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Creating Effective Channel Training

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Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. —author unknown

For effective channel training, product managers and marketers need to re-think what sales people and channel partners require to be successful. Since their primary goal is selling, how can we help them meet their goals?

The biggest mistake we make when conducting channel training is teaching how to USE the product instead of teaching how to SELL the product.

Sales people with a technical interest will teach themselves how to use the product. Depending on your hiring criteria and the complexity of your product, many sales people simply have no interest in using the product; they know they can rely on others for the technical support necessary for RFPs or client demos.

Sales people want to know how the product solves problems for their buyers.

Engineers like to fix problems right; they tend to be systematic. Sales people like to fix problems now; they are more inclined to be responsive. So how can you help sales people fix problems now? Show them how they can help buyers. Align product training with their sales cycle. That’s why product marketing folks are often a better choice than product management for conducting sales training.

Here are some common steps in a selling cycle.

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Investigation
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase
  • Implementation

For your channel training agenda, walk through each of these steps and explain what the company is doing to support sellers (and buyers) at each step.

For example, here’s what we’re doing to increase awareness and buyer interest—often using methods like as advertising, events, thought-leadership. At consideration and interest, we have ebooks, articles, white papers as well as landing pages with call-to-action forms. For evaluation, we provide this ROI tool and RFP boilerplate as well as this self-assessment. When they’re ready to purchase, here’s the pricing and discounting model including some examples. And finally, we can assist with implementation with professional services, an installation checklist, and perhaps a configuration tool.

One of the most requested buyer tools is Customer Case studies

Design your customer case studies for both customers and sales people. Help your sales people understand the value of the product by sharing stories of successful implementations. Focus on real customers with real results using your product.

And one more thing.

One of the most requested seller tools is Competitive Battle Cards

As much as sales people love customer success, they are even more obsessed with success against competitors. Win them over with Battle Cards. A battle card profiles your product against a single competitor (eg., Apple’s iPad) or class of competitor (eg., tablets). It contains information about the competitor’s product and company with tips on how to win against the competitor.

Re-positioning the competition

The most powerful aspect of a battle card is the re-framing or re-positioning the competition. In effect, it says, “They do <whatever> which is fine for some customers but we do <something completely different> which is ideal for you.”

For a B2B example, Jira is a great tool for developers. Loads of technical teams rely it. However, it has limited capabilities to help product managers because it’s primarily for developers. Under10 Playbook is a tool designed specifically for business-oriented product managers.

A consumer example might be for tablets. The iPad is a great tablet with loads of great apps. Some people use their iPad to read books and other documents. But people who read a lot want to read for hours without eye fatigue. The Kindle Paperwhite is designed specifically for reading. And it goes weeks without needing to be re-charged.

Battle cards are simple one-sheet references on how to win. Sales people love ‘em.

Don’t try to teach sales people to sell; they know how to do that. And don’t try to teach sales people how to use the product; if they’re inclined, they’ll teach themselves. Teach sales people how to help buyers buy. How your product solves buyers’ problems. How it compares to alternatives and competitors. How your sales teams can be successful selling the product.

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

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