Many vendors and solution providers still haven’t cracked the nut on partner training. Product training may not seem invigorating, but it’s undeniably vital.
Training processes typically go one of two ways:
Some vendors don’t provide enough training. They offer an initial stock “intro to product,” but not much beyond that. Put very simply; sometimes there isn’t enough training material to adequately prepare the partner to sell and service the solution.
There should be separate sales and technical training on the solution. While both funnel into growth objectives and ultimately revenue, the tempo, processes, and end goals vary greatly. To move up the tiers of a channel program, partners should be required to take additional training, particularly in professional services opportunities where they can make real margins. After all, if they’re receiving more programmatic benefits in terms of MDF, discounts, and marketing enablement, they should have a more in-depth product or service knowledge so they can stand on their own two feet and drive revenue for the vendor. In this sense, vendors should make this as easy as possible.
On the other end of the spectrum, some vendors make partners jump through so many hoops that ultimately, the partner decides it’s not worth it. They now must have all of these additional certifications, and not many have days or weeks at a time to dedicate to such in-depth processes.
“We have to understand that partners today are busy,” says Eric Pinto, senior director of channel and product strategy, SOCSoter, Inc. “They are overwhelmed with past, present, and future problems and products. So it is incumbent on the vendor to understand these concerns and break down their help and their guidance into bite-sized, digestible pieces.”
Making It Just Right
Pinto says that it’s the vendor’s job to get a team up to speed on their solutions so that the partner can relay that information up and down the chain. The problem is that no one has a ton of extra time to dedicate to that kind of process.
Vendors need to be mindful of the fact that their product isn’t the only product that MSPs have to learn. It’s the vendor’s job to make that training and knowledge transfer process as seamless as possible. Put out as much digestible information as possible, documented in an easy-to-read way, that partners can access and engage with in a self-directed manner. Case in point: In a recent survey by Allbound in conjunction with JS Group, 45% of respondents said they wanted to see more “at your own pace” training modules from vendors during WFH.
Pinto says that many companies have training materials on their websites – portals that partners can access to find all the training materials they might need. The problem is that partners need to be encouraged to access the portal regularly. It’s up to channel account managers to reach out to partners and make them aware of training offerings and the benefits that go along with them. Scheduling initial calls and then check-in calls can do wonders.
“In my opinion, a good partner training program consists of a knowledge base of videos, papers, and certifications,” says Sandy McGrath, operations manager at Final Frontiers Systems Corp.
“Datto Academy is a great example. They have all their courses for every aspect of the solutions they provide. They also combine those courses into certificates, making onboarding new staff a breeze. When a vendor goes above and beyond to provide an in-depth resource that is so good, it becomes part of your internal processes. That is when partner training is successful, in my experience.”
Just developing training once isn’t going to cut it. According to McGrath, you also have to have a vendor willing to dedicate resources to maintain and update their training. Further, these resources should be available on an ongoing basis to discuss issues or when knowledge is lacking.
Partners often jump at the chance to help write training and documentation for the vendor if the benefits are there. Usually, the vendor gets a great return. They can provide the discount or bonus the partner is looking for, save their own time and resources from writing the material, and get a real-world example of how their partners use their solution or software. Such events can highlight where a partner is missing out on features or opportunities.
It all boils down to this: partners who are well-trained on the benefits and best uses of a product or service are likely to have a better experience and higher opinion of the offering. They are more apt to be repeat customers because they have experienced the value of the said offering. The primary interest of a vendor is to retain customers, so it is in their best interest to train partners effectively. Here are a few ideas and takeaways to keep in mind.
- Invest in a partner training platform, or PRM, which supports channel growth and dynamic learning. Vendors must have a central repository for training and enablement materials that’s quick and easy for partners to access; partners shouldn’t need to hunt around for materials to help them learn more about the solution offering.
- Make it easily consumable. Wherever possible, create self-paced training modules and easily accessable technical and sales sheets that partners can reference as needed. Sometimes long, arduous training can’t be avoided… but most of the time, it can. Remember that the focus of the training is the partner, not the vendor, so make it as quick and straightforward for them to engage with as you can.
- Make the knowledge transfer as seamless and regular as possible. As part of a partner’s first onboarding, vendors should host a one-on-one “get up to speed” call to walk the partner through the solution before even sending them through to formal training. Then account managers should have a check-in at 30 days, 60 days, etc. This refresher approach will save headaches in the future.