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The Challenges of Channel Partner Training (And How to Solve Them)

Published: 14th June 2021

Training your channel partners, while hugely beneficial for both your organisation and your network, does come with its challenges. In this article, I want to go over some of the barriers to the success of channel partner training and how to address each one, based on our experience working with countless organisations for the past 20 years.  

Businesses Looking to Implement a Partner Training Programme

Businesses that are about to embark on training their channel partners, whether that’s through a formal eLearning or a blended learning approach, will encounter unique challenges and to the unaware, this can cause pain points throughout the lifetime of the programme. 

Challenge #1: Getting the Internal Organisational Buy-In

The biggest challenge is often getting the organisation to buy in and recognise the benefits partner training can bring.  

Organisations will be aware that product knowledge is key to the success of their sales strategy, but the benefits of providing a training programme to improve the effectiveness of your partner channel are less understood and often overlooked.  

Solution:

To get buy-in, it’s important to recognise as an organisation the benefits training can bring to your sales and partner relationship. With partner training, you can empower your customers and your partners with product knowledge, sales knowledge, and the toolkit they need to make your sales strategy a success.

Challenge #2: Engagement with Channel Partners

Getting organisational buy-in is only the tip of the iceberg. Once your programme is launched, the next big challenge is partner engagement. If there is a lack of partner engagement – even with all the right training, platform, or customer support – then it’s going to fail pretty quickly. 

Solution:

The best people to solve this challenge are your sales team or your partner engagement team because they know your organisation’s partners best.

Right from the outset, you need to talk with your partners to gauge what information would be useful for them to have, the kind of training they need, and how they want that delivered. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to partner training. The only way to find out what’s going to be suitable is to have discussions with your partners in advance.

Understand the demand, purpose, and problems that your programme is aiming to solve. Without this, you’re going to end up trying to solve problems that your partners do not face, or aiming for an end result that’s not desired by anyone.
 

Challenge #3: Funding

Determining if your programme will have all the bells and whistles (e.g. VR training, LMS platform etc) is all well and good. Funding, however, is a big challenge. 

Human resource departments tend to control the training budgets, but they will not be willing to spend that on external partners. Sales teams are reluctant to share their budget and of course, justifying new budgetary allocation from senior management is a difficult undertaking, so choices are limited.  

Solution:

You need to get the buy-in from the right people. Lots of organisation leaders think that partner training is obscured or already drowned out by typical learning and development training within HR. Remember the purpose of the programme is to increase the effectiveness of the channel and so there is going to be a return on this investment and when done correctly there is no reason the programme can’t pay for itself or even turn a profit.

Challenge #4: Resource

Having the internal resource to effectively deploy, administer, and manage a training programme can be a challenge and shouldn’t be underestimated. Employing a specific team comes with expenses and can be seen as an additional hassle. If there is already an L&D team in place, they may not have the time, resources, or expertise to manage this type of training programme, with the additional challenges of supporting external customers. 

Learners also need support, especially for external partner training where learners can be based across the globe. 

Solution: 

Outsource the support and management services. They know the product and services best and will work in partnership to ensure the training programme is a success. By partnering with a training company that has the skills and expertise to effectively run and manage your programme for you, you reduce the need for any internal resource, which saves time and money while ensuring your programme is run professionally by the experts. You can expect to receive management and support services such as learner support, full programme management, eLearning content creation and even management of the eCommerce aspect of your programme. 

Businesses That Want to Improve Existing Channel Partner Training Programmes

Businesses that already have an external training programme in place are not immune from their own set of challenges, as the more partners they train, the more moving parts they need to manage. 

Challenge #1: Reluctance to Take a New Approach

We often see a lot of businesses without any dedicated instructor. Even if they have an in-house instructor or someone who trains their partners, these individuals are, more often than not, from the sales team who were involved in the sales aspect of the project. They do a presentation with partners they’ve sold products to, and then leave an instruction manual. Training is done as a one-off, with the accounts team checking in every so often. 

Solution:

To improve a training programme that’s set up in this fashion, the greatest challenge is getting over the inertia of change. Instructors, while doing a fantastic job, often fear that moving into an eLearning format of training means they will be replaced. This is, however, unlikely to be the case. Course material will always need to be created and the knowledge and real-world experience instructors can bring to this is invaluable. The relationships an instructor has with partners is also an asset that can be leveraged for the success of any new programme. 

Challenge #2: The Brain Drain

On the flip side of the coin, businesses that only have one dedicated instructor run the risk of a single gatekeeper to knowledge. The challenge arises when this person retires or leaves the company, leaving the business with no one else who has the knowledge of those products or services.  

Solution:

  • Take a blended approach — Since it’s unlikely that you’re going to convert 100% of your instructor-led classroom training to a fully online programme, starting with a blended approach will help your partners transition. You can start with a foundational eLearning course, and then integrate instructor-led, classroom-based activities after. Follow this up with assessments and/or supplementary training.

This approach can help expand, grow, and open your training to partners that might not be able to reach your classroom because of geography or budget. Over time, you can slowly migrate to an online-led approach, if that’s where you want to take it.  

  • Present this as an opportunity, not a threat — eLearning content doesn’t come from thin air. Instructors are crucial to knowing and teaching the nuances of products and services. It might be a slight change but it’s only to get the training down in a method that can easily be turned into eLearning. Once instructors are freed up from teaching the same courses over and over, they have more time to explore other topics and areas they can provide training for.

How Wahoo Can Help Solve Channel Partner Training Challenges

These are challenges that we’ve been asked to overcome in the past. The solutions we’ve provided are borne from experience. Throughout these challenges, we can support your needs through: 

1. Decades of Helping Multiple Businesses Across Industries

We’ve got the knowledge of how to conduct partner training, both in an instructor-led approach and in eLearning. One of the greatest set of challenges for organisations that are looking to do either is the lack of expertise in bringing a training programme online, lack of expert resources, and/or the lack of budget. 

We can resolve these challenges by almost eliminating them, as we can undertake much of this work on your behalf. We can create training materials from any documents, source, or presentation. We can produce professional content, narrate, animations, videos, and even use VR.

2. Dedicated Customisable LMS

Based on the award-winning Totara Learn platform, but heavily customised and including our ‘Compass’ add-ons we’ve created a tailored, customisable learning management solution that is a feature-rich LMS but has been heavily customised for the specific purpose of solving the challenges of organisations creating a partner training programme. It’s user-centric and easy to use, and can also act as an extension of your website.

3. Managing LMS On Your Behalf

The most important aspect of what we bring to the table is the service. This is where we solve the challenges. We host and manage and administer the training platform entirely as a managed service.

As an organisation, you don’t have to be hands-on with the platform and technology at all. You can if you wish, but the model works best when we manage it purely on your behalf. You’ll have an account manager, so any demands or changes can be implemented as needed. 

We’ve also got a great customer service team. You won’t be left without a contact to resolve any technical issues you might have.  

4. Helping You Solve Your Funding Issues

The easiest way to solve the budgetary problem is to charge your partners for the training, so that you, as an organisation, won’t have to bear any of the cost.   

Selling your training to your partners bring a two-pronged benefit: A) It can provide you with a self-funded programme or even revenue to fund a broader programme, and B) We found that when people pay for training, they tend to value it and trust it more. You’ve also got the huge benefit of an incentive to complete it.  

The challenge of monetising a training programme for external partners is often technology and ownership of that financial management. For the technology, you need an eCommerce solution that’s going to work intrinsically and fully integrated with your learning platform. You need to have a fully integrated solution, where purchasing a course is just as easy as continuing your training.  

We can also manage the financial aspect and eCommerce solution. The revenue generated by the programme is processed by us and fully reported upon. This can either be used to pay for the programme or invoiced and returned to the organisation. It means we’re the ones that take on the burden of handling processing all payments and refunds, discount codes, subscriptions, and invoicing payments. 

If you’d like to see how we helped an organisation overcome these challenges, you can read our case study for Commscope here.

Are you ready to create a partner training programme or improve what you currently have? Get in touch with us today and we’ll walk you through our suite of features, including our Managed Learning Service, as well as our Finance Management and Learner Support.

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Lloyd is the Managing Director of Wahoo Learning. He has a passion for the learning technology industry, particularly the latest innovations and technologies.

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