Insight

Training and knowledge sharing for partners

Last month we spoke about why vendor communications with partners must evolve.

This week, cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky weighed in on this topic, noting how important it was that vendors provide quality training and certification to partners. Indeed, it claims that more than a fifth of IT service providers named the quality of training and certification in the top three things they look for from tech vendors.

Kaspersky’s head of UK SMB channel, Andy Bogdan, outlined four training principles that he says the firm worked out through trial and error, for its channel. He said the principles are based on “diverse training options, various contact methods within the channel and considerations for the needs and requests of partners.”

Here is what he said:

Diversify

Global technology analyst firm, Canalys, assesses accreditation and specialisation programs as one of the criteria for partners’ channel satisfaction in its Worldwide Vendor Benchmark.

Andy says Kaspersky introduced this option in one of its partner programme updates and now its partners can choose from 11 solution or service specialisations, such as industrial security or value-added services for telecoms.

“It is also important to tailor courses to different target audiences. While the general set of online courses is directed towards sales teams, implementation and support engineers along with presales need a deeper dive into the technology with demos and labs.”

Andy says authorised training centres can be established to take care of this; and should be available in all key regions. In addition to training, such centers can also serve as an additional promotion and marketing channel for the vendor.

“The vendor can also create additional specialised training programmes in response to partners’ needs or concerns, especially during times of crisis.

“For example, when the pandemic started, we were challenged to help partners adapt to the new remote reality and still meet their sales targets. So, we launched two new online courses on remote sales,” says Andy. “Such initiatives on soft skill development or specific problem solving in response to circumstances can be a great complement to a partner programme.”

Receive feedback, improve, repeat

“This is the key principle upon which our partner training system is built,” says Andy. “Feedback pages exist for each of our technical, sales or presales courses and exams, so that we can continue to improve all offerings. Based on rough estimations, 70% of partners evaluate courses or share specific feedback.

“Because the participants of partner courses are usually highly engaged, their feedback is almost always useful. A team of channel, product and learning managers analyse all comments once per quarter and then improve related courses. We previously did these improvements once every half-year, but we realised more regular updates can help improve the ratings for these courses.

“We also get numerous requests for translated courses from English into local languages. We understand that, for partner frontline sellers, it is essential to speak to customers in their local language. Localised sales enablement content makes communication much easier because it enables sellers to explore the product value, sales scenarios and customer targeting processes in their native language. Course translations require a lot of resources, but, recognising the value for our partners, we finally developed this capacity and our partners have appreciated that.”

Conduct webinars wisely

Partners may need more information about a vendor’s business priorities, products or even general industry trends and changing customer needs. Webinars are a suitable format for this.

But the time partners can spend on events is finite, says Andy.

“They tend to work with multiple vendors, and each of those host their own webinars and training sessions. Our gold standard is one global webinar per month for all our partners where we share the most important news, including product and technology updates and launches, and insights on emerging cybersecurity risks and the threat landscape. There are also specialised quarterly online events for MSPs that provide updates on the MSP programme or new products available.

“This plan has been carefully developed over the past few years. Although adding just one more webinar to the schedule can be tempting at times, we try to avoid doing this so as not to compete for attendance with our other planned activities.

Utilise social networks

Finally, we spoke recently about how partners can use social media more effectively.

Andy says that a social network community can also become an additional informal point of contact between vendors and their channel peers.

“They can create a dedicated group and share important and interesting news in a more user-friendly manner, see responses from their audience in real-time and encourage informal discussion among members. Belonging to a community can serve as an additional incentive for employees of partner companies to promote cooperation with a vendor in their personal accounts and share their achievements from their experience, such as becoming the best B2B partner or receiving a certificate in a cloud security specialisation.”

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