How to Operate a Successful Channel Partner Certification Programme

24th August 2021

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Channel partners play a crucial role in how products and services are marketed, positioned and sold. With partners contributing hugely to profitability, it’s vital for your business to conduct training that includes formalised channel partner certification programmes. 

The process of introducing certification can be as simple or complex as you need. Certification can range from simple one-tiered programmes to multi-tiered programmes designed to recognise increasing learning and expertise and take learners from basic-level knowledge all the way to highly skilled. 

Well-planned certification schemes offer a point of difference, motivation and an additional opportunity for promotion for your partners. Failure to develop a certification and recognition framework for partners to show off their expertise to customers results in poor positioning, lost deals, and inconsistent revenue performance.

Related reading: How to motivate channel partners

The Benefits of Channel Partner Certification

Channel partner certification enables a partner programme to be about more than just sales and marketing. It provides the following benefits:

Ensures partner status is valid

Managing partners is made easier when you can easily check their status through the certifications they have. With this information, you have a quantitative measure of your partners’ training progress and can adjust your programme accordingly.

Allows for partner segmentation

You can segment partners based on the certifications they’ve achieved, allocating resources and rewards proportionate to their certifications.

Brings credibility to your programme

The tangible requirements that partners must earn show that getting certified actually matters. It also offers a distinguishing feature for end-users if you market it correctly, showcasing your brand as the superior choice amidst the competition.

Partners can market themselves 

Partners can use the increased credibility they’ve earned with their partner status to reach more of your target audience.

Builds partner loyalty

A certification programme necessitates regular contact with partners and shows commitment to their development. As such, your partners will be more inclined to stay loyal. 

Improves quality and performance for partners and your company

Partners can clearly express your brand’s message and inform end customers of the value your business brings. Their improved sales and marketing ability for your brand can directly result in boosted revenue for both parties.

Incentivises partners to keep training

Partners will want to keep reaping the benefits from earning certifications through your training programme. They are more likely to undergo even more training and stay updated, knowing first-hand how much they gain from getting certified.

Scales growth

You can onboard new partners to your network much faster when there’s already a roadmap that demonstrates the process that they can follow. 

Support for your solutions and customers

Partners are fully equipped and can operate independently with confidence, reducing unnecessary communications with your business whenever a customer support problem arises.

Related reading: How to successfully implement training for external partners

How to Run a Channel Partner Certification Programme

The benefits of channel partner certification schemes are unmistakable but set-up and maintenance come with their own set of challenges. Here are steps you can take to find success running your programme:

Launch with clear, consistent and measured terms

73% of channel partners find vendor channel programmes to be too complex. Common complaints cited include the lack of formal plans and s that partnerships feel lopsided.

Partners will want to know what it takes to achieve and maintain that status and will expect those requirements to be applied equally across partners. We recommend that you launch your programme with a documented plan that outlines your expectations, objectives, strategies, responsibilities, and resources in collaboration with your channel partners. 

Reward and protect your partners

Partners will only invest time, money, and resources into your programme if they feel they are being suitably rewarded and protected. Identify their needs and communicate to them that a partnership with your company will fulfil their needs, whether it’s to expand their market reach or to improve their current offerings. 

Recognise your partners’ efforts and achievements with extra rewards. You can start with actual certificates and badges they can show off. Partners with higher levels of certifications can be awarded greater support through marketing or consulting, invitations to exclusive events, and even monetary compensation.

Track performance over time

Effective management of a partner training programme is key to success. Without proper measurement, neither performance nor productivity can be tracked or modified. 

Keep track of training uptake and completion, taking note of how long partners take to get certified and their passing rates for courses. It’s much easier to record such metrics with a robust learning management system, so make sure you procure an LMS when setting up your programme. Compare such metrics with sales numbers as well partner feedback to see how truly effective your programme is.

Set up a dedicated support team 

Investing in an LMS and partner system is only going to be effective if there is a team of people to support them and deliver a service that creates a satisfying partner experience. It does not end with the creation of your certification programme and LMS integration. 

While LMS’s are powerful by themselves, human intervention is still necessary for tasks that cannot be automated, which is especially the case for handling channel partners. You can look to external services to support and manage the partner programmes beyond your LMS’ capabilities if you cannot delegate internal staff.

Refresh the certification programme

With the need to stay competitive in your industry, your organisation is acquiring and developing new skills, improving and growing your line of products and services, and adopting the latest technologies. Your channel partner certification programme must remain relevant and cannot lag.

Spend time and resources to update training courses so that your partners can continue performing well and adapt to whatever changes in your industry. Take this as an opportunity to collect feedback from partners and incorporate that data to enhance your programme. You can introduce new tools and processes incrementally one partner at a time to see which updates work before making network-wide changes.

Customise training to each partner’s needs

There will certainly be elements that need to be standardised across your partner networks, such as branding guidelines and general technical training. However, the way each partner sells your products to specific segments of your target audience can differ greatly. Your programme has to accommodate these differences.

Expectations regarding how the training is done also matter. Some partners may prefer self-service online training or live training sessions, schedules have to be aligned, and the rate at which recertification has to be done can vary between partners. It may come as a surprise, but training asset customisation is a top priority for partners as well.

Certification Programmes Enrich Partner Training

Running a certification programme for your channel partners empowers them to better sell your products and market your brand. Through their efforts, your business enjoys sales growth and greater market penetration. Plan collaboratively, present incentives, track performance and maintain constant support for your partners with their specific needs in mind to ensure success.

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

If you are looking to implement a successful channel partner training programme, Wahoo Learning can provide a customised LMS and managed learning services to help you manage all aspects of your programme including bespoke certification schemes.

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