For many companies, improving the productivity of partners is critical to success. They represent the face of your brand beyond your four walls, so making sure they're on-point is just as important as training internal employees. After all, just like your own reps, they sell your products to customers and may even provide support and/or training to those customers, as well. You'd better be sure that they know your product(s) inside and out.
What's the answer? A totally killer training program, of course.
Just like any other corporate training program, you channel program requires a strategic approach and a good deal of planning. You'll need to gather stakeholders and figuratively step a few feet back to see a broad view of your partners' current processes and well as their challenges.
One warning: you may need to overcome potential opposition. Sometimes, when it's not "how we've always done it," people resist. Be prepared to discuss some of the benefits (see below) of training such as faster onboarding and greater retention. Another good strategy to get ahead of resistance is to meet in advance with the highest-ranking person you can access who manages channel partners. Securing top-down commitment will definitely make your job easier and help establish a lasting culture of learning in your partner network.
Once you've got folks on board, you can outline a solid execution plan of what they need to know and when in the partner lifecycle. Almost like journey mapping in the customer experience world, you can map the interactions from onboarding to certification to actively selling to potentially training or supporting customers. This is a fantastic exercise to determine where along that path education is needed. Another wise step is to include existing partners in the process to figure out where the gaps in knowledge are.
Next, you can add non-linear courses like general sales training, up and cross-selling, communication skills, corporate culture, and many others that may enrich your resellers' ability to work effectively with customers. Use the capabilities of your LMS to track reseller progress through the required courses, as well as whether or not they've completed the more generic classes. You'll easily be able to see if certain partners need more urging to get through the process. Depending on how strict you want to be, you can set mandatory completion deadlines that prevent selling certain products or limit partnership levels.
Also, just like your other programs, the content needs to be engaging, or as we like to say at Litmos and Litmos Heroes "not boring!" Just because they're business partners, rather than internal staff, doesn't mean you have to be stiff and stodgy with your course material. It can still be fun. To what degree, of course, depends on your business, but do remember that partners are people, too. They don't want to be lulled to sleep while attempting to complete required training.
Taking the time to do this pays off (literally).
The benefits of carefully building your channel training program are many. One of the biggest, as this article title implies, is that you'll dramatically accelerate their success. Rather than having to learn on their own or worse, not learn at all and attempt to sell without a confident, working knowledge of your products, they'll be guided swiftly down a learning path that takes them from novice to expert in a measured time frame.
Another key benefit is partner loyalty and retention. It can be a big concern that partners will abandon ship and jump onto that of a competitor. This is especially threatening in cases where partners are contracted with a number of companies in the same space. They may be courted by your competitors with higher commissions or other enticements. With a compelling formal training program, however, you can make partners feel just as connected and committed to the business as a traditional employee.
As you roll out additional courses, you can again rely on your LMS to track engagement and progress. It's a good idea to gather feedback via surveys, as well, to gauge learner satisfaction and determine where improvements can be made.
Best of luck to you as you begin to build or continue to improve your partner training program. It's a super effective way to consistently strengthen channel performance, grow your business, and streamline how partners represent your company in the market.