When Is It Time To Switch Your PRM?
It’s a tale as old as time: The first thing a new partnerships leader does is switch to the PRM they know.
But has it ever actually made your partner program better?
Chances are, the switch incited more chaos — confusing partners and sinking time and money that could’ve been spent developing deeper relationships with strategic partners.
The truth is, there are very few times when switching to a different partner relationship management solution is necessary. And that’s because the issues users have with their PRM are often symptoms of underlying structural problems with their partner program.
In this post, we’ll:
- Discuss why people might be tempted to switch PRMs
- Cover the disadvantages of swapping out your PRM
- Provide 4 questions to assess whether switching is really the right next move
Why Might Someone Consider a PRM Switch?
Before we dive into why switching PRMs may not be beneficial, let’s explore some of the reasons why a partnerships leader may consider it. Some of the ones we typically see include:
- An outgrown homegrown system: Perhaps you’re using a smattering of tools to track and manage your partner program. Wanting to unify these tools under one roof, automate manual processes, and streamline your workflow can be great reasons to implement a new, self-service PRM.
- Past experience: In general, people like to bring processes and tools with them to their next role. If they’re unfamiliar with the PRM that’s in place, they’ll just go back to their roots.
- (Real or perceived) functionality gaps: New admins want to drive value right away. And if they don’t think they can execute their plans with the existing tool, they’ll start thinking about getting rid of it. In reality, the modules they need may be available but aren’t currently in the customer’s plan.
- Poor implementation: As we all know, first impressions matter. PRMs are no different. If an admin logs into the PRM and doesn’t see what they want to see, the PRM is on thin ice. Poor team adoption and lack of partner engagement may also be a result of implementation decisions made by your predecessor, not the complete capabilities of the platform.
- Budget: In tough times, switching PRMs — or getting rid of them altogether — may seem like a good way to save money. But instead of spending time searching for cheaper solutions, it likely makes more sense to evaluate each component adding to the cost of your PRM. Maybe there are extra modules, customizations, and integrations you don’t need. It’s also worth reaching out to the vendor and see what they can do. They may put you on a lower plan, give you a dedicated resource to help you reconfigure your PRM, or you may be able to negotiate your rate.
Wanting vs. Needing to Switch PRMs
Raegan Wilson, VP of Ecosystems at Spur Reply, expertly points out, “One thing to note is that there’s a big difference between simply wanting to switch your PRM and needing to switch your PRM. And very few of the reasons above fall under the need category.”
If you’re just going off of the desire to switch rather than looking at the facts — features, functionality, substandard initial implementation, the cost to rip and replace — you risk putting your partners and your team through a costly, and possibly ineffective, swap.
4 Disadvantages of Switching PRMs
Switching PRM software is a big undertaking. You could be committing to months of requirements gathering, migration activities, and developing new training. And that hard work may never pay off. Here’s what could happen:
- You dampen your first impression: You want to start off your new gig with a bang — not in vendor evaluations. You’re much better off spending that time looking at your metrics, revamping your processes, and doing deep dives with the vendor you have. That way, you can determine what other features you might want to turn on or how you could reconfigure your instance to fit your requirements.
- Partner engagement declines: If your portal’s been around for a while, partners are used to the way they access materials, complete additional training, register deals, or request MDF. Learning a new system is probably one of the last things on their priority list. And unless you really carve out time for dedicated training, you’re probably not going to boost your engagement numbers much higher than what you had before. If anything, they’ll drop.
- You use up precious budget: We all know partnership teams tend to get the short end of the stick when it comes to budgets. If you make the switch to a new PRM, you’ll need to allocate budget toward the new contract, the months of overlap you’ll need with your existing tool during the transition, and new consultants or hires to pull off a seamless implementation. Using up that money limits the comarketing and events you can do with your partners. And it limits your pipeline, hurting company revenues.
- Problems can still persist: Raegan explains, “The harsh reality is that even the best PRM in the world can’t fix a poorly designed program. If you’re struggling with certain metrics, it’s better to take an objective look at what’s going on.”
Consider doing a partner program audit to identify the root of your problems. Then, brainstorm ways to make your program better and execute them before you invest in a new PRM.
4 Questions to Ask Before Switching Your PRM
Because of the significant potential drawbacks to a rip and replace, run through these questions before giving your PRM the axe.
1. Have We Exhausted the Capabilities of Our Current PRM?
It’s rare, but possible, to outgrow your PRM. Typically, this happens when a company is acquired by a huge enterprise organization whose partner programs are far more complex. Or a company IPOs and has more elaborate customization requirements than what their PRM provides out of the box.
Most of the time, though, your PRM is likely good enough to do the job. You just have to know how it works. Ask for an end-to-end platform demo. You’ll get to see what modules you’re currently using and which ones are available. Ask questions about other features you’re interested in to make sure you understand what the tool is capable of.
If you still need other features that don’t exist, let your vendor retain you as they work on the product. If they can’t meet your timeline, the best companies will let you know and help you navigate a positive transition.
2. Is Our Team Prepared For and Capable of Doing a Migration?
There’s a lot of prep that goes into a PRM migration. You have to determine how you’re going to bring over all of the records in your existing system, what you’re going to keep and reupload to your resource library, how your training and certification programs might need to change — the list goes on.
That doesn’t even count all the training you have to prepare for partners and the rest of your team. Nor does it consider the reintegrations you’ll have to do with your CRM or marketing automation tools.
If you don’t have a partner operations person, a lot of that work falls on partner managers, who could be spending that time closing more deals. That can start affecting your revenue numbers and introducing employee retention problems. Figure out whether your team even has the bandwidth to consider a switch before entertaining new demos or sales calls.
3. Do We Have the Right Incentives in Place?
We said it once, and we’ll say it again — most partner engagement and performance problems are a function of an ill-conceived partner program.
If you don’t have the right incentives, marketing materials, or training, implementing a new PRM isn’t going to move the needle. Take a beat to really look under the hood and examine your partner program with a fine-toothed comb.
Chances are you’ll find that your ducks aren’t really in a row and that, with a few tweaks to your processes and workflows, your PRM serves its purpose just fine.
4. Should We Get An Independent Assessment?
Just like it’s tough for editors to edit their own writing, it’s tough for you to audit your own partner program. So if you’re waffling between switching PRMs, it can be helpful to get advice and perspective from a third party.
Raegan says, “Sometimes you really need someone to come in and assess your programs. They know what other partner teams are doing and generally know the capabilities of each PRM.”
She continues, “They can evaluate your program objectively, tell you if it’s really worth it to switch, and perhaps more importantly, get everyone on your team aligned on changes to your program moving forward.”
There are pros and cons to every PRM vendor, and it’s natural to get the urge to switch PRMs from time to time, even from role to role. But acting on that urge can have detrimental impacts on your program and your individual reputation.
So, before you take the leap, look inward. The problem just might be an internal one you can fix — without upending your budget.
If you’re wondering what you can do to build an excellent partner program, check out:
Building a Career in Partnerships: Advice From 7 Partner Leaders
Inheriting a Partner Program: Advice From 6 Experts