Partner training makes all the difference

Partner training in IT Channel business is an absolute must to grow businesses. Channel partner training is the process of providing partners with the knowledge that will stand them good stead when selling your products while ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Today there are concerns about gaps in skills associated with emerging technologies such as IoT, nonfungible tokens (NFT), cybersecurity, cloud, big data, blockchain and generative Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Obsolete skills and lack of effective trainings are cited among most significant adoption barriers to emerging technologies which have the potential of transferring the way we work and the future of conducting business.

Channel Post MEA speaks to industry players to enhance our understanding of how partner training and up to date skillsets can be best used to serve channel business.

Maya Zakhour, Channel Sales Director – Middle East & Africa, Italy and Spain at NetApp

According to Gartner, IT executives see the talent shortage as a leading factor inhibiting adoption of emerging technologies. “The mismatch between talent demand and supply over the years has posed significant challenges to business growth within the channel and the IT industry in general,” says Maya Zakhour, Channel Sales Director – Middle East & Africa, Italy and Spain at NetApp.

She says, “Businesses have struggled to hire and retain top talent due to the fiercely competitive business landscape. On the other hand, a lack of learning and development prospects within organizations is often cited as one of the main factors why skilled professionals seek opportunities elsewhere.”

Hence it is in the essential fitness of things that steps should be taken to ensure that partners are well trained.

Baha Zibdeh, Regional Channel Manager at CyberKnight

Upskill through training programs
Partners are realizing that the path to success largely lies in having resources. In a highly competitive industry, having the necessary training and certifications can make a huge difference to how fast individuals can grow and in turn help businesses as well. Partners are keen to have a diverse skill set that will help them to upsell as well as crosssell and provide not just solutions, but also services to customers.

Partners have had to adapt their business models from margin-centric resale-only to services-focused delivery. Training accelerates the transformation and enables partners and distributors to quickly upskill personnel to provide increased value to joint customers. Of late, the realisation for investing in necessary training and certifications has downed on the partners.Baha Zibdeh, Regional Channel Manager at CyberKnight, says, “As long as the technology or solution is relevant to the channel partner, and they are able to see value of positioning and selling it, they will invest in time and resources to learn and adopt the technology/solution.”

It is of utmost importance for the IT vendors to equip partners with the necessary knowledge and skillsets for new-age technologies.

With vendors, distributors, and partners having a shared responsibility for creating, delivering and leveraging training programmes, you might be wondering of these three

Lisa Anderson, Channel Director at HID Global

Who should be taking more responsibility when it comes to imparting trainings.
According to Lisa Anderson, Channel Director at HID Global, vendors should take primary responsibility for providing hands-on training and professional certifications for partners, because they are de facto subject matter experts on their products and solutions, providing relevant sales and marketing enablement resources to partners.

“Likewise, distributors, integrators, OEMs and resellers should invest in continuous training and certification to enable their sales teams to solve customers’ most pressing challenges and drive mutual growth,” says Lisa Anderson.

Asked which of vendors, distributors and partners who should take more responsibility for trainings, Maya Zakhour says, the onus is on all stakeholders to ensure that resources are trained and certified. Vendors must ensure that training programs are made efficient, accessible, and affordable, while distributors must ensure that their partners are up to date with their training and certifications. She adds, partners on the other hand must be responsible on their part to dedicate time and effort to upskilling and having the right qualifications that meet expectations of vendors and customers.

Baha Zibdeh of CyberKnight, says, everyone should take part in the training, the primary responsibility falls on none other than the vendors, of course. According to her, everyone should take part, vendor holds primarily the highest responsibility, as they are responsible for building training program, material, Education portal, certifications system, and deliver it through professional and skilled instructors.

Michael Dalgleish, VP, Field Engineering and Partner Strategy, at LogRhythm

“While initiating and building training programs mostly lies with the vendors, this doesn’t absolve partners or distributors of responsibility in ensuring their employees are up-to-date with new technological improvements and training,” says Michael Dalgleish, VP, Field Engineering and Partner Strategy, at LogRhythm. He adds, “There’s a shared responsibility between all three in guaranteeing that customers are provided with excellent services.”

Baha Zibdeh says, “Partners understand that end users always look for skilled and trusted advisors, hence, they will work towards enabling their teams. It’s no longer the cheapest bidder as much as it’s the one who can serve the clients promptly and with precision, and this can’t be done without going through proper trainings and obtaining the right certifications, and achieve higher level of vendor’s partnership program.”

Mara Hough, Inside Sales and Channel Account Manager – UK & MEA for GalaxkeyMara Hough, Inside Sales and Channel Account Manager – UK & MEA for Galaxkey, calls on the vendors to support their channel partners to promote their offering through in-depth training and relevant certifications. And, she says that “the balance between product training and how our technology solves the customer issues is important. Whether the training is delivered virtually, online or in person it needs to be relevant to the current market conditions and threats. Training should be interactive and progressive through different stages.”

Inadequate skillsets and lack of effective trainings around existing and emerging technologies continue to be one of the biggest challenges in the regional IT channel.

Channel Partner Training
There are some elements which the vendors and distributors must take into account to create effective channel partner training strategies.

Peter Geytenbeek, Director EMEA Channel and Distribution at Delinea

“They should take into account the local market conditions, the channel partner training needs and the goals that everyone wants to achieve. A tailored programme with accurate information, relevant benchmarks, clear KPIs and insightful feedback is key to empowering partners and setting them up for success,” said Peter Geytenbeek, Director EMEA Channel and Distribution at Delinea.

“It’s important that training is multi-faceted. For example, technical technology tracks are useful for deployment teams, whereas product training paths better suit sales representatives,” says Michael Dalgleish of LogRhythm. “Discount programs for partners reduce costs long-term while incentivizing them to continuously train new hires, creating more predictable outcomes for customers and helping offset upfront training costs.”

“The most important factor for vendors to consider when creating a channel partner training strategy is to ensure that it aligns with their goals and KPI’s. A training program that is designed around the partners needs and offers enough motivation and incentive is always a success. Vendors and distributors must also communicate and motivate partners and ensure that program is delivered across the right platforms and in stages,” says Maya Zakhour.

Suzanne Swanson, senior vice president of Global Partners, Qualys

Enhancing Skillsets
Being a stakeholder in the channel ecosystem it is incumbent on the partners to enhance their skillsets. They can leverage vendor trainings — many of which are low or no-cost, industry certifications like CISSP and continuing education through local universities. Partners should also consider incentives such as bonuses and reimbursement for employees who invest their time in training, says Suzanne Swanson, senior vice president of Global Partners, Qualys.

Peter Geytenbeek of Delinea says, “Partners should assess their short and long-term training needs both, as acquiring new skills doesn’t happen overnight. They should take up the training opportunities offered and actively engage with instructors and peers. Asking questions and sharing ideas help improve technical knowledge and enhance collaboration and networking skills.”

The significance of right skills and training is obvious. Today, training the channel partners is a vital part of IT channel ecosystem. As businesses expand globally, the stakeholders should always strive for building a framework for a successful channel field organization.

Investing in partner training is key to success. The right partner training will stand businesses in good stead in setting your business apart from others, and ultimately becoming more profitable.