PRM Best Practice: Enablement – Training


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So now you have successfully recruited your preferred channel partners. Now you have to enable them to effectively sell, market and provide support to your customers. This week we’ll take a look at enablement through educating and developing their staff – sales, marketing and technical – to sell, market and support your products more effectively (ideally to the exclusion of competitive products). You must provide them with the skills and knowledge to adequately perform the functions you had in mind for them when you recruited them. If your product is mature and advanced in its lifecycle or one that has become a commodity, then you must at the very least impart basic product knowledge and feature differentiators versus your competitors. If, however, your product is earlier in its lifecycle or you require your channel to assist you in developing the market for it, then you will be required to provide them with much more.
Because the approaches for partner enablement differ so much according to the nature of the product being sold, we will examine these two scenarios separately.

Unless a channel can be motivated to create or develop a market for a vendor through the adoption of a highly restricted distribution model, higher margins or other incentives, they would typically prefer to leave this task to the vendor, simply fulfilling demand. The challenge for the vendor here is that amongst the channels’ greatest assets are its proximity to, relationship with and influence over the purchasing decisions of their customers. Hence it is difficult for a vendor to convince customers that they need to invest in the latest technology by means of conventional marketing activity alone. The big vendors fair better here as they often benefit from direct-touch relationships with key accounts. The rest, however, must educate their channel partners to the same level as they might educate their own staff.

The purpose of this step is not to discuss training content or methodology, this is neither our expertise nor intention. Rather it is to share what we see as best practice in general execution of this component of the partner lifecycle and the programs that address it. For example, let’s look first at training delivery for ‘market makers’. Ten years ago, almost all training was delivered face-to-face in a classroom environment. Today computer-based or online training delivery has superseded this for all but specialist technical training. It’s easy to see why:

  1. Online training delivery has improved in variety, quality and accessibility
  2. Users are now well accustomed to using computers and the internet for accessing multimedia entertainment and information
  3. Specialist content and test creation software has become easier to obtain and use and increased competition in the market has driven down the costs
  4. Few vendors can now afford to operate in-house training functions or outsource to 3rd parties
  5. Product lifecycles have become ever shorter meaning that training frequency has necessarily increased
  6. Online delivery offers the flexibility and convenience of language, time and place

In summary, it’s easier, cheaper, more convenient and more accepted today. Leading vendors integrate elearning functionality with their partner portals through the use of PRM (partner relationship management) software to deliver and manage complex and frequently changing training programs in multiple languages at any time and in any place. Others utilize conventional Learning Management Systems (LMS’s) primarily designed for internal training delivery although these often have significant limitations for external programs.

A critical component is verification of participation and knowledge transfer. Several excellent content creation tools exist which not only generate the courseware but also the testing materials. This facilitates online testing with questions in a wide variety of formats. When implemented in conjunction with an LMS or PRM system, this will allow a vendor to track training participation, measure personal learning performance and test results and aggregate these by individual to contribute towards personal certification and, where this impacts company accreditation to manage this also.

Of course, such analysis can be extremely time consuming if managed manually. We would advocate some form of automation if you have a significant number of partners. However, testing, certification and accreditation are excellent tools and incentives to encourage partners to learn to sell, market and support for you during the market-making phase. What is more, if they are a prerequisite for being able to perform these roles at all and meeting such criteria is commercially viable for the partners given the opportunities on offer, then they will represent incentive enough to drive partners to participate in your training program. If the numbers don’t add up, then you may additionally need to consider some of the methods detailed in the next section.

Next time, we will take a look at fulfillment methodology.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mike Morgan
Mike has over 20 years of ICT, OA and CE channel sales and marketing management experience and is responsible for Relayware's global go-to-market strategy as well as the sales and marketing functions while overseeing the company's operations worldwide. Mike is recognized as one of the industry's leading experts in indirect go-to-market strategy best practice.


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