A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing Training for B2B Customers and Channel Partners

5th September 2023

external partners

Table of Contents

Understanding the vital role of training for Channel partners or B2B customers can be the difference between mediocre and standout performances. 

But how do you implement a training program, especially when dealing with learners outside your organisation, whose day-to-day operations are largely a blind spot?

The secret lies in constructing a well-thought-out, feedback-oriented training model, considering the needs of your ecosystem into account from the conception stage.

The success of a training program isn’t defined by a single action but by a series of well-orchestrated steps that commence during planning and extend well beyond launch. In this blog, we lay down a comprehensive guide to achieving just that.

Step 1: Planning

Secure buy-in from key decision-makers

Many businesses hesitate to invest in training due to upfront costs, especially for channel partners or customers outside the core business. However, there’s a direct link between the performance of an external sales ecosystem and sales revenue. Properly trained partners can more effectively sell and promote products, leading to faster sales and repeat orders. 

Obtain agreement and commitment from internal major decision-makers, ensuring stakeholder alignment right from the beginning.

Define your objectives and KPIs

Define educational objectives that align with your organisation’s goals. These objectives guide your training content and methods. They specify the desired knowledge and skills for learners, while KPIs measure the training’s success. 

Whether aiming for better product knowledge, sales, or customer satisfaction, setting clear objectives and KPIs from the start provides direction, sets expectations, and gauges the training’s value.

Align your goals

Every training program starts with the end in mind. Outlining goals allows you to identify where the knowledge is lacking. It also minimises waste because you don’t create training material that won’t be used in the long run.

The best way to avoid that is by leaving assumptions behind and directly talking to your target audience. Every business operates differently. Distributors, resellers, customers and franchisees follow a different set of metrics so their priorities may not be aligned with yours.

Step 2: Define Scope

Map out your ecosystem

Create a comprehensive map of your partner network, and design targeted training content that addresses their specific needs. Keep their unique requirements in mind throughout the training process. 

The ultimate goal is to expand market coverage and share by enhancing revenues through tailored encouragement, thorough education, and an in-depth understanding of your solutions.

Categorise your learners

Categorise your learners based on their role within the sales ecosystem. It is essential to know your audience and conduct an analysis of their training needs.

Talking to your sales ecosystem early in the planning stages ensures your program is built on relevant, solid ground. Ask them about the outcomes they expect.

Determine the minimum viable solution

Begin by recognising that there’s no need to create an exhaustive training program right off the bat. Instead, identify the most essential components to construct a minimum viable solution. 

Once established, deploy this foundational model and assess its reception. By actively testing and collecting feedback, you’ll gain invaluable insights to refine and expand upon. 

This iterative approach not only conserves resources but ensures that your training remains aligned with the evolving needs of your B2B customers and channel partners. 

Remember, the journey to comprehensive training is a marathon, not a sprint. Starting small and building progressively is often the key to lasting success.

Step 3: Decide on Content Development and Deployment

Once you have determined your minimum viable solution, the next phase is deciding how to develop your learning material and the order in which this will be done. 

Should you develop in-house or consider external expertise? 

Outsourcing, particularly to specialists like Wahoo Learning, can offer numerous advantages when it comes to eLearning content development. Drawing upon in-house expertise in eLearning content development ensures high-quality, professionally designed materials tailored to B2B needs. 

Additionally, outsourcing greatly reduces the time-to-market and enhances the training’s overall impact. 

Once the content is developed, deliberate on its deployment strategy. Whether it’s through eLearning, webinars, on-site sessions or a blended approach, the delivery method should cater to your audience’s preferences and logistical realities.

Step 4: Collate Source Material

Start by identifying existing resources within your organisation that can serve as foundational elements for the training. 

Whether it’s product manuals, internal documents, or past training modules, these assets are invaluable. As you sift through this material, prioritise content that aligns with your training objectives. Reach out to different departments or experts in your organisation; their insights can enrich your content, providing depth and relevance. Tapping internal experts minimises costs as you don’t have to hire anyone new. 

A thorough compilation of source materials ensures a comprehensive and cohesive training program, setting the stage for impactful learning experiences.

If you don’t have this source material, the team at Wahoo Learning can help.

Step 5: Develop Content

Now that your source material is in hand, content development begins. Craft content that’s both informative and engaging, ensuring it resonates with your audiences. 

Decide on the best formats—be it videos, interactive modules, or written guides—that would appeal most to your audience. 

Consider integrating real-life scenarios and case studies to ground the training in tangible examples. 

As each piece is created, always circle back to your primary objectives, ensuring each module or session drives home the desired message. 

Step 6: Create a Launch Plan 

This plan should be strategic, detailing the steps necessary to ensure the effective rollout of your training program. 

First, establish the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, and ‘where’. Identify your audience, the necessary training content, the ideal launch date and the platform through which the training will be delivered. 

Collaborate with your marketing and sales departments to craft key messages and determine effective communication strategies. Focus on communication. Your audience needs to understand the importance of this training, what it entails, and how it will benefit them. 

Next, create an engaging announcement, perhaps leveraging videos or webinars to generate excitement and encourage participation. Also, be sure to include a clear schedule of events, resources and support available to them throughout the training process. 

Finally, consider any potential roadblocks that might arise and devise contingency plans. This can include technical issues, time constraints, or content-related challenges. 

Formulate clear agreements and expectations

When introducing partners to the training program, establish a concise and clear training plan outlining the certification commitments of each party. Avoid overly complex agreements full of jargon to foster a positive partnership from the start. Additionally, define specific “rules of engagement”, detailing partner expectations beyond the basic terms and conditions. 

This could include specifics on training requirements, certification courses and resource commitments. Incorporate these rules into the training plans, establishing mutual commitments to training.

Plan for encouraging engagement

Develop a strategy to incentivise training participation. Rewards can range from merchandise and additional marketing support to certificates of achievement. 

The lack of a robust certification and recognition framework can lead to suboptimal positioning, missed opportunities and inconsistent revenue performance.

Step 7: Deploy to LMS, Test and Launch

Transitioning from content creation to deployment, it’s time to integrate your materials into your Learning Management System (LMS). 

To maximise everyone’s time, you should look into testing at least once with a prototype. 

Prototypes uncover any major issues before the program goes live, saving you the potential of any downtime.

As each module is uploaded, ensure that it flows seamlessly within the platform, optimising user experience. 

Before fully launching, undertake a rigorous testing phase, inviting a select group of users to navigate the content. Their feedback will be instrumental in identifying any potential glitches or areas for improvement. 

After fine-tuning based on these insights, confidently roll out your training to the broader audience. 

Throughout the Training Program

Promote your program

At the office, it’s easy enough to raise awareness for a training program. You can include it in internal newsletters or ask managers to bring it up during the weekly huddle.

Informing external learners is a bit trickier. A lot of communication is done through email with invites often buried beneath a pile of other pressing matters. There is also the chance of passing information along to a sales rep who doesn’t have the influence to decide whether their team participates in training.

A coordinated approach works best for looping in external partners. Work with your sales team and arrange meetings with key decision-makers within your ecosystem. 

Incentivise participation

The training itself is a reward, especially for external customers who themselves benefit from knowledge sharing. But it never hurts to sweeten the pot, especially with engagement. 

Rewards can take the form of merchandise or certificates for completion. Certificates are particularly appealing, as learners can use them further down the line to promote their new skills. 

Improve and iterate

Many companies lose money in training programs because they treat it as a one-and-done package. But learning is a continuous, dynamic process, especially in fast-moving industries.

You don’t have to wait until the end of a program to check its effectiveness. Test scores, attendance, and participation metrics, such as the time learners spend in each session, can tell whether your learners are performing or simply clicking through the program.

Seek feedback and track key performance metrics

Compare the performance of external sales partners before and after they take your training. Have their ‘Days in Inventory’ gone down significantly? Have their case fill numbers improved? Have they achieved more unit sales?

As for their training experience, you can use metrics such as the Net Promoter Score – a single-question survey that evaluates satisfaction with their likelihood to recommend the training to others. 

A score of 9 to 10 makes a learner a ‘Promoter’ while 6 and below would make them ‘Detractors’. Conducting follow-up interviews with learners from both groups will help you improve your program and show your learners you value their input.

Conclusion

The success of a training program is not decided by one act alone, but rather by a series of measures done throughout the entire process, from the moment you start planning until you’re collecting feedback from your learners.

Remember, training isn’t just about imparting knowledge, but also about nurturing relationships. By establishing a thorough, well-planned, and effectively communicated training program, you are investing in success – an investment that will yield dividends in the form of increased collaboration, improved performance and mutual growth.

Ready to take your partner training to the next level? Choosing the right Learning Management System (LMS) is crucial to the success of your training program. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate buyer’s guide to help you navigate the complex landscape of LMS options and find the perfect fit for your training needs. Download it now to get started.

Want to learn more about channel sales? Read our free, comprehensive guide today to discover everything you need to know about channel sales.

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