What form of training works best for your Channel Partners?

Follow me as I blog my way through my book: 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Partner Channel Brain.

Question #2 in 99 Questions to Jump Start Your Partner Channel BrainFile this under: It’s not the mode of training, it’s your boring approach.

If your products contribute little to your Channel Partner’s top line, it’s a real battle to get sales reps up to speed. They’re always asking why they need to be in your training class or attend your webinar, preferring the JITL
(Just In-Time Learning) approach.

You may recognize this as Channel rep code for: “Don’t bother me until I really have to know this…and when I do, I’ll count on you—the vendor—to boil it down for me.”

Here’s an example of what one of my startup clients did a number of years ago…to great success.

We’re hip. We’re fun…and smart!

Synergetic Micro Systems knew that in order to get an unfair share of their distributor’s time and attention, training had to be fun and to some degree, entertaining.

Synergetic had a number of challenges. Maybe you face similar ones:

  • Long, long design-in cycles. Read: years of missionary work
  • A highly-technical product niche (factory data communications called Fieldbus)
  • A relatively unknown startup (10 employees) swimming with whales (Rockwell Int’l, Siemens, GE)

Here’s how Perry Marshall (known today as the #1 AdWords expert), then Synergetic’s sales and marketing leader, got the ball rolling in his direction. (source: 2002 interview)FBBtape-200px

I walked into Hannover Fair in 1998 in Germany and heard this awesome American blues at the HMS booth. Turns out it was Pia and the JMB—a darn good party band!

It revved me up, and I had this eureka moment: “That’s IT! The Fieldbus Blues”

So I wrote [slightly edgy] lyrics about this gal who says:

When it’s time to take control
I’ve got a Fieldbus Man for my I/O.
To get control as fast as you can
You can’t do better than a fieldbus man.

Pia wrote the music with guitarist John Marshall and recorded it in Germany. We added interviews with the directors of the major trade organizations and made it an educational tape.

Honestly, I don’t think too many users listened to it, but a lot of sales guys who spend time in their cars did. We got quite a bit of PR from it and had a good time in the process.

You can listen to the MP3 here:

Guys in their cars

Did you catch the highlight text: a lot of sales guys who spend time in their cars?

Not only did this catchy tune get people in the industry talking, it was perfectly suited for the people he wanted to educate. As sales reps listened to the song, they were subconsciously picking up key industry jargon.

So, yes, Synergetic came across as hip and fun. But more importantly, the song (and the other educational resources conveniently included on the cassette tape) positioned them as experts.

What’s the right mode for you?

Recording a blues song worked for Perry. It probably won’t work for you. You’ve got to figure that out.

The “figuring out” part is usually where it’s common—and often necessary—to bring in clear thinkers and idea people, like us (pardon the commercial interruption, but this is what we do a lot of).

If you’re saddled with the responsibility of improving Channel Partner education, here are some bullet points to consider:

  • Don’t overcomplicate things when a simple approach will do.
  • If all your competitors are doing training one way, do something unexpected. For goodness sake, don’t copy what your competitors are already doing! Instead, be original.  
  • Like Perry, consider age, demographics, and where they spend their time. If you provide podcasts, for instance, don’t dismiss hiring solid voice talent.


John Fox

John Fox

CEO - Founder at Venture Marketing
I’m an experienced, revenue-focused, B2B marketing leader especially devoted to the success of the direct and channel sales rep. After all, at the pivotal moment of truth—when reps meet one-on-one with qualified decision-makers—everything the company has put in place to make this meeting happen will be measured.
John Fox


BD/CMO leader for disruptive B2B innovators. Proud dad of 5 entrepreneurs. Known for SEO, channel strategy, buyer personas & building geo distributed teams
"A lot of people get stuck negotiating with themselves. A little voice in their head says, “I don’t feel like doing… https://t.co/MU9X18wjFn - 1 year ago
John Fox