales organizations,” Gsell said.

Manufacturing, high-tech and telecoms “have the highest amount of revenue coming from indirect channels such as resellers, distributors and partners,” Constellation’s Zhou told CRM Buyer.

The PRM app “simplifies the setup process and minimizes the need for IT support for companies to help their partners get up and running fast,” she said.

Accessing the latest information on products or solutions, marketing materials and sales team training via mobile devices is becoming increasingly critical, Zhou noted, and the PRM app’s one-stop-shop solution “can lead to increased sales and faster deal cycles.”

The app’s strengths are mobile engagement for partners, a clean UI, and integration with CMS, learning management systems and compensation, Zhou said.

However, at US$25 per member per month, “it could be challenging for companies with broad networks of partners, resellers, distributors and dealers to enable,” she cautioned.

Other companies, such as Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM and Zoho, have partner enablement portals that “are due for a refresh,” Zhou pointed out. “There will be more announcements to come.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.

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