Blog Post

Channel Partner Training for Growing Your Business

Brian Timberlake
May 9, 2024
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For any organization to scale effectively, it needs the right channel partners. You don’t become a globally recognized brand without strong vendors, just as you don’t achieve hypergrowth without a cohesive network of marketers and resellers. Unfortunately, reaching that scale takes time—especially for organizations still in their early growth stages.

Channel partner training is your way to accelerate that growth. By equipping your distributors with the information they need to market, sell, and service your products or services, you can scale your operations without taking on any additional full- or part-time employees. Of course, engaging with channel partners can be a risky endeavor, particularly when you don’t know those partners well.

In this article, we’ll explore how to facilitate channel partner training the right way. Learn why channel partner training is so important, and get tips to create an effective program that protects you against risk while helping you grow.

What is Channel Partner Training?

Channel partner training is the process of enabling vendors, resellers, and other partners so they can effectively sell your products and service your customers. Often part of a broader partner education program, channel partner training includes workshops, whitepapers, training courses, certifications, and other forms of upskilling.

Why is Channel Partner Training Important?

Channel partner training helps your organization scale sustainably. By equipping trained partners with the resources they need to market and sell your products, you can leverage their external expertise and brand value while keeping your internal payroll and overhead costs down. In doing so, you protect your business from risk while still enjoying the benefits of growth.

Benefits of Channel Partner Training

Building a network of partners is one thing; enabling them to succeed is something else entirely. Whether you’ve just launched your network or you’ve nurtured it for years, here are the biggest business reasons to train your partners:

Increased Revenue

In our 2022 report, Examining the State of Organizational Education Report, we found that only 25% of companies educate their channel partners. Yet, when companies do educate partners—and do so as part of a broader education effort—the benefits are clear.

According to our study, 57% of companies that educate multiple audiences (partners, clients, and employees) report improved revenue compared to their peers. It’s not hard to imagine why. When you invest in external reseller training just as you do internal sales training, you give your partners the confidence they need to sell your offerings like your own top performers.

Shorter Customer Service Queues

Your partners are more than just salespeople; they’re champions of your products and services. The more product training you give your partners, the easier it becomes for them to answer client questions with confidence and accuracy. Not only does this help customers get answers quicker, but it also shortens queue times and frees up resources for your internal service team.

Better Customer Retention

According to our 2022 study, 61% of companies that educate multiple audiences report improved client retention compared to other organizations.

When you invest in experienced channel partners, you invest in better customer service, fewer usability issues, and a smoother end-to-end client experience. You may not see the benefits immediately, but let them compound. Once it’s renewal season, you’ll see the payoff by way of account retention and repeat business.

Stronger Product Engagement

Confident that your customers are leveraging the full value of your offerings? The data might surprise you. In our 2023 report, The State of Education Initiative Ownership, 23% of companies reported that their clients use half or less of their product’s total functionality.

Channel partner training gives your vendors and distributors the tools to help clients realize the full breadth of your feature set. The more opportunities clients have to engage with your product, the “stickier” that product becomes. Continue to nurture that product usage, and you’ll make it easier to expand client accounts in the long run.

Improved Long-Term Scalability

As important as the above benefits are, they won’t get your business far if they’re not sustainable. Thankfully, channel partner training programs are designed to help your business scale—letting you broaden your brand and bolster channel partner sales without much upkeep.

Say you have a team of 50 that services 1,000 client accounts. If your organization plans to add 500 more clients within the next 12 months, you likely won’t be able to win or retain that business with your current capabilities alone. But with trained channel partners, you can outsource the heavy lifting, and do so without compromising the quality of the service.

How to Create an Effective Channel Partner Training Program

Whether you’re looking to start a scalable partner training program or improve your existing efforts, you’re in the right place.

Here are six key ways to design channel partner training that gets results:

1. Understand Your Partners

Before you take any steps, you need to reflect on who exactly you’re looking to enable. According to Jeff Miller, a Channel Account Manager at cyber security company Adlumin, your partners aren’t a monolith, but rather a diverse group of sellers with unique needs.

“Most channel managers forget that they are not the only vendor the partner works with,” said Miller. “They come in and talk about features and functionality, but don’t take the time to understand the partner’s overall business or strategic goals (recurring revenue, cybersecurity revenue, margins, ideal customer profile, etc.).

“Ask partners about their background, their business initiatives, and their future,” he continued. “It makes them feel heard and important.”

Per Miller, effective channel partner training starts not with your needs, but your partners’ needs. By understanding their unique goals, you can tailor your training to give them maximum value—an act that will pay dividends in partner engagement and productivity.

“There’s always the WIIFM [what’s in it for me?]. Partner margins, renewal rates, sales bonuses, average deal size, average sales cycle length... Those factors are just as important to talk about as the product or service itself.”

The great thing about partner programs? Often, your partners’ WIIFM naturally aligns with your business’s. For example, you can adopt a revenue-split model that allows your partners to earn money whenever you do on certain sales. You can offer commissions to incentivize partners, or create partner “tiers” that allow you to reward dedicated resellers with higher-value deals.

2. Understand Your Customers

Once it does come time to consider your products and services, start by taking a client-centric approach. Think about your existing client base and where your partner network is uniquely positioned to help them.

“How does [our product] help the end user? What pain are we solving? Why is there a need for this solution? How does this fit in with what the partner is already selling the end user?” asked Miller.

According to Miller, you’ll want clarity on all of the above before designing any actual training content. That way, you can provide channel partner training that speaks to your partner’s needs, your client’s needs, and your business’s needs—all at once.

“Discuss your ideal customer profile, especially if you’re talking to the partner about a product or service in a crowded space,” he continued. 

“It’s important to say things like, ‘35% of our customers are in the financial services sector due to our patents around anomaly detection within core banking platforms.’ Providing context helps them understand where their efforts are best spent prospecting after the training.”

3. Create Effective Partner Education Materials

Now comes the fun part. Once you have the parameters set for your channel partner training program, you can begin putting your ideas to paper (both real and virtual).

Partner education comes in many forms, from in-person workshops to online training courses and certifications. Stick to the goals of your program and design personalized learning content that caters to the strengths of your partner base.

If your partners are local to your business, an in-person workshop series could prove effective. But if your network is distributed across cities and time zones, you’ll want to invest in virtual training materials and real-time webinar tools such as Zoom. Better yet, you might decide to create self-service education that your channel partners can consume at their own pace.

When in doubt about what to create, Miller recommends you simply ask your partners directly.

“If you’re selling cybersecurity services, ask them about their knowledge level of cybersecurity. They may need an introduction or background session on the topic before you dive right into your product or solution. Many of my trainings have nothing to do with what I’m trying to get partners to sell. They’re about the basics of cybersecurity, the prevalent problems people face, and how we fit in.”

4. Distribute Your Channel Partner Training

Creating content is one part of the equation; how you share and communicate that content is equally vital. Consider the nature of your partner network and what distribution methods are available to you.

If you work predominately with local partners, you may decide to lead with in-person training sessions. If your partners are more dispersed, you may decide that eLearning is a more viable path to share your content. You could even offer different learning paths, allowing partners to choose whether to attend in-person training or consume the equivalent curriculum online.

Also consider any localization or usability needs: Will you need to translate written content into other languages? Does your content meet modern standards for eLearning accessibility (closed captions, larger font sizes, etc.)? These may seem like small questions, but failing to address them can alienate segments of your partner audience—lessening the overall impact of your training efforts.

5. Ask for Partner Feedback

Even after you have channel partner training in place, the work’s only beginning. Partner feedback continues to play a crucial step in the process, allowing you to see what content is resonating with resellers and where there may be additional learning gaps.

“It’s so easy to do a training,” explained Miller. “It’s the follow-ups post-training where the magic occurs. Consider questions like: Did you find this useful? Was there anything I could clarify? What else do you need from me or my team to help you be successful?”

If partner feedback isn’t telling a complete story, also look at more quantitative education metrics. Ask yourself: 

  • What percent of partners are completing the course or training? 
  • How long are they engaging with the content? 
  • How often do questions or comments bubble up? 

Many online education platforms will let you gather and analyze data with ease, so you can address engagement issues promptly.

Having trouble acting on feedback? Modular content can be a lifesaver for your education or training team. By designing content in reusable “blocks,” you can easily swap out elements that aren’t resonating or need fine-tuning. Or, you can mix and match elements from different courses to further personalize your education based on the specific needs of your partners.

6. Invest in a Learning Management System (LMS)

As your partner network scales, creating personalized content can become increasingly challenging. A partner training LMS automates much of the headache associated with partner training, allowing you to design modular content, distribute it to your partner network, and analyze performance data, all in one place.

Think back to that team of 50 with 1,000 clients. If you want to scale your client base to 1,500 without hiring new employees, you’ll need to find and train a network of resellers. But leading that training manually would likely require a series of in-person sessions, each with dedicated planning, overhead, and labor costs. And education teams are stretched thin as it is.

With a learning management system, your team has added flexibility in how you educate your network. Sure, you can still host that in-person workshop—but you can also complement it with online courses, product certifications, videos, whitepapers, and other training resources. Best of all, you can host this content on a dedicated website, ensuring every partner has access.

Scale Your Channel Partner Training Program With Intellum

At the end of the day, channel partner training is the art of motivation. To enable your partners to effectively sell your offerings, you need to convince them why you’re worth investing in. As Miller put it, “Telling stories about how we saved the day goes further than any PowerPoint could.”

Intellum is a leading LMS platform that helps you educate multiple audiences—partners, customers, and employees—and enable them to succeed. Design engaging content with our inline Evolve authoring tool, personalize it based on the needs of your audience, and share your education anywhere. 

About the Author

Brian Timberlake headshot
Brian Timberlake
General Manager
Brian Timberlake has been in sales for his entire career, including overseeing channel networks. He brings this expertise to Intellum customers with partner sales and education motions.