Many of today’s products and services are complex, so it stands to reason that a thorough knowledge of your company’s offerings is an absolute must for successful sales. This includes understanding the benefits, proper applications and the best methods for selling and servicing the products as well as identifying the appropriate target audience. Product expertise is particularly critical during a new product launch, onboarding of a new partner, or the expansion of a sales territory. It ensures that your company’s brand integrity is upheld.
If your company uses a network of indirect sales partners, also known as channel partners, there is really only one way to be sure that they are fully prepared to sell your products – proper training and certification. And the best way to administer a productive training and certification program is by using a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system. PRM software is specifically designed to implement, track and monitor these programs with channel partners.
Properly-trained channel partners not only understand your products (and their value proposition), they’re also enthusiastic about selling them. A partner’s mental and emotional commitment to selling your merchandise – referred to as “mindshare” – can be greatly enhanced when the time and effort involved with training results in meeting sales goals. And there is frequently a “snowball” effect; when a commitment to training yields greater sales, there is more enthusiasm for future training. Conversely, training that is poorly planned and implemented can result in reduced mindshare, slower sales and morale issues among partners.
In the Channel, Certification Is Just as Important as Training
When an effective channel training program has been initiated, it is also very important that an effective certification program is in place. In very basic terms, certification is the outcome of successful training. It assures you that a particular channel partner is proficient at selling your products and representing your brand. While training can be ongoing, certification has a start and expiration date, and may require renewal from time to time.
Certification renewal is a good way to ensure that channel partners maintain their commitment and remain well-versed in all aspects of the products they sell. Since product modifications can be frequent and significant in today’s competitive market, certification is an effective system of checks and balances for sales performance. In addition, certification provides sales managers with an opportunity to measure, track and monitor the skill of channel partners.
Acknowledgment and recognition of certification also act as a strong reinforcement. A diploma or plaque that recognizes the time and hard work devoted to earning a certification can really boost performance. Many companies couple pay increases with certification levels, providing additional motivation to pursue these programs.
Because channel partners are an essential component of your sales force (at many companies, they are the only sales personnel), effective training and certification are major requirements for success.
How PRM Systems Handle Training and Certification
PRM systems give you the tools and structure to implement an effective training and certification program. In addition, with a good PRM system, the training and certification program is easy for channel partners to access and use. When a good part of your indirect sales force is scattered throughout the country (or the world), ease of use and the ability to provide remote services are imperative for widespread participation. PRM makes use of various forms of online training, such as webinars, videos, tutorials and remote classroom sessions.