Lessons from Excellent Partner Programs
By Gordon Johnson, VP Marketing, Expertus
At many companies, channel performance is essential for overall business success. It makes sense to invest in strong partner education programs — assuming that the more product knowledge and competence resellers acquire, the better they’ll perform and the more loyal they’ll be. But how well do the facts support this assumption? What kind of return can companies really expect from partner development?
Advice From Learning Leaders
Some organizations have been considering these questions for years, in determining how to optimize channel enablement. After all, as one leader told us at a Learning Executive Think Tank, “We don’t want to grow our sales 30% by hiring more sales people. We want to grow our sales by being 30% more effective.”
When Danielle Tomlinson was Senior Director of Global Training at Red Hat, she confirmed the impact of channel education. “We see a correlation. The more people who are certified at a reseller organization, the more product is sold.”
But just how much more effective should we expect educated partners to be?
According to Dell CIO, Tom Dickson, “Certified partners are 143% more productive than others.”
And a partner education executive at a major high-technology company told us that, “Certification and correlated training resulted in an estimated $1.1 billion increase in revenue over a three-year period.”
That’s a hefty business benefit — even for a large company. But it seems that even smaller organizations can realize significant returns from effective partner education. As one reseller training consultant explained, “It not only improves bottom line results in the near term, but it strengthens the depth and duration of partner relationships over time.”
Russ Greene, Senior Director of Channel Development at EMC, agrees. “Training and certification not only drive skills and competencies, but they absolutely do expand the opportunity footprint for resellers. Once you prove the value of certification to your resellers, you don’t need to push or promote it in the future. They’ll recognize how important it is, and seek it out.”
Three Elements of Effective Partner Education
What makes channel partner education work? Here are three recommendations from Russ:
1) Develop Resellers as a Mirror of Internal Sales
If you manage external and internal teams as equals — while minimizing channel conflict — both have incentive to perform at their peak. But achieving the same level of product knowledge and competence across all channels requires comparable communication, training and support. From a technology standpoint, your learning experience must be:
- Highly personalized for diverse user roles and experience levels;
- Seamlessly integrated with CRM and other enterprise applications, systems and resources;
- Easy for both internal and external managers to use for planning, tracking and analyzing individual and overall progress.
2) Offer Development On Your Partners’ Terms
Learning won’t happen if resellers don’t have easy access to relevant information, training and support — when and where it’s convenient for them. This means learning content and activities should be made highly available through a secure, mobile-friendly, web portal environment. And payment processing should be as comprehensive and easy to use as an Amazon.com shopping cart.
This gives your organization the flexibility to offer learning across multiple modes, such as:
- ILT and virtual classroom training
- Self-paced e-learning and assessment modules
- On-demand reference content for tablets, smartphones and other devices
- Social forums for peer-to-peer troubleshooting and informal knowledge sharing
3) Commit to Continuous Development
Today’s global marketplace is more dynamic than ever. Even if you’re not in the high-tech industry, your products and services will continue to evolve. To keep channel partners at the top of their game, your company must provide ongoing education and support. This requires a learning platform that scales quickly and localizes easily for global roll-outs, and offers individualized learning paths, so you can minimize disruption for resellers, while ensuring that their organization maintains a high level of competency.
The proof from EMC and other world-class organizations is compelling. When thoughtfully and consistently developed and administered, partner education programs and next-generation LMS platforms like ExpertusONE can work together to achieve powerful results. Your business will benefit, your partners will benefit, and ultimately your customers will be better served.
To learn more about how a strong channel education strategy and learning technology can work together to drive partner engagement, we invite you to attend a special on-demand webinar: “How to Build a World-Class Partner Certification Program.”
Note from Gordon: Would you like to discuss how your organization can apply any of these partner certification tips? I’m happy to help. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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