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Transformational Training Strategy for your Partner Network

 

Recently a group member within my LinkedIn network posed a question about developing a training strategy for up-skilling the knowledge and skills of his company’s Partner Network.  In particular what are the best ways to engage Partners in learning (when e-Learning is not an option) to develop their selling skills, product knowledge and objection handling capability?

 

Here is my response…

 

I have been in the exact same situation many times over many years developing partnerships and building Authorised Training Centres throughout UK, EMEA and Asia-Pacific.

 

It is quite a challenge because of their competing and sometimes conflicting business objectives. In many cases the Partner can be a much larger organisation and what you have to offer is relatively small in their overall business proposition, revenue and success.

 

First, if applicable, work with your Alliance Partner Managers to understand what the business objectives, targets and Partner Agreement (SLAs / KPIs) have been agreed with the Partner. These will form the basis for you to engage with the Partner and gain their commitment to embarking upon a series of training interventions – i.e. “In order for you [the Partner] to successfully sell our business solution to your client, and achieve this KPI, then this training programme will enable you to develop competence and confidence in x, y and z skills”. This helps answer the evitable “so what – what’s in it for me?” question that they will be thinking although not necessarily verbally articulating.

 

Second, you need to consider which training interventions are best linked to certification and are a value-added benefit to your Partner Network. However ask yourself the question – “is the certification for their benefit or yours?” You need to find a balance between up-skilling them (carrot) and forcing them to certify for your own purposes (stick). A globally recognised brand such as IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Vmware, Adobe or SAP has cachet in its own right (personal value) and shifts the balance of power, enabling them to insist upon certification.

 

Third, you need ask them, and understand what their business priorities and time pressures are. This will enable you to engage with them and develop a bespoke tailored way of transferring the pertinent knowledge to the groups and individuals in their respective business roles. In some cases this may mean having them attend specific training courses (at your location or theirs) but in other cases it may be conducting webinars, or having them work through up-to-date materials available within your Partner portal. In my experience there is typical a foundation level of knowledge that needs to be imparted to everyone and then a series of tracks that are specific to their role.

 

 

It is worth mentioning the importance of keeping the materials up-to-date within the Partner portal.  All too rapidly these materials become “stale” and need refreshing or replacing – particularly sales and marketing brochures and presentations decks.  If you can influence the design of the Partner portal then see that it is designed to automatically update / refresh the content and/or links to the latest materials. This will make a huge difference to the perception and reception of the Partner portal by your Partners, and will make them more inclined to engage with it to keep their knowledge up-to-date.

 

A final point:  In my first point I talked about understanding the Partner Agreement (SLAs / KPIs). This is reactive. Therefore, be proactive and work with your Alliance Partner Managers to define learning objectives (mandatory and optional); financial benefits and rewards for becoming certified (carrots) and see that these are included in the Partner Agreement, ideally before it is signed.

 

Keep in regular contact with your Partners to ensure that you are providing them with the knowledge; skills and support that they need to do their jobs effectively and ensure a strong partner relationship that successfully grows their business and yours.

 

Good luck … Gary