When you work with channel partners, you’re essentially expanding your sales force to reach new markets. But it’s important to remember that your channel partners aren’t living and breathing your products the same way your internal team is. In fact, your partners are most likely working with other vendors and dividing their attention between the different brands they sell.
How do you get your channel partners familiar enough with your products and messaging to sell as effectively as an employee of your company?
The key is to make sure your channel partners can always tap into your company knowledge, at any time and from any location. Let’s take a look at some of the key sources of knowledge for your channel partners.
Onboarding and Training
Your onboarding program is a chance for your partners to get to know your product, target market, and messaging. It’s also an opportunity for you to introduce your partners to your incentives program and show them where they can go to find the most up-to-date information about that program. By the time they’ve completed onboarding, marketing and sales personnel at your partner companies should feel motivated to sell your product and confident in their ability to position your solution to their customers.
Just keep in mind that a successful onboarding program doesn’t mean you’re done training your partners.
Consider offering ongoing training opportunities (such as online workshops for sales reps) so that your partners can continue to hone their skills and stay on top of updates to become experts in your product. Make your training materials available to partners on demand so that their employees can learn at their own pace and revisit content as needed.
You should also make sure your trainees can measure their progress objectively. For example, you could offer a certification program which requires trainees to review specific pieces of content and pass a series of checkpoint quizzes. If you’re using a knowledge sharing platform like Bloomfire, you can embed these quizzes in your posts and view reports to see who has been consuming specific content pieces.
Marketing Collateral and Sales Tools
Here’s a sobering statistic: 70 percent of companies who work with channel partners have partners who don’t know what sales materials are available or where to find them.
Don’t set your partners up for failure by making your marketing collateral and sales tools difficult to access. Centralize your collateral in a knowledge sharing platform, or partner portal, that lets partners search by keywords and apply search filters to find exactly what they’re looking for.
In addition to resources like case studies, product guides, and sales playbooks, make sure your platform includes brand use guidelines. You may also want to include co-branded collateral so that partners can easily customize your marketing materials. Providing customizable marketing collateral and clearly laying out brand guidelines will help your company control the look and feel of your brand, no matter where your products are being sold.
Company News and Product Updates
Just like you don’t want to make your partners work to find marketing and sales collateral, you don’t want to make them work to keep up with your latest company and product news— or wonder if the information they have is the most up to date.
One way to make sure your partners have access to current information is to post news and product updates to your knowledge sharing platform in real time. However, when you’re sharing time-sensitive information, you shouldn’t assume that your partners are going to find it in the platform when you want them to. You may also want to send email notifications or newsletters that link back to the platform when you have timely content to share.
If you decide to send a newsletter, remember that there will probably be some product updates and news items that are only relevant to certain partners. And since your partners are busy communicating with all the vendors they work with, they’ll likely become frustrated if you clutter their inbox with irrelevant information. Take the time to tailor your newsletters according to how you segment your partners (and to the role of the recipient) so that your messages are always valuable to the reader.
Product Expertise and FAQs
While your training materials and sales collateral will help familiarize channel partners with your product(s), your partners will likely get some questions from their customers that they don’t know how to answer.
When these questions come up, it’s essential that your partners know where to go to get an answer quickly. If they can’t get an answer in a timely manner, they may damage their reputation or lose business—and that isn’t going to make them want to continue working with your company.
If your partner portal has Q&A functionality, encourage your partners to search the platform for answers to their question, and to post a new question if they don’t find what they’re looking for. Work with your internal subject matter experts to establish a reasonable timeframe in which to respond to new questions so that your partners are never left hanging.
Publishing questions and answers to a knowledge sharing platform will benefit both you and your partners. Over time, you’ll build up a solid base of FAQs so that your partners can find the answer to almost any product question by performing a simple keyword search. And when your partners can find the information they need on your own, your product experts won’t have to spend as much time fielding questions.
Help Your Channel Partners Sell by Getting Their Feedback
As you build out content and transfer knowledge to your channel partners, remember that you should be having a two-sided conversation. Encourage your partners to provide feedback on what customer-facing content is working well, what common questions they’ve been hearing from their customers, and so on. You can use this feedback to optimize the content you share with your partners so that they’re in the best possible position to sell your product.
You can also gather feedback from your partners— and let your partners bounce ideas off one another— by setting up an online partner community. This community will give partners a place to make connections, ask questions, collaborate, and share ideas about marketing and sales strategies. And by monitoring and engaging with this community, your internal team will gain new insights into how you can improve your processes and help your partners succeed.