Last week, the annual Salesforce.com user conference, Dreamforce, highlighted innovated ways to service customers including an example of video chat used to correct a setting on a piece of hardware. Marc Benioff and his crew are raising the bar of what is possible in customer service and many of the concepts can translate directly to servicing your partners. The key is accessible content and a delivery mode that matches their preference.
For example, do you train your partners once a quarter in a big room and wait for the phone to ring with questions? That type of sales training is quickly giving way to shorter more impactful sessions with greater follow on activity to support retention. One technology company has borrowed an idea from the old stockbroker’s method of communicating information – the squawk box approach. Weekly 1 hour virtual sessions give the partners exactly what they need to effectively sell but include the latest news and recent wins. This has resulted in a much more engaged and “plugged in” channel sales force.
This isn’t just a cool idea that you should adopt to shake things up. It mirrors the needs of partners today. In a recent LinkedIn discussion thread on the top 3 Business challenges a VAR faces today, the issue of vendor training drove some strong opinions. It was #2 behind driving more penetration with customers. That shouldn’t come as a surprise because they can’t get deeper in customer accounts when they are sitting in your certification class.
The primary concern for VARs were:
- The time and expense of these programs for employees that may eventually leave.
- The fact that certification programs usually cover a vendor’s entire portfolio but only a subset aligns with the VARs own portfolio.
As you prepare your annual partner survey in Q4, consider asking their perceptions on your training and offer up some new choices for them to rank. You may find you can please your partners just as easily as you do your customers. More importantly, your channel management strategy will be aligned to your service focused corporate strategy.