Your partners are the face of your brand. They sell your product, service it and market it. They’re the ones on the front lines, talking to your customers, and representing you.
So it stands to reason that you should be providing training to your partners. It should be a win-win — online partner training means they learn all about your product and your brand, and sales increase for both of your organizations.
Unfortunately, channel partners don’t always see it that way. They may considering training unnecessary, a drain on their time, or even unhelpful. All of these attitudes are big problems, especially since you’ve put a significant amount of work into your partner training.
You might feel powerless when this happens; after all partners aren’t your employees. You can’t make them take your training. So what do you do when partners won’t engage?
1. Understand the reasons your partners avoid your training.
The first step in overcoming your partners’ resistance to training is understanding it. There are a number of reasons your partners might not be engaging.
- They don’t think it’s broke, so don’t want to fix it: Your partners might feel that they can sell your product well on their own, without training from you. So taking a training module on your newest product may not seem like a good investment of their time.
- You’re one of many: You may not be the only vendor your partners work with; according to CSO Insight’s latest channel partner report, a quarter of channel partners are working with many companies. If that’s the case with your partners, they may not feel they have enough time to keep up with all their suppliers’ training programs.
- Your training doesn’t answer their questions: If your training doesn’t answer your partners’ questions, they may not bother engaging with your modules in the future.
- Your training is difficult to access: Is your training only accessible via a partner portal, or a complicated LMS? If getting to your training is a hassle, your partners are unlikely to bother with it.
Once you know why your partners aren’t taking advantage of your training, it’s time to review your training program itself to see if that’s the problem. If your partners aren’t accessing — or completing – your training, there are two things that might be wrong with your existing program: your delivery and your content.
- Evaluate your learning platform.
How are partners accessing your learning? Do they have to log in to a partner portal or LMS? Do they have to be at a computer? How many logins are required, exactly? How long is each module?
If getting to your training is a hassle for your partners, chances are they’re not going to take it. Your partners are likely strapped for time, and if they need to know something about your company or product, they’re going to want to get to that information quickly.
Make sure links to your training are prominently displayed in your partner portal, and make your modules easily accessible on every device. Because channel partner training isn’t mandatory, you need to make it as easy as possible for your partners to log in and find the learning they need.
- Take stock of your training content.
You might be offering the learning you think your partners should have, but are you offering the training they need?
For example, you might offer a product training module whenever you release a new offering, but your partner may feel that module is redundant — it may repeat information they can get from other channels, like documentation or your partner portal. What they may need is sales coaching, so sales reps can overcome specific objections when they’re talking to potential customers.
It’s important that your training serves your company’s needs; you’re more likely to get your partners to take courses if that learning addresses their specific problems and concerns. Listen to the questions your partners are asking you, and reach out to them. Ask them what they need to know in order to do their job more effectively. Then you can build your course content around their answers.
It’s possible that in trying to cover your partner training bases, your content is too basic. You can use your learning management system’s metrics to determine if this is the case: compare your partners’ sales with the training they’ve consumed. If they’re selling well, but not taking training, your training isn’t helping them.
In this case, consider updating your training to provide higher-level learning. You may want to offer training tiers, offering more basic information at the lowest tier and working up to more advanced modules for partners with more experience, an approach recently taken by Extreme Network with their global partners.
- Offer some incentive.
Sometimes partners just need a little push to start training.
If you haven’t incentivized your partner program or your training, now is the time to start. Partner training incentives differ from company to company, but here are some common incentive ideas:
- Credentials: Some companies offer certifications for completing training. This is often positioned as a way for a partner to market themselves to their own prospects — if you’ve completed a certain number of courses in a certain subject area, you might receive a gold or silver rating, and a badge you can display on your site to attract clients.
- Offer prizes: You can encourage your partners to train more by offering a competition among partners – whichever channel partner completes the most training receives a prize. (And public recognition on your portal, of course.)
- Gamification: Add points and leaderboards, and make your training a game. This can be done in conjunction with offering prizes, or by itself. Done well, gamification can motivate your partners — 89 percent of learners would be more engaged with training if their LMS had a point system.
Why partner training is critical
When you work with partners, they become a critical piece of your business — more than a third of the companies surveyed by CSO Insights rely on their partners for the majority of their revenue.
Training is an important way to make sure those partners have all the tools they need to sell and service your product effectively.