Account managers can use Excel sheets to manage information related to their partners. For instance, you can easily dedicate rows to take note of the account type, turnover rate, and account manager in charge. You can also collaborate with other partners by importing the files to Google Sheets.
If you’re a small business with a few partners, this arrangement seems reasonable. However, as your business relationships grow, it becomes more difficult to manage an increasingly complex partnership strategy and channel strategy.
How to stay on top of partner-related information? Before we offer a solution, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.
The Problem with Excel Sheets
It’s no secret that Excel sheets have a lot of limitations. Our product owner Mélanie Brossard shared some of the issues she encountered when using it to make account plans.
Let’s take a look at some observations you can probably relate to.
1. Spreadsheets are static
It’s possible to manage external business relationships in Excel—but the records are very static. As time passes, you’ll end up with a lot of spreadsheets and files. Sometimes there are several files and spreadsheets dedicated to one partner—and it becomes difficult to pinpoint the most updated versions. Overall, the process is not efficient or scalable.
2. Unable to synchronize data together
Let’s say, a partner account manager has one spreadsheet file per partner. In hindsight, this seems manageable but it doesn’t end there. Some data needs to be fueled by other systems or even email. when there’s an objective in the file, you’d prefer to keep the targets and all the relevant data within that spreadsheet.
If you need to update one, you need to report it manually and the process can be very frustrating. Especially in the build up to QBRs (quarterly business reviews), there's a struggle to gather all the relevant partner data and manually update the partner business plan in your static file. On top of this, it can also lead to manual mistakes which result in misunderstandings and misinformation.
3. Lack of organization
Most sales teams expect to receive the right data in an instant. Much like our CRMs, we want an overview of the results in easy to use dashboard. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
Because you have several copies of the same file, it’s hard to figure out which version is the most updated. Teams will find it difficult to identify which computer or team member has access to the up-to-date version. On top of that, when an account manager quits or resigns, the turnover process and organization of the old files become a nightmare.
4. Lack of templates
The lack of templates is another limitation in Excel. How can you make a partnership strategy, channel strategy, or objectives in a structured way? How do you connect sales numbers and data together? It’s possible to come up with your own template but it’s not something you can scale as you onboard more partners.
Many partner managers will likely have their own customized templates. You’ll need to copy and paste the templates and memorize the format and style. In addition, the use of non-standardized data will cause difficulties when data needs to be rolled-up to perform analysis.
Objective Setting Done Right
5. Difficult to input OKRs
Objectives and Key Results (OKR) are a method used by sales teams to set goals and activities (leading indicators) to reach their objective (lagging indicators).
To create OKRs, place a specific target (i.e. sales numbers) for each objective level. Then, you can define the different actions and key results you’ll perform to achieve that target.
In Excel, you’ll have to input the relevant formulas in a specific row or column to digitize your data. It’s a challenge to gauge how close you are to achieving your goal based on your current sales numbers unless you input the necessary formulas each time.
6. Not collaborative
Excel spreadsheets aren’t designed for partner collaboration.
Even in Google Sheets, it’s difficult to teach them how to interpret the information on their own. It’s also a challenge to onboard partners, resellers, and distributors who aren’t familiar with your specific process or format. Plus, the platform isn’t intuitive or user-friendly for big data sets. As such, it’s difficult to make real-time updates to the Excel spreadsheet as your partnership grows.
Now, why should you stick to a BRM tool?
There are a lot of pitfalls and limitations that come with spreadsheets. To solve this dilemma, we recommend switching to business relationship management (BRM) solutions.
A BRM solution can provide you with one template integrated with OKRs, as well as basic structures or frameworks in place. You can write action plans and objectives which are SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Unlike a spreadsheet, a BRM tool lets you place your partnership strategy and partner business plans in a cloud platform. That means you can customize the data on a partner level and collaborate with partners remotely from across the globe. Likewise, partners can receive real-time notifications and update files with minimal effort.
With an open API BRM tool, all your data can be synced and updated to an online platform. So, you’ll have an easier time tracking your progress, as well as your partners.