Channel partners play a crucial role in how products and services are marketed, positioned and sold. With partners contributing hugely to market reach, brand awareness and profitability, it is essential to provide comprehensive training programs that equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to sell your products or services effectively.
One way to achieve this is by integrating channel partner certification programs into your training. Certifications help channel partners demonstrate their expertise to potential customers and provide a framework for ongoing learning and development.
Introducing certification can be as simple or complex as you need. It can range from simple one-tiered programs to multi-tiered programs designed to recognise increasing expertise and take learners from basic-level knowledge to highly skilled.
In this blog, we discuss some tips and best practices for integrating certification into channel partner training programs to help you create a successful and sustainable partnership ecosystem.
What is Channel Partner Certification?
Channel Partner certification is a process of verifying and recognising the knowledge and skills of channel partners. It forms part of a training program and offers a way to drive, track and incentivise learning.
Certification typically involves completing a series of courses or exams and achieving a certain level of proficiency in the subject matter. The goal of channel partner certification is to improve the quality of partner engagements and drive better results.
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 program to be about more than just sales and marketing. It provides the following benefits:
Ensures partner status is valid
Managing partners is simpler when their status can be easily checked through the certifications they have. With this information, you have a quantitative measure of your partners’ training progress and the program can be adjusted accordingly.
Allows for partner segmentation
You can segment partners based on the certifications they’ve achieved, allocating resources and rewards proportionate to the level of certification.
Brings credibility to your program
The tangible requirements that partners must earn show that certification 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 program 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 enhanced sales and marketing ability can directly result in a revenue boost for both parties.
Incentivises partners to keep training
Partners will want to keep reaping the benefits from earning certifications through your training program. They are more likely to undergo even more training and stay updated, knowing first-hand how much they gain from getting certified.
You can onboard new partners to your network much faster when there’s a predefined roadmap demonstrating the process 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
Tips for Running a Channel Partner Certification Program
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 program:
Launch with clear, consistent and measured terms
73% of channel partners find vendor channel programs to be too complex. Common complaints cited include the lack of formal plans and that partnerships feel lopsided.
Partners will want to know what it takes to achieve and maintain that status and expect those requirements to be applied equally across partners. We recommend launching your program with a documented plan outlining 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 program 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 to expand their market reach or 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 certification levels can be awarded more significant support through marketing or consulting invitations to exclusive events or even monetary compensation.
Track performance over time
Effective management of a partner training program is key to success. Without proper measurement, neither performance nor productivity can be tracked or modified.
Keep track of training uptake and completion, noting how long partners take to get certified and their pass rates for courses. Recording such metrics is easier with a robust learning management system, so ensure you procure an LMS when setting up your program. Metrics should also be compared with sales numbers and partner feedback to learn your program’s effectiveness.
Set up a dedicated support team
Investing in an LMS and partner training 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 creating your certification program and LMS integration.
While LMSs are powerful, human intervention is still necessary for tasks that cannot be automated. If you cannot delegate internal staff, look to external services to support and manage the training programs.
Refresh the certification program
With the endless need to stay competitive, your organisation will constantly acquire and develop new skills, improve and grow products and services, and use the latest technologies. This fast-paced environment means your channel partner certification program must remain relevant and cannot lag.
Spend time and resources to update training courses so your partners can continue performing well and adapt to whatever changes in your industry. Take this as an opportunity to collect feedback and incorporate that data to enhance your program.
You can introduce new tools and processes one partner at a time to see which updates work before making network-wide changes.
Customise training to each partner’s needs
Standardised elements will be needed across your channel partner network, such as branding guidelines and general technical training. However, the way each partner sells your products to specific segments of your target audience will differ. Your program has to accommodate these differences.
Expectations regarding how the training is undertaken 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 is needed can vary between partners. It may come as a surprise, but training asset customisation is a top priority for partners as well.
Certification Programs Enrich Partner Training
Running a certification program 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 aligned to their needs to ensure success.
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 on selecting the best LMS for your channel partner training program.