Channel Partner Relationship Management: 10+ Best Practices

Discover the top 10 best practices for managing channel partner relationships. Improve your partner management strategy with expert insights.
Image of author Nick Cotter

By Nick Cotter
Updated Jan 10, 2024

Channel Partner Relationship Management: 10+ Best Practices
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In order to grow your business, you need a strong network of channel partners because they're a trusted source of information for B2B buyers. In fact, B2B buyers have 21% more trust in partners than in sales reps.

Partner relationship management helps you manage your partners as well as their relationships with you. It’s a critical component of any partner program and is designed to help accelerate the adoption, engagement, and sales of your products.

Partner relationship management helps streamline an entire organization through the automation of crucial tasks such as lead assignment, self-service portal access, and training programs. The result is happier partners who sell more products because they’re able to better serve all customers efficiently.


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What is Partner Relationship Management?

Partner relationship management (PRM) refers to a set of processes and practices that help an organization manage its relationships with partners. The goal is to improve the partnership between the vendor and its partners. 

Partner relationship management covers a wide range of business processes and functions. It includes partner lifecycle, partner portal, demand generation, channel marketing automation, training portal, knowledge-base portal, deal registration system, and sales enablement among others.

Best Practices for Managing B2B Partnerships:

1. First, Know Your Partners.

The relationship between a business and one of its partners is only as strong as the foundation. If you build your partnership on a shaky base, it won’t survive for long. Let’s avoid any issues by ensuring that you and your partner are on the same page from the beginning.

Before you can get started with anything else, it’s crucial to understand who your partners are and what they stand for—and to make sure they do the same for you. You should take time to:

  • Understand each partner’s business needs and objectives so that you can establish how well they align with yours over time.
  • Get to know each partner organization inside-out, including its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its people.

2. Set Expectations for Each Partner Program.

To get the most out of a partner program, it’s important to set expectations for what each party will get (and give) from the relationship. As with any relationship, clear communication is key. 

There are a number of ways to help ensure your message is heard and understood:

  • Share your vision and goals. Help each partner understand how your work supports their partner marketing efforts. Get them excited about what you’re building together! Show them how their efforts can make a difference in their day-to-day work lives.
  • Use tools, like a PRM software to outline and communicate expectations. Nothing communicates intention like explicit written standards, so commit your expectations to writing using Airtable or the document format of your choice.
  • Establish realistic goals and metrics early on. Are you expecting a certain amount of traffic from this partnership? Or do you want them to place an ad on their site? Are there any other key performance indicators that would make this partnership successful? Clarify those goals up front!

3. Use the Right Tools to Communicate with Partners.

Communication is an essential part of any partnership. For example, imagine having to manage partner operations without email or telephones. If you have a smaller number of partners, you can use video conferencing tools like Skype, Zoom, Hangouts, and the like to hold regular meetings and make sure everyone stays in the loop about what's going on.

However, if you have a larger number of partners that are spread out across different geographies and time zones then this may not be feasible because it is difficult to get everyone together at once for a meeting. In this case, it makes sense to use other communication tools such as email and partner portals or PRM software (intranets) where you can post up-to-date information about upcoming initiatives, new promotions and other news that all your partners should know about.

Project management software like Trello or Asana can also be useful for managing projects with partners by allowing all stakeholders to share documents and communicate with each other through the platform. There are many other tools available depending on your needs so make sure you do your research before choosing one!

4. Trust, but Verify (Measure).

Measure the performance of your partners.

Set up a system for measuring partner performance. Consider what metrics are most important to your partner’s success, and how you can gather that data on a regular basis. Keep in mind that if you’re not already receiving this information, you’ll need an easy way to gather it from your partners.

If possible, automate this process so that it begins right away when a new partner “goes live” with your product. For example: if tracks hotel bookings through their site, they may require hotels to install a tracking code on their site in order to receive commissions on reservations completed there.

Know your partner's KPIs and measure them regularly against the overall plan or target set by the PM team /partner managers/ PMO. You can build trust with partners by sharing each other's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 

Ensure close alignment of goals between partnerships teams and the larger organization; share information about the broader company goals with partners, as well as relevant KPIs for each department at both organizations; and encourage transparency between partnership and sales teams so that both organizations have access to customer data and know what is happening with accounts across all departments (i.e., not just partnerships).

Check out this amazing post by Tech Partnerships Leader at Gorgias, Chris Lavoie:

5. Strong Partner Relationships are Necessary for Business Success.

Strong partner relationships are necessary for business success. They're built on trust and trust is earned through effective communication and accountability. Because trust is critical to program success, it's important to lay the foundation of a strong partner relationship from day one with healthy expectations and clear communication.

Trust and Expectations: You can build strong relationships with partners by setting mutual expectations early in the onboarding process. A few examples of expectations include payment schedules, incentives (if any), data sharing schedules, performance metrics, and responsibilities of each party. Setting these expectations upfront will ensure you both understand what is expected from the partnership so that your relationship can be established

Regular Communication: The key to managing a successful b2b program is regular communication. Partner portals are great tools to help keep partners informed about new products/services, incentives available, and how they're performing in their program.

What are the Benefits of Partner Relationship Management?

1. Better Partner Onboarding Process.

Companies that provide an on-demand, self-service portal for their partners have several benefits:

  • Faster time to revenue. Partners can get what they need more quickly and easily.
  • Easier way to add and manage new partners. It's easier for you to onboard new partners because there is a standardized approach.
  • Better way to share standardized information. You can use help docs, videos, or other resources that are easy to access and update.
  • Better experience for partners when they work with your company.

More Reliable Partner Relationships.

Greater alignment. 

A trusted partner relationship means that you and your partners are truly aligned, with common goals and interests. You’re not just relying on each other to accomplish tasks or get through the day — you’re really collaborating to achieve shared goals, whether that’s increased sales or a more streamlined business model.

Greater loyalty. 

Partner relationship management can help your organization develop closer relationships with your partners, which can lead to greater brand loyalty — as well as more reliable partner relationships overall. Your partners are more likely to be committed to your business when they feel like they're a part of it (and aren't just a cog in the machine), so make sure they feel like they have a voice in your organization and listen to what they have to say!

2. Stronger Partner Retention Rate.

Reduce Churn: A partner relationship management system can help you improve partner retention, which in turn can reduce churn. In other words, partners are less likely to leave because you are able to provide a better experience for them.

Increase Loyalty: An improved partner experience will also increase the loyalty of your partners, as well as that of their customers. Partners will become more loyal if they feel valued by you and your business.

Increase Revenue Per Customer: Partners who feel valued by you may also spend more money with your company as a result. This is especially true if they have access to exclusive offers or discounts that only their business can provide. This can lead to an increase in revenue per customer over time because they're spending more on average than before joining forces with each other--and maybe even beating out competitors who aren't offering those perks yet!

A Partner Relationship Management System (PRMS) is an approach used by businesses to manage relationships between two or more parties that share similar goals and interests. It involves creating strategies for maintaining effective partnerships while maximizing profits from these relationships at the same time-a win/win situation all around!

3. Accurate and Real-Time Data Capture.

With the right PRM tool, you’ll be able to accurately measure each partner’s contribution. This allows you to reward those who are helping you achieve your sales goals and make changes for those who are falling behind. With real-time data at your fingertips, you can also make better decisions about how to market your business and improve ROI.

Capturing accurate data is one thing—validating it is another story. Several PRM solutions enable partner validation checks that allow you to verify that the information submitted is valid before it’s entered into your system. With this feature in place, you can rest easy knowing that your team is making decisions based on credible data.

Once a partner has validated their contact information, you have the ability to share records with that specific account or with all partners. The latter option helps ensure consistency across your channel so internal partners can easily access the appropriate information when they need it

4. Better Shared Access to Information Between Sales Teams and Partners.

Information sharing is crucial to the success of any relationship. The same holds for vendor-partner relationships.

Partners want to be able to access information quickly and easily so they can see what's happening in the sales pipeline, review a customer's account history and make sure they're using all of your products. This gives them the tools they need to provide better service to their own customers and sell more effectively.

However, if a partner doesn't have quick or easy access to information about their customers or other partners, it can lead them to feel out of control or frustrated with how long things take - both of which are common complaints we've heard from partners over the years.

5. Improved Sales Pipeline Visibility for Partners.

Partner relationship management provides a crystal ball for channel partners, so that they can make more accurate forecasts and plan for long-term sales. 

This is because it provides visibility into the partner’s sales pipeline—giving them insights on what deals are coming down the line, and when they can expect them to close. These insights empower partners to plan ahead, rather than scrambling at the last minute to reach their monthly or quarterly goals.

Once you have this data from your partners, you can use it in conjunction with your own company’s data to get a holistic view of your upcoming revenue streams across channels. This allows for smarter selling strategies that leverage both internal teams and channel partners—and more effective planning overall.

6. Increased Brand Awareness With Clients.

Increased brand awareness with clients.

PRM helps customers learn more about your business and the wide range of products or services that you offer. The information shared gives clients a better understanding of what your company does and how it can benefit them. In turn, this helps increase brand loyalty and is a key part of the customer experience.

A larger audience reach through partners.

When you partner with companies to sell your products, you can expand your reach in the market. You have access to an entirely new customer base that would otherwise not know about your brand. This can help increase sales for both parties involved and create greater revenue streams for everyone involved.

Increased customer satisfaction leads to greater profits.

Customers who receive quality service are more likely to be satisfied with their purchases, which means they will shop with that company again in the future or recommend it to others in their network who are looking for similar products or services.

To Sum Up Partner Relationship Management:

PRM is a big picture strategy that brings all your partner relationships together in one place. It helps you:

  • Grow your revenue by building new partnerships that are aligned with your business goals.
  • Maintain strong, profitable relationships by providing the right tools to support and engage with each of your partners.
  • Strengthen your brand in the market through consistent branding across all your marketing channels and material.
  • Make it easy for partners to find and access the content, demos, and other resources they need to do their jobs more effectively.
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Nick Cotter

Nick Cotter

Founder & CEO

With over 7 years navigating the intricate realms of marketing, and specifically B2B partner marketing, Nick has forged collaborations with top-tier tech brands, prominent agencies, and some of the industry's foremost B2B publishers and content creators. His deep immersion in both marketing landscapes showcases a trajectory of expertise and innovation. Identifying a significant void in specialized resources, he founded Growann.The aspiration? Deliver unparalleled insights and guidance, carving out a dedicated space where the broader marketing and B2B partner marketing communities can flourish.