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The Definitive Guide to Training and Certification in the Distribution Channel

  1. EXECUTIVE BRIEF The Definitive Guide to Training and Certification in the Distribution Channel
  2. A well-planned and executed training and certification program is critical to the success in a distribution channel. The most effective training strategies target the right mix of learners depending on the specific needs and objectives of your company and its channel partners. Devising and delivering the right training strategy is not an easy task. The training curriculum offered in a distribution channel can vary significantly depending upon a channel’s characteristics and a dealers’ capabilities to deliver that training. 2 INTRODUCTION
  3. TRAINING: WHO, WHAT AND HOW Who. The first step is identifying target learners. Key targets in a sales channel are typically any of the following job categories: sales, service, parts and finance, and will include upper management and general staff members. It may be necessary to train all functional roles within the distribution channel or only those in sales roles depending on the products or services a company offers. Trainees must possess the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary to effectively sell the product. What. Training an indirect sales force is quite different from training internal employees. There are three components of a classic training program: • Skills. Basic sales skills that include developing a territory and soliciting a business while showcasing value. • Knowledge. Sales teams should possess product, application, industry, and systems knowledge. • Behaviors. Provided expectations regarding how employees dress, their interpersonal skills, work habits, etc. 3
  4. TRAINING: WHO, WHAT AND HOW How. For implementation, you will need an enabling technology in order to deliver the training effectively to everyone within a sales channel no matter where they are in the world. Choices fall into two main categories: A Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system or a Learning Management System (LMS). A LMS is often monolithic, expensive, and difficult to use. It will also have a singular focus on delivering training, most in the form of informal experiences, such as reading documents, watching videos, etc. A PRM solution with a built-in training module is an easy- to-use training and certification solution that many sales partners find to be more effective and efficient. A PRM provides the benefit of associating training initiatives with larger business objectives in the channel, like sales readiness, incentive programs, lead management, and new partner onboarding to name a few. 4
  5. INTRODUCING CERTIFICATIONS 5 Certifications provide a way of knowing that distribution partners are prepared to sell and support offered products. A certification differs from a training curriculum in that it has a start and expiration date, is often renewable, and can be single tier or multi-level, most of which are the latter. Each level can also contain multiple tracks; this is simply a way of organizing certification levels and allowing the learner to focus on each track separately. • Level 1. Typically, web-based, this level reaches the most people. It should be affordable and efficient. • Level 2. Most vendors introduce a mix of ILT and WBT into this level, because hands-on training (for service techs) and real-world performance metrics (for salespeople) become more important in these levels. • Level 3. This is often a level associated with the concept of “mentoring” and is usually delivered with hands-on techniques and performance reviews. Sales and service techs certified at this level are often certified to teach, coach, and mentor others. Mindshare Sales Fully Captive Fully Independent Low Mindshare: Single-Level Medium Mindshare: Simple Multi-Level High Mindshare: Complex Multi-Level
  6. MOTIVATING THE SALES TEAM 6 A channel sales force works directly for distribution partners which means dealers must provide a training experience that incentivizes participation and is easy to access. Like all motivation challenges, motivating sales partners to achieve certifications comes down to the carrot or the stick—sometimes both. • The Carrot. Acknowledgment and recognition are verifiable means of incentivizing employees. Partners can also use a PRM system to publicly (within the distribution channel) recognize certifications. Most partners will also attach pay scales to levels of certification. In this model, getting certified means more money. • The Stick. This is a very powerful motivator and it can be wielded in the following ways: Warranty reimbursement tied to certification where a PRM system maintains a dynamic database of certified service technicians in the channel, pay scale tied to certification where lower certification equals lower pay, and/or Partner contracts with certification clauses where a partner must maintain a specific level of certified personnel at all times.
  7. “DISTRIBUTED OWNERSHIP WITH CENTRALIZED CONTROL” 7 Avoid politics in training programs by leveraging the concept, “distributed ownership with centralized control”. This can be done through creating a training campus, a separate learning environment within an enterprise that is dedicated to addressing specific training need(s). Content within a campus can remain discrete, or can be shared by one or more campuses. Partners can create as many campuses as desired. No matter how many are created, they are still an integral piece of the overall learning system and will share the same records database.
  8. TURNING A TRAINING CENTER INTO A PROFIT CENTER 8 Training centers are often the first to be cut when times turn tough. In most cases, a training center is a non-mission critical cost center, but training centers can be turned into profit centers through four commonly used models. • Cable Model. Flat subscription fee for basic catalogs, additional fees for premium content. • Café Model. Pay per completed course • Rewards Model. Funded by the dealers and tied to training certifications • Hybrid Model. This is a mash-up of the above. Cable Model Café Model Rewards Model Pros Fixed fee. Easy to implement Predictable income Encourages usage Zero surprises Low cost of entry Significant financial upgrade Easy to implement Fees paid by dealers Increase productivity from workforce Motivates employees Adding points can be fun Cons No incremental option Fixed fee limitations Limited financial upside No upfront income Does not drive engagement More marketing is required Sustainable interest Profit will not support other programs Requires administration May not encourage outside learning
  9. CROWDSOURCING FOR CONTENT It’s surprising how much content can be added to a training library by launching a company sponsored, crowdsourced training site. This training is created with very little cost to the dealer and the manufacturer, and always comes with pros and cons. It may be necessary to have a custom channel created for your company and an integrated approval process to ensure that only company approved content is available for your dealer’s service and sales people. In most cases, once this is implemented the many benefits of crowdsourced training are obvious. 9
  10. PATHWAY TO SUCCESS 10 There are several components integral to delivering a successful training program to channel partners. Ultimately, it comes down to two things: Enabling technologies such as a webinar tool and a cloud- based PRM system (ex: The LogicBay Performance Center) and content including informal training materials, interactive distance learning platforms, and web- based/instructor lead training courses.