Each year, a vast amount of training dollars are spent across every industry to make sure sales reps have the product knowledge, sales skills, and proper processes they need to succeed. Whether it’s your job to train or enable an in-house sales force, a collection of regional sales affiliates in various countries, or a network of channel partners, I salute you. It’s not an easy job.
Internal sales teams require you to provide all of the skill development and coaching they need and make sure they are up to speed on new products. Regional affiliates each have their own preferred methods for handling training. So business units must provide product training that is easy to update and localize as needed.
Channel distributors are a different story entirely. The challenge is one part training, one part marketing. How do you improve your company’s standing in the minds of distributors? Most importantly, how do you maximize mindshare so distributors pull your product off the shelf instead of a competitor’s product? Do they know which products to sell to their different customer types?
Channel distributors are partners, not employees. How do you ensure they fully understand your products’ unique value if the training you provide to them is voluntary? In some cases, a percentage of channel distributors may not be accessing your current training materials at all. Are they accessing your competitors’ materials?
When you need to both convince distributors to take your training in the first place and make sure they actually learn something from, legacy training approaches such as LMS-driven eLearning and certifications likely won’t cut it. It’s time to consider new, innovative training approaches that get attention and foster long-term retention.
Here’s how innovative training can help grow channel distributor mindshare.
1. Innovative training is a competitive differentiator
If your industry’s standard is to provide distributors with content-heavy eLearning courses, there’s a bright side. Your competitors are probably doing it, too. Your organization has an opportunity to stand out from the pack by getting to know your target learners (in this case, your distributors) and finding out what type of training would be must engaging and useful to them.
For example, if your distributors spend most of their workdays away from a computer, providing them with eLearning they must take on a desktop is probably a waste of time. A mobile learning solution would probably be more optimal.
If you want your products to be “top of mind” to distributors, consider a novel, unique training approach such as a learning game. Games, for example, are often an ideal training approach. Games encourage repeat play and provide sales reps an easy tool to grow their product knowledge in short bursts. A learning game can also pique the curiosity of distributors who have been hesitant to take training in the past.
2. Effective training creates cross-sell and up-sell opportunities
When training is designed based on content you think you need to cover, distributors will struggle to see the value. Product facts, specifications, and data may be important to you, but distributors are focused on how they can improve their margins and grow their businesses.
To be effective, design training that focuses on outcomes. For example, a common desired outcome for distributor training is to identify cross-selling and up-selling opportunities. With these goals in mind, skilled instructional designers can craft a learning experience that will help distributors gain the knowledge and skills they need to increase their cross-selling and up-selling. When this happens, sales improve and both you and your distributors win.
3. Fun, Accessible Training Increases Overall Adoption
If your training materials are closed off on an LMS, the amount of effort required for distributors to take the training may be too high. Even if they complete a module once, they may be unlikely to repeat it… especially if they found it boring.
Instead of thinking of training as an information dump that is delivered on whatever platform is most convenient for you, think of it as an opportunity to provide distributors with fun, easy to use, easy to access tools they will actually want to use. If the training is easy for them to access on their device of choice, they are much more likely to give it a try. And if the training design is fun, rewarding, and actually useful, they will return again and again.
4. Enjoyable Learning Experiences = Brand Loyalty
Are you sensing the theme? Your distributors have a finite amount of time and attention, and you are competing for that attention along with all of your competitors. To grow mindshare, the product information and support you provide needs to stand out. When you provide exceptional training materials to distributors, you are doing more than checking a box. You are creating true brand loyalty and building a win-win relationship where distributors find it easier to sell your products because they understand them and they enjoy learning about them.