For the Love of Learning: Love Your Partners
For the final installment in our four-part “For the Love of Learning” series, I was asked to provide some insights on a critical component to success for many organizations – partners! Since that’s my area of expertise and something that gets me fired up (in a good way), let’s take a look at how training connects your partners to your business and how you can leverage learning to build better channel relationships and outcomes.
I’ll start by saying that we at SAP Litmos truly love our partners. We’ve developed quality, long-term relationships with key businesses that take pride in how they represent and sell our solutions. In the spirit of sharing the love this month, I’d simply like to thank our partners for doing such a great job, consistently, and for being a pleasure to work with.
However, many companies don’t have it so easy. Some struggle to get partners on the same page, on message, and on target when it comes to predictable sales and reliable relationships. They know, in theory, that their partners represent the face of their brand out in the real world but worry that they’re not sufficiently trained or prepared to be on the front lines, interacting with customers.
This is unfortunate because, as I see it, partner training should be perceived as a win-win. It should be something that partners appreciate and that you enjoy delivering because of its inherent value. In an ideal world, partners should view training as something that enables them to be fully (and continually) educated about your products and your brand, which by extension should increase their sales and commissions. It should be something that’s viewed as a benefit of working with you.
But, channel partners don’t always see it that way. They may consider training a burden – an unnecessary time commitment or something they don’t need, if they already consider themselves experts on your products. And because partners aren’t employees, they’re not beholden to you. Depending on how your contracts with them are set up, you may not be able to “make them” take training.
So, what are my tips for getting them to cross over and want to do as much training as possible? How about even getting them to love your training because of how it helps them sell with greater confidence, clarity, and consistency?
My advice is to flip the script. Rather than struggling (begging, pleading, coercing, etc.) them to love you, create training that shows that you love them. What a concept!
Here are my top four tips for proving your love for partners with top-notch training:
- Make it part of the partnership. This means to create a culture of learning. Yes, a learning culture isn’t just for internal employees; it also applies to the channel. When you communicate to partners that training is ongoing and expected, they’ll understand that it’s not just about completing onboarding and checking a box. You’re in it together for the long haul and continual learning is part of the recipe for success for both parties.
- Make it worth their time. Remember, you’re one of many. They have other companies that they’re working with, so time spent with you needs to be efficient and worthwhile. Evaluate the relevancy and newness of your training content. If it’s not immediately useful or if it’s out of date, get rid of it. When possible, make courses short and video-based for quick but valuable digestion of information. Respect that they’re trying to get maximum insight in the shortest amount of time.
- Make it effortlessly accessible. Do they have to login through some complicated portal or clunky LMS? You’re dead in the water before you even started. It’s essential that the training is easily accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device. The UI needs to be easy to navigate, and courses or learning paths need to be easy to find and follow. Think of it from a consumer model: do you use apps or sites that are difficult to use? No, you don’t. Well, neither will your partners.
- Make it engaging (if not downright fun). Let’s not forget that partners are humans! They want to enjoy doing what they do, so consider things like gamification in your training. Maybe create competition among partners for who’s completed the most courses or earned the most certifications. Perhaps offer incentives for reaching certain training tiers, whether that’s a prize or the earning of a credential (e.g. premiere partner, silver / gold status, etc.). Get creative about ways to keep them coming back.