Your channel partners in a lot of ways act as a marketing and branding extension of your organization. How they represent themselves, has a direct impact on how the market views your organization. How they position products, sell products, and then service end customers via your products all has a direct impact on your brand’s position in the market.
A successful channel will come to play a crucial role in the profitability of your business, so it is important to create a formal partner training program that includes various levels of certifications to ensure everyone is on the same page.
The type of certification a training program you want to deliver to your partners will vary depending upon multiple factors such as the complexity of your product, how your products integrate and interact with other technologies, and the level of expertise required to know how to use your products. Understanding what level of complexity is required for your certification program is the first step your organization must take.
A well-designed partner certification program is a great source of motivation and can be an additional opportunity to help promote your partners. Let’s begin by understanding some of the basic strategies that any organization can begin implementing today to get started with a partner certification program.
1. Partner Data Cleanliness
Before doing anything as it relates to partner and channel training, the first thing your organization must get its hands around is the cleanliness of your partner contacts inside your CRM. Step number one would be to make sure all your active partners are designated as such inside your CRM. Then maybe start exploring breaking partners out into different types such as a referral, reseller, distributor, MSP, etc. Once this is all cleaned up, it is easier to segment out training requirements.
Having this baseline of understanding of who your partners are, the types of relationships you have with them and then the various role types of individuals at your partners will allow you to dissect what type of training needs to be built.
2. Types of training
It is not important that all your partners would be interested in getting certified. Identifying your partner’s interest and training them on those specific aspects is crucial to be an expert in their way and act as SME for your products and services. The purpose and the kind of training that needs to be provided to them should be very well defined so that the expectations are clear from starting.
Identifying your partner’s interests, and then delivering training specific to their areas of interest shows them that you care, and are willing to work with them at the level they want to engage.
3. Streamline the training process
Once you have all your partner data organized, and you have some basic understanding of the types of training you need to deliver the fun begins. How are you going to deliver the training to your partners who want it? If you have a Partner Relationship Management tool, you either have a built-in partner certification mechanism, or some PRM vendors choose to allow you to integrate tools like Learning Management Systems. Either way, leverage technology to scale the delivery of your training.
4. Driving the engagement
You have done the hard part, you have laid the foundation for success, now it is time to drive the behavior and action you want your partners to take. The number one mistake organizations make is that they “set it and forget it” when it comes to their partner training. While partners go through training, it is important to proactively seek their feedback to understand if the training process is going well for them. Is the technology helping or hurting their consumption of the material? Is the material aligned with their interests?
It doesn’t have to be complicated or sophisticated. It can be as simple as a monthly email that is sent out to any partner who has begun but not yet completed a certification program for you. Ask them why they stopped?
Partners have near limitless options when it comes to vendors they can choose to work with, simply showing you care enough to ask for feedback will go a long way in driving the engagement and learning you have been hoping for.
5. Deliver the reward quickly
Humans are conditioned to continue behaviors for which we have been rewarded, it is in our DNA and core to our survival as a species. We successfully grow a crop, we get food; We hunt that bison down; We get to feed our family. The same goes for driving behaviors as they relate to the consumption of knowledge. The most important thing for your organization to do is to deliver the reward or incentive as close to the completion of partner certification as possible. Get that badge to their inbox within minutes, send them that gift card within 24 hours.
Once your partners are certified, it is time to seek feedback. The feedback can be captured through Net Promoter Scores, Number of trained partners, Number of accredited partners, Questionnaires for enhancing the training & partner certification program, and then measuring all of that feedback
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