Partners Are Your Brand Ambassadors — That's Why You Need to Give Them Training Help your partners help you. With tailored partner training programs, you can equip partners for sales success.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In my experience as the CEO of an e-learning company, I've seen many businesses employ partnerships as a growth strategy — especially as business environments become more complex and unpredictable. Many companies work with partners including franchisees, resellers, consultants and other vendors to increase their reach, tap into new markets, expand their offerings and more.
To realize the goals of the partnership, it's not enough to take a hands-off approach and hope for the best. If you're not making active efforts to onboard new partners and extend continuous, tailored training to them — the way you would with your own employees — you're doing the partner and yourself a disservice.
For example, imagine walking into a partner's client meeting where they're showing your outdated marketing materials from years ago. Even worse, they have no idea what your new products are and it feels like they're representing a different company altogether.
Partners are people who represent your brand, help market products and often interact with clients — so treat them as such. It's up to you to help partners get the best results and become good brand representatives. Your company will reap the benefits in the long run, as partner training helps boost customer retention, sales and brand awareness.
Here are four tips to create a successful partner training program.
1. Establish partner training goals and needs
You and your partners likely have the same main goal: successfully marketing and selling a product or service. However, if you're not sharing information, you may have different ideas about when and how to reach business goals.
So, don't jump headfirst into cookie-cutter training. Instead, talk to partners and evaluate their needs. You can do this through periodic surveys that assess their challenges and identify opportunities for improvement. Also, include questions about partners' business processes, branding, sales techniques and goals.
Knowing and aligning on goals is particularly important. You may set high standards and measurable key performance indicators for your employees, but find that partners use other KPIs. Of course, setting performance metrics for partners depends on your initial agreement. You may be measuring only revenue generated by partners at this point.
Although partners can set their own performance metrics, it's up to you to establish what should be their main focus and steer them in the right direction. So, create the training objectives to reflect your marketing and sales KPIs. For example, if your main goal is to increase sales next quarter, create sales training to help partners improve their techniques, including your tried-and-tested best practices.
2. Offer flexible and convenient training
Creating and updating partner training should be an easy, repeatable process for your learning and development (L&D) department.
And when it comes to training, accessibility and convenience matter a lot to your partners, too. From their perspective, external training is optional training, so they need extra motivation.
To address these areas, use a corporate learning platform that allows you to scale training and supports both employee and partner needs. Look for:
- The ability to create separate training websites for partner training. This way, partners don't see content meant for employees. You can also brand your partner portals to reflect a partner's color scheme and logo, and update courses, add new ones and enroll new learners as the partner network grows.
- Support for on-demand courses. This can help your company cut costs (related to training logistics, travel, etc.), and partners can consume online courses conveniently, at their own pace.
- Built-in motivational tools such as gamification to reward partners for their training progress.
3. Create a partner certification program
Partners such as resellers are among the best brand ambassadors. It would be a missed opportunity not to offer them a chance to become certified representatives of your brand. On top of that, partners who want to obtain certification are more likely to complete your training requirements, too.
So for partner certification, start by creating a more advanced training program that includes product knowledge, marketing strategy and sales skills. Partners who successfully complete it can automatically obtain a certificate through your learning platform. This is what we do at my company with good results.
Additionally, our partners can get free marketing materials and other perks such as an "official certified partner" badge to display on their website. They also get a free subscription to our e-learning platform so they can use it for client demos.
4. Evaluate training ROI
Measuring training results is a must for any training program since it helps you determine your return on investment. The results also help identify areas of improvement, measure partner engagement in training and inform future decisions.
Some of the most important analytics to take into account are:
- Course completion. How many trainees have completed their online courses? While a low completion rate is bad news, you can use this information to remind learners to log in and take the course.
- Assessments. How are learners performing in their courses? Their scores can reveal how well they understand the material, identify knowledge gaps and show whether partners need more practice in certain areas.
- Skills mastery. Can partners demonstrate the skills required of them? It's important to have an overview of the skills and competencies that partners should acquire and the ability to analyze when and whether they've mastered them across their learning journey.
Skills mastery is particularly important since — when it comes to demonstrating readiness — completion rates don't paint the whole picture. You want to ensure that partners acquire skills (not just knowledge) and can prove they've mastered them. This should be a priority for certification since learning concrete and demonstrable skills will also make the program more attractive to prospective brand ambassadors.
Creating successful partner training
Working with partners can help companies increase their sales and brand awareness. To that end, it makes sense to offer quality and flexible partner training, adapted to their needs and aligned with your business goals; incentivize partners to complete training; and calculate training ROI.
Strategic partnerships will help your business grow, but it's a two-way street. You need to help your partners help you, and training is one of the most important ways to ensure you're getting the most out of any partnership.