Published On: March 4, 2014By
Channel Learning: Why and how to educate sales partners - by independent learning tech analyst John Leh

I love channel learning. It just makes sense and it’s completely and beautifully tied to the bottom line. Pure, unadulterated learning for the sake of money. Two of my favorite things – learning and money.

Let’s say you’re at a growing company that needs to build a sales team. You assess each candidate’s potential, hire them, train them, let them ramp up and hope they can sell. If you’re right, you’ll have salespeople who produce and your company will take an incremental step forward.

But if you’re wrong, and if you are lucky, it will take only 6-9 months to find out and $100,000 for the effort of recruiting, hiring, paying a salary and benefits for each salesperson. Multiply that by 1000 or 2000 team members, and you have a lot riding on each hire.

Plus, as many young companies have discovered, if you’re growing rapidly, you’ll inevitably outpace your ability to hire and develop an internal salesforce. That’s when a network of channel partners can step in and help you scale without losing momentum.

What is a Channel?

A corporation, no matter how large, can’t be everywhere at the same time. You can’t penetrate new markets easily and cost effectively without a sales channel.

An organization’s channel partners can include resellers, value-added resellers, dealers, franchisees, distributors, developers – any third-party sales professional that represents your brand on your behalf. The channel acts as an extension of your internal salesforce.

Channel partners sell your product, service your product and often provide additional services to support your product among end customers. A well-crafted channel strategy lets you put local experts on the street, so your products and services can be available virtually anywhere around the world. It puts you in every location your brand wants to be, but you don’t have to actually have to hire and manage each of those channel partners directly, in every location.

With channel management, it’s important to understand the difference between “captured” versus “uncaptured” partners. Captured partners resell your products and services, exclusively. On the other hand, uncaptured channel partners represent multiple companies.

For example, think of life insurance. You can buy insurance directly from Prudential. Or you can buy through SelectQuote, which represents a variety of top life insurance companies. SelectQuote specializes in recommending the best product for you from among the various providers they represent.

Regardless of whether your channel is “captured” or “uncaptured,” it’s important to educate your channel partners on a continuous basis. The consequences are obvious. Unless your channel partners have relevant knowledge, tools and motivation to sell your products, they won’t.

What is Channel Learning?

Let’s say a major insurance provider like Prudential has a partner portal where uncaptured agents like SelectQuote can access Prudential training, product updates, best practices and collaboration tools. As new products are released, content is created and distributed to SelectQuote agents, so they’re always up-to-speed and certified to represent your full product line.

Now, imagine the other three insurance companies that SelectQuote salespeople represent send only a packet of colorful paper to channel insurance agents every now and then. No ongoing engagement, training or incentitves. When SelectQuote agents are in the hot seat, selling insurance to a potential client, which brand do you think they’ll choose to recommend?

I was in sales for many years. I learned that you always sell what you know best. Competition is always stiff and selling is always tough, so your best moves is to go with your strength.

Business Reasons for Channel Learning

There are multiple reasons for investing in channel-focused learning initiatives. For example, companies often aim to:

  • Increase sales and revenue
  • Decrease cost of direct employee hiring
  • Accelerate product time-to-market
  • Penetrate new geographic markets or new markets, in general
  • Increase the consistency of your message
  • Increase the ability for partners to cross-sell and resell
  • Increase “mindshare” among “uncaptured” channel reps
  • Increase end customer satisfaction
  • Reduce technical support calls
  • Boost brand loyalty
  • Increase channel quality of service and loyalty

Channel Learning Case Studies

Examples of Channel Learning in the News

LMS Vendors Specializing in Channel Learning Solutions


Want more insights? Watch our on-demand webinar:

The Competitive Advantage of an Externally Facing LMS

There is tremendous diversity among the nearly 700 learning management systems available today. And when customer education is a top priority, it pays for organizations to choose an LMS designed specifically for that purpose.

What exactly are the business benefits of choosing a specialized learning management system (rather than an employee-oriented LMS) to support customer learning initiatives?

Join John Leh, Talented Learning lead analyst and CEO, and Terry Lydon, VP of Training Operations Projects at Litmos, as they explain the value of choosing an externally focused LMS. Specifically, they discuss: You’ll learn: 

  • How to quantify the benefits of customer learning
  • Which factors set a customer LMS apart from employee-focused platforms
  • What case studies reveal about the value of customer learning technology
  • How to find the best LMS for your customers’ needs, and
  • 5 areas of innovation unique to customer LMS solutions

Replay this free webinar now!

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About the Author: John Leh

John Leh is Founder, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning and the Talented Learning Center. John is a fiercely independent consultant, blogger, podcaster, speaker and educator who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies, primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based upon more than 25+years of learning-tech industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to hundreds of learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $100+ million and growing. John would love to connect with you on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

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