Imagine you’re a major company in the B2B space. Your sales are mostly handled by your channel partners, and to support them, you maintain a robust partner program. You offer a partner portal with comprehensive documentation, an incentive program to motivate them, and marketing materials they can use in their own efforts.
But are you training them? If your partner hires a new sales associate, can that person easily learn everything they need to know about your product as quickly as possible, or are they reading information aimed at developers and engineers in an attempt to understand your product?
Partners are the face of your company’s brand. They market and sell your solutions to customers, provide support, and sometimes even teach customers to use your products. According to a 2016 study from CSO Insights, one third of companies rely on channel partners to bring in most of their total revenue.
If partners are such an important part of your sales strategy, you want them to know your product as well as any full-time employee, and that means training. And, according to a report from IDC, training is one of the most-valued supports a vendor can offer its partners.
A quick guide to channel partners
Not sure what a partner is? A channel partner does more than sell or re-sell a product or service. They can also be your product’s manufacturer, they may provide support or service for your product. They can be franchisees, consultants or suppliers.
Basically, any business that helps deliver your product to the customer is a partner, and based on their role in that journey from you to the customer, they will require different kinds of training.
Because partners are so vital to your success, you need to make sure that you ramp up new partners quickly to they can start selling and supporting your product. A strong onboarding program is vital so that they understand your product, your ideal customer and how you want them to engage with customers.
Being a partner often means being certified by a company both to sell and support its products — it means a partner is a proven expert and has your seal of approval. Because of this, product training is a crucial piece of your partner training program.
Despite the importance of product training, companies don’t always deliver — CSO Insights found that 40 percent of partners found the product training they received to be in need of improvement. How can you make sure your own product training is up to snuff?
Do a quick inventory:
- Is your training comprehensive? Does it cover the full life cycle of the partner relationship from onboarding to advanced product, service, and customer experience learning?
- Do you offer training to every relevant part of a partner’s organization, including sales, marketing and tech support?
- Do you regularly update your training?
- Is your training material active (a learning module) rather than passive (an uploaded document or video)?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, it’s time to overhaul your partner training.
Because a partner's most important role is often to sell a solution, partners may need sales training — to get your company’s message across correctly, to know how to talk to customers about a specific technology, and to overcome specific objections.
For example, as data security becomes more of a concern after ransomware attacks, there is more need than ever to provide information security-related training to partners who may have to explain the difference between data protection and IT security to nervous customers.
Training can make or break a partner program
No matter their role in distributing your product, partners need to understand your products and services as well as you do. This is why providing quality training to your channel partners is essential for both vendors and partners. When you train your partners well, you get a sales team that understands your product and knows how to sell it, and they get the knowledge they need to do their jobs and sell your product so that both you and they profit.