Written by: Bill Cushard
Many product-focused enterprise software companies have not focused much energy on developing services like training and many do not think about it until a large customer asks for it. Then the scrambling begins, and companies start building training functions. Some build training in-house and others use training delivery partners.
If you have determined that a training partner network could help you scale your enterprise software training business, the next set of questions you have are likely about how to set it up. Here are four models to build an enterprise software training partner network.
The simplest model to manage a training partner network is a reseller model, in which a training partner resells your courses and then delivers them. The courses could be for public or private sessions. This is the simplest training partner model to think about because reselling is easy to understand, and there is no long-term financial commitment. A partner just needs to purchase the materials and then sell the course. A reseller model can work well with a partner that has a good sales process, is motivated by the right margin, and wants to use training as a means for generating consulting leads.
The downside to this model is that it does not create a sense of urgency and could encourage low volume because there is no commitment. So not only could training sales suffer, but in a low volume scenario, it is possible that training partners do not teach courses frequently enough to develop deep expertise in the content.
Another model you can use to run your training partner network is a content licensing model. In this model, training partners can pay you for the right to use your training content for a predetermined amount of time, usually for one year. The partner will set their own training schedule, find their own training customers, manage their own trainers, and deliver courses using the content that you created.
This model can work well in a scenario in which your company already uses partners to deliver services to customers and when you have long-standing and fairly stable relationships with partners. Licensing deals require longer-term commitments, at least one year, so training partners will want a reasonable chance of earning enough revenue to exceed the licensing fee, plus normal operating expenses.
In a pay per delivery model, the software company sells the training directly to customers, sets the schedule, and then assigns course deliveries to available training partners to conduct the courses. Although this model is not really a "partner" model because the software company is simply paying a consulting firm for the time they spend delivering your training material, it has its advantages. This model works well when the software company wants to own the relationship with the customer and when customers expect to receive training and services from the software company and not from partners.
The downside is logistics. Once a course sells, the software company must then work with its partner network to find an available trainer who can deliver it. In a rapidly changing world, it is possible for trainers to have availability one day and be booked the next, leaving a training customer, and worse, the software company high and dry.
The upside of a pay per delivery model is that the software company keeps the top-line revenue and only pays the delivery partner when training is delivered.
A true partnership model implies that there is some shared risk in the relationship. A revenue share model means that any revenue from training delivery would be shared by the software company and the training partner at an agreed upon percentage. The software company provides the training content and training leads, while the training partner provides and manages trainers, delivers the training, and also sells seats in training courses (public or private). Revenue from training sales is then split.
The tricky part of a training revenue share model is how to track the revenue and disperse the share. A common way to do it is for the software company to "own" the training sales and registrations. Partners are then given the appropriate level of access to a learning management system (LMS) so registrations can be tracked. Partners would then run a report at the end of a month and then invoice the software company for the proportion of training sales earned by the partner according to the terms of the agreement.
These four training partner models are not all-inclusive, and choosing one model does not preclude the use of another. Each business is unique in culture and how it operates, so for some software companies, choosing one of these models could work great. For other companies, a hybrid of these could work great. One is only limited by creativity, and these models can be used as building blocks for creating a training partner network that can help you reach more customers with training, improve adoption, and grow your software business.
That being said, no matter what model you choose, there are a few things to consider when choosing to have partner companies sell and/or deliver training for you.
Make sure partners are capable of delivering your training courses at an acceptable quality. With any training partner network, you will need to develop a train-the-trainer program and get these partners up to speed.
Partner certification and train-the-trainer programs are similar and maybe you do not need to distinguish between the two. However, to be strict about it, a partner certification program is more robust and should have requirements that have partners demonstrate their knowledge of your product and demonstrate ability to deliver your course. This could include attending live training, passing a certification exam, and delivering the course in front of peers and training leaders at the software company to the satisfaction of a training delivery standard.
Partner enablement is a process by which a software company helps partners sell training and stay up-to-date on training content updates. This could be through sales supporting material, training course descriptions, pre-packaged products (public training, private, onsite training, and customer training) with pre-determined pricing, and regular content update alerts or meetings. This is all designed to help partners sell more training and deliver it in line with product changes.
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Originally published on August 31, 2015