lightning strikes
Salesforce snuck in an interesting capability in its PRM App announcement: a new Lightning integration for CMS PHOTO: Jeremy Bishop

Salesforce debuted another component of its Sales Cloud this morning: an application for Partner Relationship Management, Sales Cloud PRM. 

The app is a significant release for community users — a category that includes partners, employees and customers — as it is the first major development built for the Lightning Communities platform the company introduced last year. 

Perhaps more significantly, one of the components included in Sales Cloud PRM is a new Lightning integration for CMS.

This product roll out, in fact, is the first public sighting of what the company is calling Lightning CMS Connect — but it won’t be the last.

The company will make the feature available in beta for Sales Cloud PRM starting in June. Later, in Salesforce’s summer release, Lightning CMS Connect will be available as a beta in its communities products for customers and employees as well, Greg Gsell, senior director of product marketing, told CMSWire.

Adobe will be the first CMS integration the feature will offer, he added. Later, other CMS platforms will get their own integrations.

A Quick Primer on Lightning

Salesforce launched the Lightning app building platform in 2015. Prior to its public debut, it had been a low-code, drag-and-drop internal app builder. Salesforce relaunched it on the open source Aura Framework, whose speciality is developing dynamic web apps. The key takeaway: Lightning allows developers to build apps independent of the data in Salesforce.

Salesforce has since added Lightning functionality to various products in its portfolio including non-Salesforce applications such as the Lightning for Outlook add on.

The PRM app includes other new tools besides the CMS integration that are worth mentioning: Einstein Content Recommendations, which uses machine learning to surface files for channel reps and Channel Marketing Automation, which is based on the Marketing Cloud. Both are expected to be generally available in the second half of 2017.

Gsell said the company will incorporate these features into other product lines, such as the Communities.

Days to Deployment

The point of Sales Cloud PRM is to build a branded and tailored experience for partners — namely a portal, said Gsell.

Businesses can build such customized portals on their own of course, but the average time to deployment averages six months, he said. With Sales Cloud PRM deployment is in a matter of days. “What we are launching is a turnkey app for PRM that can be deployed quickly without a lot of coding,” Gsell said.

Sales Cloud PRM sits on top of the Lightning Communities platform.

Channel Sales Grow in Importance

For Salesforce, the PRM app marks a continuation of the new direction Salesforce took with the launch of Communities last year, Gsell said.

It is also emblematic of a larger shift underway in PRM, which for years was seen as a niche product for companies that relied heavily on channel sales. Now, though, there is a growing reliance on the channel for revenues among all types of companies, Gsell said — resulting in renewed interest in PRM.

Some of the early users of Sales Cloud PRM highlighted the connection between revenues and the app in their statements about the product.

"It's important to fully capture our opportunity for revenue growth and expansion in our channel business by providing our partners with 24 hour access to product resources, lead management, deal registration and support," said Neil Burch, Enterprise Applications and Business Analytics, CalAmp.

Another user, Tony Dyck, Director of IT Technical Delivery at Box, reported an “increase in partner engagement and efficiency, leading to an increase in sales coming from our partner channel” after deployment.

As more companies come to (or come back to) PRM, they are finding it has changed since its early days, Gsell said.

"It used to be very transactional and now it is about creating great partner experiences. It is about not treating partners like second class sales reps but giving them the same tools as internal sales reps. There is no reason to have two separate CRMs."