Class is in session, and today we’re covering what a learning management system (LMS) is and how you can use it to keep your partners educated on your program.
Your partners play a make-or-break role in keeping your channels operational. Channel sales produce up to 50 per cent more revenue by delivering the convenient, personalized experiences that customers want. But in order to close on deals, partners need the right information to pass on to customers.
How do partners typically engage with their vendors? One way is through a partner management portal which helps the vendor track deals, share documentation, and keep track of incentives. While this is a great way to administer deals, it doesn’t do much to support the education and communication that goes into making a deal happen — and thrive post sale. This is where an LMS comes in.
In this article we'll cover:
- Why traditional partner portals can't do it all when it comes to partner training
- What an LMS is
- The benefits and uses of an LMS
- How you can use the PartnerStack LMS to meet your partner's needs
The limitations of traditional partner portals for partner employee training
Why do traditional partner management portals fail to live up to the needs of evolving channel programs?
For starters, much of the information partners receive from vendors is in high touch environments like a demo, a video call, or a phone call. This helps the initial members of the partner team receive the information they need. But when that team grows or the deal incorporates other members of the organization, those members struggle to get up to speed as quickly as business needs demand.
Then there’s the other issue of accessible learning content. A partner management portal may only house training materials written specifically for engineers or developers. Deciphering this technical documentation is a heavy lift for sales representatives and customer success teams who would rather use their time engaging with prospects and understanding their unique business problems. Moreover, it would be more useful to the business — both the vendor’s business and the partner’s business — if teams were educating themselves about the company’s products and messaging on an ongoing basis through on-demand course content. This would allow them to have richer, more dynamic conversations.
But this kind of continuous education is hard to encourage and sustain with existing partner management solutions. Research shows that adult learners are self-directed and results-oriented, and seek course materials that are relevant to their goals and available on demand.
Finally, there’s the fact that today’s partners have options when it comes to choosing a vendor. When you ask partners, nearly 70 per cent say the power has shifted from vendors to partners. It’s now the partners that hold valuable working relationships with end customers in different industries, and they can decide which solutions to recommend. Often, these recommendations come down to a combination of the best solution and the best support from the vendor. If the partner struggles to get up-to-date messaging about a product, their sales teams are going to focus on the easiest solutions to sell and those solutions will be the ones that they understand.
So what’s the solution to this problem?
The solution is an on-demand, easy-to-use portal for learning and training: the LMS.
What is a learning management system (LMS) and what are its benefits?
Lesson 1: what is an LMS?
A learning management system (LMS) or online training platform is an application that allows you to store, share, and track the usage of online training programs.
They are not solely limited to educational institutions or corporate learning and development programs, especially now that there are more cloud-based learning management systems available. Today, cloud-based enterprise LMS solutions are increasingly popular because of their cost effectiveness and easier integration with existing technologies such as a customer relationship management (CRM) tool or partner relationship management (PRM) tool.
In a partner ecosystem, a learning management system offers the following benefits:
Increase partner activation and secure more buy-in through online courses
It costs time and money to recruit partners to your program. That effort is all for naught if they don’t actually spend time learning about your solutions and talking about you to their customers.
The thing is, partners will invest in the vendors who also take the time to invest in them. 77 per cent of partners say that they have more options when it comes to selecting a vendor than they did three years ago, and the same number hold top tier status with six providers or more. They have the variety available to be able to focus on the vendors with the best enablement systems in place.
An LMS platform gives you the ability to push out content in a variety of formats, and for a diverse audience, at scale. Partners can simply direct their sales teams or customer success teams to log in and go through the different online learning materials or training materials. This enables on-demand, mobile learning that your partners can access whenever and wherever.
Improve the quality of the leads your partners send
Let’s say your partners are enthusiastic about working with you and jump into sharing your products and services with your end customers. There may still be problems if they don’t have the right education. For instance, your partner may be sending you leads that are not suited for your solution. This results in wasted time as you dedicate valuable sales resources to engaging with unqualified prospects. With a learning management system, you can offer educational materials that go beyond product specs or service-legal agreements (SLAs). You can offer online learning materials that help marketing and sales teams identify use cases and customers that fit for your solution, so they can pass along leads with a powerful business case for your solution .
Give your partners the ability to talk about your solutions with confidence
The last thing you want is a salesforce that dilutes the value of your product by failing to talk about it with confidence. Your partners may not legally be part of your team, but they do serve as an extension of your brand by representing you during conversations with prospects, and you want them to do this well and in a way that’s consistent with your brand messaging.
Deliver a high quality online learning experience to hundreds of partners in a scalable way
How do you ensure a high-quality online learning experience for all of your partners, when you’re a partner team of a few trying to connect with a partner community of many? You do so by giving them access to a wide range of information in an organized way. After all, instructor-led training comes with high training costs. It isn’t scalable and doesn’t make sense if you aren’t an educational institution. An LMS gives you a way for partners to access the messaging they need from their laptop, tablet or smartphone, and easily find the information they need to sell your solutions. It can also help you deal with necessary housekeeping tasks for your partner program such as compliance training.
Of course, sourcing, implementing, and integrating a new system for online learning is a pain, especially when you want your partners to have a one-stop shop for everything to do with your partner program. Luckily, this is a problem that PartnerStack has already thought about — and solved.
What can the PartnerStack LMS be used for?
PartnerStack offers a user-friendly LMS system that is directly integrated into our ecosystem management system. This makes it easy for vendors to offer online learning as well as the following in their partner programs:
An automated onboarding experience
Once you win a partner, it’s important to start the relationship off on the right foot. It’s not enough to simply finalize the partner agreement. Once the contract’s signed, you need to get your partners up and running with the information, tools, and development programs they need to succeed. If their initial experience with you is frustrating and clunky, it will influence their level of engagement throughout the rest of the partnership. A learning management system helps you deliver a good first impression, so that your customers feel supported while they promote your products.
Multiple levels of certification for partners
One of the biggest challenges for partner teams is identifying where they should dedicate the most resources. While you want all of your partners to feel supported, there are going to be a category of partners that stand out when it comes to selling your products. These superstar partners are the ones you want to give the most facetime to and the most support. You also want to recognize them, so they continue to feel engaged.
A learning management system helps you share educational resources and evaluate your partners on their knowledge, so you can make better decisions when it comes to partner engagement. If they’re really engaged and active and showing initiative, you want to be able to identify them in an automated way.
An easy, simplified way to deliver new updates to partners
Product changes now happen faster than ever thanks to DevOps, continuous integration (CI), and continuous development (CD). Your learning management system will be able to pump these updates out to partners and notify them of new information to review, so they’re not left sharing outdated information with customers.
Easy interface for delivering educational courses in different styles
PartnerStack’s learning management system allows you to upload an existing course or create courses from scratch. It also allows you to jump on the “micro-training” trend, which gives employees the education they want in bite-sized pieces, similar to the way they absorb content while scrolling through their social media feeds. You can also offer enhanced features within this learning environment, like discussion forums, that encourage more engagement and connections within your partner ecosystem.
Measure the impact of your partner training programs
You can keep track of how effective your partner training courses are by using the learning management system to keep tabs on different elements of your training programs. For instance, you can access high-level reporting as well as create your own custom reports of what’s happening with your partner training courses and how partners are engaging with your content. This means understanding what’s being completed by partners and what different types of partners are engaging with.
On the flip side, your partners can see what courses are available to them, what training content they’ve completed, and what they’ve been assigned along with any relevant due dates. You can also create personalized learning paths or ensure partners are going through a specific order by locking courses or assignment prerequisites
Educate your partners and enrich your ecosystem with an integrated learning management system
Education and training are key resources within your emerging partner ecosystem. A learning management system helps ensure that everyone gets access to these key resources. It also helps you create a partner ecosystem in which the bare minimum experience that even the newest partner receives is still an 11 out of 10 experience. With PartnerStack, you don’t have to add a new portal for your partners to log into. They can access all of your training content directly within their PartnerStack platform.
To learn more about our integrated learning management system, check out this webinar and live demo.