Why, what, and how: A primer for manufacturers revamping their PRM

by David Rivas

In manufacturing, partner relationships are everything. While the outward appearance of a discrete manufacturer may seem simple, the back-end processes that keep every nut, bolt, part, and widget flowing through the manufacturing floor to the distributor/partner are very complex. For discrete manufacturing, it’s not just partners ordering a single product; it’s complicated quotes, orders, and contracts that include large quantities, complicated bundles, bills of materials, and more. And streamlining the processes that oversee and nurture those partner relationships has long been a challenge for the industry. 

Discrete manufacturers are increasingly turning towards cloud solutions and digital channels to enhance their partner sales process and, hopefully, realize more revenue in the process. High- and moderate-growth manufacturing organizations are prioritizing data availability, higher productivity, and increased collaboration with suppliers in their technology investments. Having a dedicated partner relationship management (PRM) engagement layer is critical to this strategy. 

To get your discrete manufacturing organization ready for a new or modernized PRM setup, it’s crucial everyone from the top-down understands the why, what, and how of servitization and self-service for partners in manufacturing. Let’s get started. 


Why manufacturers need to take PRM up a notch

Discrete manufacturing, more so than other subsectors of the manufacturing space, is very relationship-based and distributor dependent. This means fostering a corporate culture that prioritizes partner loyalty is integral to success. To encourage this stickiness between discrete manufacturers and their many partners, PRMs provide the solution: easy information sharing, negotiation, pricing, and more. With a solid PRM in place, manufacturers can trust that their organization won’t just be a one-off deal with partners but the default they keep coming back to. 

Additionally, PRMs help manufacturing companies recognize more revenue by providing the means for greater visibility into and ownership over the sales cycle. By creating a seamless experience that connects back-end processes with front-end promises, a PRM implementation prioritizes partner relationships like never before. 

Channel or account managers will have all the details they need to remain customer-centric and senior leaders will have access to data to inform the best decisions for business expansion. On top of all that, some discrete manufacturers are expanding into the software-as-a-service arena to expand their relevance. Self-service portals are the name of the game for this kind of expanded product base. Servitization, the shift to that Amazon experience for overt outward company engagement, is a trend that’s not going anywhere—it’s the new expectation. PRM lets manufacturers not just meet that expectation, but exceed it. 


What a modern manufacturing PRM looks like

However your organization decides to shape your PRM, it should include at least three crucial areas proven effective for manufacturing partner relationship: a knowledge base, negotiation/pricing functionality, and personalized features based on partner type. 


Knowledge Base

The foundation of any PRM is the knowledge base: the way your organization presents all the information about specs, inventory, similar products, costs, materials, and more in an accessible, meaningful way for partners and distributors. It’s a large quantity of data to house, and your PRM must organize it intuitively. Better yet, implementing the appropriate triggers and flows so that the relevant information surfaces based on the partner and product in question brings your PRM even closer to a complete self-service experience. You can also involve some advanced features like certifications, learning management, badging, and gamification for your partners. Whatever information your partners have required in the past, consider it part of the PRM and in need of a comprehensive digital treatment. 

Negotiation/pricing Functionality

There is one critical distinction between a typical consumer-based portal and the partner portal most manufacturers are after: enhanced pricing and negotiation functionality. Unlike a typical B2C seller, manufacturers have more flexibility and back-and-forth regarding costs with their distributors and partners. Leveraging advanced capabilities such as rebates, fulfillment, and payment tracking can be a significant advantage that makes your PRM stand out on the commerce and pricing side of things. Making sure your PRM includes intuitive virtual commerce tools is a must for modern partner relationships. 

Personalization Based on Partner Type

Discrete manufacturers don’t just have one type of partner relationship. Between suppliers, distributors, and contractors of varying durations, sizes, and geographic locations, each relationship’s custom concerns and needs vary widely. Crafting your organization’s PRM to have personalized content, features, and approvals is an easy way to make your PRM more useful and intuitive. Take a look at this demo from Salesforce for a peek at how channel management for different partner relationships in manufacturing works. 


How to get started

So we’ve established that PRM is the way forward, but how does the average manufacturer get started on that path? Jumping into a vendor implementation may sound simple, but it will quickly create misunderstanding and unaligned directives internally. Before you implement the new technology for managing your partner engagements, let’s go over four key prerequisites that will prepare your organization for this facet of digital transformation:



1. Culture Shift:

The manufacturing industry typically doesn’t think of their partner relationships as an omnichannel experience to maintain. The traditional approach has been manual spreadsheets that interface with an ERP to keep tabs on inventory and basic communications. Before your organization can start with PRM solutions, senior leaders will need to endorse a widespread cultural change. Adopting a digital-first and customer-centric approach is critical, and many manufacturers are bringing in outside thought leadership to usher in that change of mindset. 

2. Stakeholder Alignment:

Next, senior leaders, investors, and other stakeholders must be on the same page regarding what the organization hopes to achieve via PRM. Address the market share your products have, the partners you already have, and the partners you’d like to expand to. Identify the big drivers and reasons for investing in PRM, whether that’s optimized revenue through a partner community or increased supplier loyalty. The most important thing is that everyone knows what the key objectives are. 

3. Confirm Organizational Goals:

What are the big-picture goals you want to drive with your partners? There are multiple routes your organization may want to take, depending on the partner relationship and history. Are you looking for more efficiency, increased collaboration, greater revenue, or an overall better partner experience? Confirm with your internal team what results you’re looking to yield from your partner portal revamp efforts. 

4. Identify Your Partners’ Wishlist:

Finally, once your culture has begun to shift and you know what you want on a corporate level, you have to take some time to identify the specifics of what your partners want: what information do they need access to, what kinds of requests or communications do they utilize, what workflows will benefit them? If your partner portal isn’t crafted with partner motivations in mind, it won’t take off and deliver the ROI you’re expecting. Create a detailed, thorough wishlist based on partner feedback for how your PRM should function. This will be critical information to bring to the table with vendors and implementation partners. Couple this with your own internal organizational goals from number three above, and make sure the PRM is representative of your organization’s high-level objectives as well as partner wishes. 


Simplus has industry experts with firsthand experience driving technology transformation in the manufacturing space. Reach out today to discover your journey and optimize revenue recognition by building out an exemplary PRM for your organization. Not sure where to begin but need action fast? Our Manufacturing Partner Portal Bolt might just be the answer. 


David Rivas - SimplusDavid has been working in the Salesforce platform ecosystem for over eight years and cloud computing for 18 years. David provides program guidance and Salesforce-specific subject matter expertise, facilitates client project planning, and Salesforce solutions addressing complex business problems in the front office. He is specialized in enabling high-growth, go-to-market strategies that drive top-line revenue and competitive differentiation. As SME, he helps drive consistency with Salesforce leading practices. and brings overall program success.

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