Effective channel partner training is key to a channel partner strategy for companies that want to expand beyond traditional territories, whether domestically or internationally. The advantages of channel partners, such as new sales with less overhead, an expanded footprint, and increased marketshare, come with some challenges, such as product knowledge, commitment to customer satisfaction, and measurement.
A company with a unique view of channel partner enablement
CustomerGauge’s approach to the channel partner relationship, which is based on training, has positioned them to reap the benefits while overcoming most of the challenges.
CustomerGauge, a customer of Thought Industries and recent COGNITION Performance Award winner, takes the long view. Instead of focusing on Customer Success, which is one-to-one and immediate, their focus is on the Account Experience (AX) over time. In short, their technology and methodology determine the current state of the customer base (including threats), and how to maximize customers’ satisfaction, longevity, and revenue contribution by tying AX data directly to revenue and churn. From their website, here is their mission statement:
Your business no longer depends on the success of a single transaction, but the triumph of every moment before, during and after that transaction. Customer experience is the new competitive battleground, and we’re standing with you at the front line, bridging the gap between you, your clients and the experiences that define you. We’re CustomerGauge, the leading SaaS provider of Monetized Net Promoter® and customer retention software, and we’ve been making companies easier to love since 2007.
According to Cary Self, Global Vice President of Education & Program Development, CustomerGauge, “We help SaaS companies be more successful at the account level, to tie that experience data to leverage revenue and decrease churn. As our solution began to attract world-wide attention, we decided to embrace channel partners as part of our expansion strategy.”
Many SaaS companies view their channel partners transactionally – sales and revenue. CustomerGauge behaves as a thought leader, with its primary concern to first create a culture of people who internalize the mission and processes. They have to choose their channel partners carefully.
Incorporating certifications into a channel partner training program
As part of the vetting process, potential partners take one or two key courses to get a feel for what the end-customer is learning and experiencing. Now, first-hand, they see and understand what will be expected of them. If they buy in, they continue on their journey, following the learning path through to certification.
Cary explained the process using the Thought Industries Platform:
"This starts from the very beginning even before the partnership. We utilize Thought Industries Learning Paths for our certifications, allowing us to begin with one or 2 key courses that the potential partner can take in order to get a feel for what we are teaching our customers. This allows them to know what our expectations are early. Using Thought Industries reporting, this also helps us to identify how much was completed, how quickly, and if they retained the information through the built-in quizzes. This is both a natural and measured way to weed out partners that are not aligned with our Customer Experience methodology early in the vetting process."
Now that the partner has a few courses under their belt and has shown they are bought in to CustomerGauge’s values and methodology, we can continue them on their journey with the use of our learning path. By comparing their progress, the success they have with selling, and customer feedback, it gives us a very clear picture where we need to offer additional support and training.
Since part of the partner’s responsibility is to sell and assist each customer with the CustomerGauge platform as a solution, it is vital that they also know how to use our provided education in filling in missing gaps with each Customer’s CX program. CustomerGauge’s certification sets milestones that the partner can work towards while setting the example of what each customer should be doing.
Another benefit to both the customer and partner, is that the education the partner is using to improve their own skills and knowledge, can be sold to the customer. This allows for an additional revenue stream for both the partner and CustomerGauge, while empowering the customer to continually improve their CX culture."
“As we grew, we realized that these Channel Partners cannot be successful without the same training as our users. Employees also receive this training. Everyone learns and practices, and everyone is subject to and assessed by the same measures.
“What we train and teach, we live and breathe.”
According to Cary, a next generation learning platform is vital to CustomerGauge’s success in training channel partners, customers, and employees, bringing together:
Immediacy: The interface must be easy, hold the learner’s attention and respond to the partner’s need to get the information fast.
Customization: Thought Industries offer us a platform that gives us the ability to bring together different types of content together, because we know that different people have different learning styles.
Learner-friendliness: There are added features that learners benefit from such as: being able to take notes, quiz builder to prepare for the final certification, and very clear milestones to track your progress. Also, there’s something to be said about a pat on the back in the way of badges and certificates.
Reporting: It is important for us to have strong reporting that lets us know where the learners are spending the most time. We need to quickly know what’s working and what’s not working for Channel Partners so we can adjust accordingly.
Reliability: What makes all of this impressive is the reliability. I have yet to have a learner not be able to engage with our content because of a system being down or something not working. If we can’t deliver, nothing works, especially not our Channel Partners.
Making channel partners feel special
A critical element in channel partner training is also convincing those partners that they are special and important which you can create through partner-branded environments.
“Thought Industries’ learning management platform gives us complete control over our CustomerGauge Academy environment. From personalized and target dashboards to continuous updates of new content and learnings. By leveraging onboarding surveys and assessments, we can offer the content that the partner needs most. Instead of wasting their time, we are ensuring they have what they need to be successful in a way that feels tailored to them."
With additional tools like quiz builder, notes, workbooks, and communication directly to the instructor, no matter what their learning speed or style is, they can feel supported in their personal development.
There is also something to be said about a “pat on the back” in the way of Badges and Certificates. Our partners take great pride in showing off what they accomplished to both their peers, prospects, and customers. As you can imagine, this makes offering both their services and products even easier.
Specific channel partner training
“Our product gives potential channel partners the ability to walk into any C-suite and prove that we can show them what they don’t see, what’s hobbling their ability to increase customer lifetime value. Central to this is that our partners deliver on our promise.”
CustomerGauge’s channel partner training program also addresses both the core and the subtlety of selling. Throughout the channel partner relationship, headquarters flows out updates as they continue to refine the selling process. Additionally, there are sales workshops at the User Conference and on-demand information about what prospects are looking for. CustomerGauge doesn’t want a lot of time to go by without conversation.
Train the trainer
Channel partners learn how to deliver CustomerGauge’s three types of customer training. They have access to proven content, and the ability to localize that content, through the LMS.
Program owner or champion
Be a leader
It’s essential that Channel Partners be leaders, walking the talk, teaching their customers, and helping them to continuously improve by fully employing CustomerGauge’s model for customer retention. It’s all about recurring annual revenue. The headquarters’ Customer Success team is the liaison to Channel Partners and represents a constant resource of inspiration and support.
Being a leader necessitates each Channel Partner taking a dynamic view of success – many factors, such as usage and participation, quarterly reviews, regular surveys and qualitative feedback, go into a healthy relationship. Their customers rely on their Channel Partner to proactively keep them on the track to success. In the customer journey, every touch point is a transaction that contributes to the bigger picture. If the customer relationship is good, revenue will grow, for everyone.
4 tips to help your channel partner training program succeed
“ If you truly want to have a “partner," you need to make sure they are supported with all the tools you would give to a customer or one of your own employees. Do not just blur the lines between your employees and partners, erase it. Education is how you invest in the success of the people that make you successful!"
“Education can be a new idea, an inspirational talk, a well-thought=out article, or even a fun game. If it inspires, celebrates, or elevates a person, that is education. Put it out there. Your partners will grow from it. It may not be perfect or elaborate, but it will be just what they need.
“We all learn differently, so try as many approaches as you can. Measure to find what has success. You can look at scores on quizzes, completion times, and number of attempts; This tells you if you created better education in your learning management platform. But also go a step further and tie that training to the metrics that matter to your company; Are your channel partners retaining their customers and growing sales?
“Finally, always say thank you! It can be a badge, a certificate, or an email. Pick a channel partner of the month and tell their story. How they contributed to your success by embracing education.”