PRM Best Practice: Enablement – Training Fulfillment


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Where your channel is selling a volume product which is more mature, which has become a commodity or has multiple competitors, one has to take a very different approach to imparting knowledge. In this scenario, channel partners often merely fulfill demand from their customers ie. They sell what the customer wants to buy, they sell what they have in stock, or else they sell what they know best.

This presents a vendor with some challenges. Principally, how to encourage partner staff to take valuable time to train on your product when:

  1. Selling it does not represent an incremental sales or margin opportunity
  2. They already understand the basic concepts of the product without your help
  3. They already know about and perhaps sell your competitors product
  4. The product may have a low unit value
  5. They don’t currently sell or stock it
  6. The margins or incentives to sell competitor products are more attractive than yours
  7. Your demand generation activities do not generate enough ‘pull’ from their customers

In this scenario, conventional online training is not attractive to channel partners and whilst you may develop the most compelling training program with the most attractive and entertaining Flash multimedia courseware, time and time again, vendors fail to attract delegates.

You have to try much harder and you must give them a compelling reason to take the time to learn about your products. Fortunately, some very successful programs in which vendors have used every trick in the book to drive partner traffic to the training section of their partner portal.

The main methods are:

  1. Closed-loop marketing of product lifecycle events eg. launch or refresh tied to portal pages containing passive learning materials
  2. Personal incentives – cash, voucher or gift – linked to both sales performance and points earned through training participation
  3. Company incentives – rebates, margin or MDF linked to both sales performance and numbers of trained staff
  4. Company or personal inclusion within lead generation program

No partner training program related to commodity products will succeed unless the partner can clearly see some tangible business or ideally personal benefit associated with participating in it.

Also critical to your success is understanding your audience. Sales people in particular will rapidly lose interest if:

  1. Accessing the training requires them to remember multiple login details and passwords
  2. They need any cookies, ActiveX controls or other widgets to be installed on their PC first
  3. The training courses are boring
  4. The training course are too long
  5. They can’t take a break and return later from where they left off
  6. They are not informed of their progress through the course on an ongoing basis eg.’you are now on part 3 of 5′
  7. They have to sit a test for no clear reason
  8. The test is too difficult to pass
  9. There’s no tangible personal benefit for taking part or passing

Keep it simple – Inform and Reward. And do these things in a way in which they will be appealing to your audience. Of course, addressing all of these needs and preparing the very best content is of no use if you lack the ability to track who attended which training module, at what time, whether the training was fully completed and whether sales increased as a result.

Channel enablement, training and development is one of the most impactful elements of a partner program and yet one of the least well executed by vendors. This is largely because:

  1. They lack an understanding of their target audience’s behaviors, preferences and needs
  2. They forget that channel partners largely don’t want or need to be trained by the vendor in order to do their job and earn a living
  3. They fail to provide a suitable delivery medium
  4. They are unable to effectively test or validate training participation or knowledge transfer
  5. They cannot translate training participation into certification and accreditation
  6. They fail to incentivize or reward partners for training
  7. They do not link training-related incentives into program-wide individual or company incentive schemes
  8. They lack the necessary infrastructure and systems to execute effectively and efficiently

It should come as no surprise that I say point (8) is as critical to your success as it currently is to the failure of most vendors in this area. Automation facilitates the simplification of the complex and partner enablement is inherently complex yet incredibly rewarding if done well.

Next week, we will examine other aspects of an effective partner enablement strategy.

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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