When new sales reps join your organization, they likely undergo a fair amount of training before interacting directly with prospects and customers. Though channel partners aren’t technically part of your staff, they’re an extension of your sales force and also require significant training to promote and sell your products.
Training your channel partners correctly sets them up for success with your organization. It also aligns them with your expectations for lead generation, adherence to your company’s standards, and revenue.
Here are five tips you can follow to make your channel partner training effective and achieve the ROI you expect from your program.
1. Tailor Your Training to Your Partners’ Needs
A good channel partner training program will cover universal topics like product or software education, market insight, and sales and marketing best practices. But if you want your partners to be successful, make sure to target their specific concerns too.
For example, 69% of channel partners can’t differentiate what they’re selling from the competition. If this is the same for your channel partners, this should be a huge concern. How can they close deals with leads that are weighing their options if they don’t know why your product is better than the next? If your partners have a similar struggle, then your channel partner training should spend a significant amount of time on competitive analysis.
When onboarding new partners, you can start by surveying their internal teams (sales, marketing, tech support, etc.) to see where you need to supplement their knowledge. Use that information to inform their training, and use aggregated channel partner data to improve future onboarding and training.
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2. Integrate Channel Partner Training with In-house Training
A major aspect of supporting your partners is showing transparency and allowing them access to your company’s technology. They should have a thorough understanding of what you offer and how it works.
Of course, you can share your existing product training materials with them at the beginning of the partnership. In addition, you can go a step further and look for opportunities to involve channel partners in internal live events.
For example, if the product development team is hosting an internal webinar to introduce a new feature and demo it for the company, ask to invite channel partners to the event. This not only saves you the time of reiterating that information to the partners later, but it can strengthen the camaraderie with partners so that they truly feel part of the team. You can also use the same technique for sales and marketing updates.
3. Invest in On-demand Training Resources
Channel programs are typically seen as a lower-cost path for entering new markets and growing revenue. However, they do require a level of investment.
One way to invest in your program’s success is by working with product and marketing teams, to create on-demand resources for channel partners. These resources can be part of their initial training, and partners can revisit them later to brush up on topics as needed. Resource needs can vary depending on your sales channel strategy.
If you have a brokerage channel strategy, you might focus more on providing product brochures for end customers and pricing guides for the partner. With value added reseller or consultant/ developer strategies, your focus could be on product training videos, a customer reference library, and customer-facing collateral such as case studies and whitepapers.
Building out these content resources and making sure your partners know where to find them is critical for successful channel partner training — especially since 65% of channel partners either have poor-quality content or can’t find content to use. Make sure they know what’s available to them during the initial training, and develop a process for updates on the latest content available to them and their prospects.
4. Train Channel Partners on Customer Service Standards
How your company interacts with prospects, leads, and customers defines your reputation and plays a huge role in your company’s growth. When you work with channel partners, you’re trusting them to deliver on your standard of professionalism.
HubSpot mentions in their channel sales guide that “If you partner with someone who has a poor reputation or treats customers badly, you’ll look worse by association.” Part of your training should focus on your customer service standards and how channel partners need to interact with existing and future customers for their benefit and yours.
The channel partner training should also include sharing templates and guidelines partners can use for surveying customers. The surveys will make sure the customers are happy with the buying experience, and they can also alert you to additional training needs for your partners.
5. Keep your Channel Partner Training Up-to-date
Don’t think of channel partner training as a one-time event or an exercise that you’ll cover for a few months. Instead, think of it as a continual process.
As part of that process, you should keep channel partners informed in several areas such as:
- Product updates: What’s new, and when will new features be available to the public? When can your partners see demos of these new features? Are you planning to discontinue a product, and when should partners stop promoting it?
- Branding updates: Do you have a new logo or messaging? If your company is mentioned on their website, when should they update their site? Did you just launch a new social media channel, and can you and your channel partners cross-promote content on that channel?
- Sales and marketing updates: Have you acquired a new company, and does that mean your partners can now sell the additional products offered by that company? Did you win a new customer that they can now mention to prospects? Do you have a new competitor gaining traction in one of your partner’s territories, and how does your offer differ from the new competitor’s?
The training doesn’t end once the new partner puts in some mileage with your company. Monitoring the success of the partner program and figuring out where additional training is needed should be a continuous process that improves the experience for partners, their customers, and your company.
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Training your channel partners should involve listening to their needs, tailoring your approach, and continuing to share knowledge and best practices with your partners to aid their success and yours. The process should also focus just as much on the satisfaction and success of the end customers as the channel partner itself.
When training channel partners, also look for opportunities where partners can interact with your in-house sales, marketing, and operations teams. Your partners are now part of the team, so if there are events or trainings that you can involve them in, use it as a chance to grow your partnership.
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