5 signs your business needs channel partner training
Partners are sent out into the field and represent your product firsthand to potential end-users. From distributors and franchisees to licensed service providers and installers, they have a major impact on overall client satisfaction and thus, the success of your company as a whole.
By now, you’ve probably realized that managing a partner channel is no simple task. By nature, channel partners are:
- Not directly employed by your company.
- Working remotely, or otherwise away from your main offices.
These two facts lead up to one conclusion: building a high-quality sales culture with partners is difficult! This is especially true if your partners aren’t adequately, and regularly, educated.
This is where channel partner training enters the picture. Through this guide, we’re going to ponder whether it’s time for your company to invest in channel partner training. We’ll do so by looking at five problems and how training can solve them.
We’re going to examine the following common issues:
- Growing Partner Channel
- Loss of Cohesive Branding
- High Support Costs
- Product Changes
- Persistent Outsider Mentalities
We’re going to explore the top five problems that might signal it’s time for your organization to invest in channel partner training. Bookmark this guide to channel partner training by PartnerAmp for reference as you read, especially if you notice it’s time to outline a program. Let’s get started!
Problem: Your partner channel is growing.
A growing partner channel is usually an exciting development. It means your company is growing and at a rate that warrants bringing on more team members to help in the charge!
However exciting it may be, a growing partner channel can also be a stressor. It’s easily one of the most complicated sales organization charts your company will manage— and that’s before even considering the fact that most people involved are not employees!
Whether it’s because your partners are now spreading across a larger geographic region or there are simply considerably more of them, it becomes harder to manage partner channels the larger they get. From branding to frequently asked questions, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks.
Solution: Use channel partner training to maintain efficiency.
Just as you might use staff management software to manage the performance of employees, you can use channel partner training via a learning management system (LMS) to help manage the performance of partners near and far.
First and foremost, channel partner training allows you to continuously maintain expectations across your channel regardless of how many partners are within it. However, take this a step further by creating multiple tiers within your LMS. With this, you can:
- Provide specific training to different types of partners within your channel. For example, distributors, franchisees, and service providers can all access different training.
- Appoint administrators to delegate managing your channel. For example, create different tiers within your LMS for geographic locations (or partner types) and assign different administrators to each tier.
While your partner channel may be growing, the personalization and efficiency of your channel will remain consistent.
Problem: Your cohesive branding is fading.
One of the biggest challenges of managing a partner channel is simply the lack of control you have over partners.
They’re not technically employed by your company, so they might miss out on any internal training you provide to staffers. Plus, they’re probably spread out geographically, so you can’t exactly monitor their representation of your product in person!
It’s crucial that your customers trust, not doubt, your company and product. One of the keys to that trust is consistent messaging and information across the board— something particularly challenging when your product is represented by a variety of partners, with varying levels of expertise, across the country.
Solution: Train partners on your branding and provide marketing materials for their use.
Invest in channel partner training to ensure every partner is not only an expert in your product’s branding, but also equipped with all of the information they need to convey that information to potential customers.
With this training, you can provide consistent education about your company’s branding and the expectations you have for how partners will uphold it. Further, host a marketing collateral library within your LMS to provide materials partners can use when advocating for your product in the field.
Whether they’re wondering which descriptors to use when communicating about your product, or wanting one-page informational hand-outs to give customers, they’ll be equipped with it all.
Problem: Customer (and partner) support costs are high.
Issues arise when customers ask questions that your partners don’t readily have the answers to. These partners, likely working remotely and away from your organization’s headquarters, won’t be able to get the answers from your company immediately.
This usually plays out in one of two ways:
- They elevate the problem to you, with one of your employees providing support to fill gaps in their knowledge.
- They answer the customer to the best of their ability and potentially provide inaccurate information when doing so.
In the second scenario, there’s a decent chance the customer later contacts your company asking for further support after the partner’s solution proved insufficient. So, the net result is higher support costs on your company’s end.
Solution: Prioritize training partners, so they’re better prepared to address questions and concerns.
Channel partner training via LMS not only allows you to provide cohesive training to partners but to monitor their progress through your educational offerings. You can see where partners are struggling to finish a course and where they’re excelling, adjusting your training strategy accordingly.
Further, because this training is done digitally, you can quickly and easily communicate changes and updates in your product’s handling. For example, if you see certain questions arising regularly from your partners and customers, incorporate the answer to that question in your training.
Partners will be better prepared to address questions and concerns, decreasing the support costs expended by your staff. Learn more about channel partner LMS platforms on PartnerAmp.
Problem: Your product is undergoing major, or particularly important, changes.
Whenever your product goes through a massive change, whether to its branding, functionality, or something else, your employees are probably among the first to know about it. They might even undergo internal training to make sure they’re experts in the change!
You do this for obvious reasons— it’s important that those representing your product to end users are experts in its current state. That’s easy for employees, who are generally working closely with your company overall.
But what about channel partners? They’re not employed by your company. How do you keep them as up-to-date with product changes?
Solution: Quickly communicate updates with confidence that partners are up-to-date.
One of the biggest perks of digital channel partner training is that it’s evergreen. Instead of a one-time in-person explainer, you can send out ongoing training to partners for the entire duration they work with you.
When you make changes to your product, immediately send training to partners regarding the update. Once again, you can monitor their progress through the new modules to make sure they’re actually taking in the new information.
Learn more about the types of companies that might need a channel partner LMS through this blog post.
Problem: Channel partners are experiencing an “outsider” mentality.
Because they’re not employees, channel partners are at risk of feeling disconnected from your company. This happens for a few reasons:
- They’re often working with quite a few different companies in addition to yours.
- Their success isn’t as closely tied to the success of your brand.
- They’re often not in the same area as you, so they don’t experience the rise (and fall) of projects firsthand.
Across sectors, retention is a pervasive issue. In all scenarios, we know that retaining someone already working with your organization is significantly more cost-effective than bringing in someone new.
Businesses tackle this in different ways, from ramping up their human resources (such as hiring an outside HR consulting firm) to providing greater incentives for retention. However, the disconnected, “outsider” mentality makes retaining partners a unique challenge.
Solution: Make training a unifying experience.
Ongoing channel partner training combats the “outsider” mentality by allowing you to:
- Maintain regular communications with members and check-in on a normal schedule.
- Brand your LMS to your company seamlessly, so partners feel enmeshed in your company even though they’re not employees.
- Create a space for partners to communicate with one another to problem-solve and build community.
- Communicate your incentives and commission structure clearly with materials they can refer back to in your LMS.
The last thing you want to do is drive well-trained partners away by making them feel like “outsiders” of your organization. With channel partner training via an LMS, you’ll be able to unify partners with your organization.
Whether you’re just not seeing the expected results, or you’re gearing up for a major process change, comprehensive channel partner training is essential.
After reading this guide, consider: Is your partner channel experiencing any of these common issues? If so, it might be time to revisit your partner training strategy.
Want to learn how to recruit, hire, and scale a sales team the right way? Learn directly from a founder with our exclusive book: The Sales Hiring Playbook. Download it free!