How to Train External Partners: 5 Expert Strategies

How to Train External Partners: 5 Expert Strategies


Pamela S. Hogle


The more your external partners know about your organization and its products and services, the stronger your partnership will be—and the more successful they will be as your representative, reseller or supplier.

When considering how to train external partners, though, the challenges are clear. These may include limited training time, difficulty assessing needs or demonstrating the full value of training to partners. These five strategies can set your external partners up for success.

1. Offer relevant & on-demand training

Step back from in-person classroom training for external partners and turn to the learning management system (LMS) to deliver eLearning. Short eLearning courses focused on answering one main question, also called microlearning, are ideal for external partners. They can quickly get the answers they need to do their jobs at the highest caliber. A global LMS that enables you to offer training in the partners' own languages also empowers your partners to their jobs well.

Identifying and addressing their unique needs is how to train external partners. They will benefit from understanding your organization's vision and mission, but they need less emphasis on internal policies and processes than employee learners. Instead, focus on skills and information that relate to their role with your company—you're likely to need different modules for suppliers than for consultants or resellers. Providing resellers with sales and customer support training prepares them to more effectively promote your products, for instance.

Your organizational network is only as strong as its weakest link; effective training reinforces the whole structure.

2. Respect their expertise

Assess training needs and respect your partners by focusing training on essential information that they don't already know. Emphasize new products and features, key branding messages, your organization's approach to customer service and other topics that tie their role together with your products and branding, rather than providing basic overviews or beginner-level skills courses.

In considering how to train external partners, focus on how they differ from internal learners. Characteristics unique to external learners include multiple responsibilities and busy schedules. Don't assume that busy sales partners will remember every nuance of your products. Instead, provide essential details in an on-demand mobile app, empowering them to highlight the advanced features that set your products apart. This also enables them to use refresher content to tailor their own messaging to their audiences ahead of key pitches.

3. Make it easy & engaging

Opt for mobile-friendly, flexible approaches to training, like microlearning, that learners can access on their smartphones and fit easily into their workflow. This offers tacit acknowledgment that they have limited time and attention—and that engaging with your training is optional.

Ensuring that training is engaging helps, too. Try building learning games and using realistic scenarios to hold their attention while allowing them to test and reinforce their knowledge.

Equally essential to a great learner experience: Speedy, intuitive search, with which learners can find the precise content they need in seconds.

4. Show them value

An element in deciding how to train external partners is showing them value: Keep training closely tied to common tasks and activities so the benefits are clear and external partners can see how training improves their ability to work with you.

The goal is to convince them that spending a little time now will save them time in the long run—their confidence will increase, and they'll be able to better serve customers or represent your company.

Consider recognizing their efforts with badges or certificates or incentivizing participation by offering preferential access or terms to external partners who complete or excel in training.

5. Reduce friction

The right LMS makes it easy for external partners to access and use training. It's essential to meet their needs on their first visit so they can see how critical this resource is their success. That will entice them to return for additional learning, thus improving their knowledge retention, command of messaging and, ultimately, sales performance.

Reduce friction and deepen engagement by providing an excellent learner experience, including appealing multilingual and multimodal content, easy access through an LMS or mobile device, and robust, intuitive search.

Absorb LMS offers all of this and more. Schedule a live demo today.

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