Businesses today have unprecedented reach. A customer from the other side of the globe can specify or order your product and have it arrive within a week. Yet accessibility doesn’t automatically translate to sales. Before a customer even thinks about making a purchase, businesses need to have the ability to connect and address their needs.
And for that, many choose to develop a channel partner network. Channel partners help businesses gain a foothold on new markets by using regional knowledge to appeal to customers, navigate legislation, and tackle the logistics of fulfilment.
The Fundamentals of Channel Partner Training
Training is invaluable for equipping your network with the know-how to serve customers in the best way possible, and in the process winning loyalty and becoming a champion of the brand.
Channel partners are entities that aren’t employed by a business. They are distributors, franchisees, installers and resellers. However, just because they’re not on your payroll, it doesn’t mean they’re any less part of your team. These third parties represent who you are to the local market, and work as an extension of your business. Customers will associate the quality of their service to your brand, for better or for worse.
The ultimate goal of your training programme is to achieve success, whatever that may look like, to all parties.
What Problems Can Channel Partner Training Address?
When people walk into Apple-authorised stores, they expect the same thing: clean aesthetics, premium service and highly knowledgeable staff. Location doesn’t matter. Whether you’re in Shanghai or London, the experience–and the brand’s vision–is consistent.
That’s the power of channel partner training. Your customers have set expectations for your business. When these are met, it creates a stronger affinity and recognition for the brand. Conversely, your reputation also takes a hit whenever customers have a bad experience that involves your product. This can of course be avoided through training with consistent, standardised messaging.
Lack of customer trust is not the only issue training can solve. Because they’re not directly employed by your business, channel partners can feel left out of the loop. They can be less likely to care about the impact of their behaviour on your business.
Channel partner training brings them into the fold. By having access to a constantly updated LMS and accompanying training programme, partners can feel more included and are more likely to continue working with you. It also gives partners a deeper understanding of why you operate the way you do, which can help secure their support and enthusiasm.
Clear communication is one of the challenges of working with channel partners. You are separate entities that are often focused on individual internal problems, quotas, and KPIs. Amidst the flurry of daily operations, regular communication can fall to the wayside.
With an LMS, businesses have a way to keep the knowledge of channel partners updated without being too disruptive. Simple reminders about updated courses and incentives help keep product training front-of-mind for channel partners and also offers an additional source of communication
When sufficient training is not offered, you will see a rise in service support costs. For example, if your product requires professional installation, each of your installers must have the competence to fit the product and check their work. In addition, as your company expands into new markets, you can expect to start facing issues unique to the region.
Trained channel partners can help ease the strain on your in-house support agents by resolving issues before they reach your team. This helps customers get their troubles solved faster and helps decrease the cost of hiring more people to handle the load.
Knowledge will be your edge over every other product on the shelf. Around 70 per cent of customers say knowledgeable salespeople heavily influence their purchasing decisions. The more trained partners are, the better they can sell your products.
And increased sales secures loyalty not just from customers. When channel partners can move your product faster off shelves and feel like they are fully supported, they’re more likely to choose to sell, specify or install your product over your competitors.
What Does Channel Partner Training Entail?
Onboarding is typically a multistep process that aims to get your partners knowledge and skills up-to-speed, and also integrate them into your overall partner programme. During this phase, partners should also be taught how to use, navigate and make the most of your chosen Learning Management System (LMS). Businesses can also use this time to discuss potential gaps and weaknesses that the training programme will address.
Product training constitutes the meat of channel partner training. Over the course of training, partners are taught everything they need to know about your product, from basic specifications and installation to advanced troubleshooting. Some companies, like IBM, certify individuals as technicians after training.
One of the most important aspects of channel partner training is knowing how to sell your product or service. Closed deals are the result of effective communication, and during sales, training partners are taught how to talk to customers, address their needs, and deftly resolve uncertainties they may have about purchasing.
The Benefits of Channel Partner Training
Working with partners to improve their knowledge has benefits that extend to every facet of your business, from your sales to your potential to grow.
1. Boost sales
The immediate benefit of effective channel partner training is boosting sales, for both you and your partners. Channel partners already know their audience. Training gives them the details they need to close the deal faster, as well as the ability to use advanced sales strategies such as cross or upselling.
Today’s consumers are also some of the most well-informed. Many start the process with the knowledge of countless reviews and videos they’ve seen online. Partners who demonstrate product expertise are more important than ever and can bring in around 69 per cent more in sales than those who don’t.
2. Retain customers
Securing loyalty will be crucial for successfully establishing your business in a new market. Repeat customers are nine times more likely to make a purchase than new customers.
To foster that trust, brands need an understanding of local preferences and behaviours. Aimed with sufficient product knowledge, your channel partners can be your gateway to loyal customers. The opposite also holds true. Customers can only be driven away when they feel like they know more than your salespeople about your product.
3. Strengthen partnerships
A comprehensive channel partner training programme is a sign that you’re invested in the growth of your partners. Training bolsters your relationship and creates trust, which will be essential when you’re navigating unfamiliar regions. It shows partners that you’re a team, which will be invaluable when tackling problems on the ground.
In an ideal scenario, vendors have access to your product experts. However, some businesses don’t have partner-specific avenues available, making them go through help desks like regular customers. During training, distributors get direct access to your expert knowledge, lessening the frustration of having to go through hoops.
4. Scale faster
Expanding into a foreign market is always a considerable risk. Case in point: Walmart’s failure in Japan, a cautionary story of how even retail giants can fail when they don’t integrate local business practices.
Local partners help you gain a stable foothold faster by eliminating guesswork and preventing you from trying to fix what isn’t broken. Businesses can spend more time looking for growth opportunities and less time testing what works and what doesn’t.
Behind every successful expansion story, there’s a network of distributors, vendors, and resellers who make sure products hit the shelves running. Arming them with updated and comprehensive product knowledge is beneficial to everyone involved–your business, your channel partners, and your customers.
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.