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It’s Time to Change the Channel (Your Sales Channel)

Why and how should you change your sales channel? Learning tech analyst John Leh explains the business wisdom of channel training

Forty years ago, my five siblings and I took mandatory turns to act as my Dad’s remote control. It was the time of indentured human remotes and random flipping or recording programs hadn’t been invented.  Television was a planned event using the weekly TV Guide in a religious, ritual fashion led by our patriarch. “It’s time to change the channel,” he would announce and we would all argue about who was up.

Well, it’s time to change the channel again but not the TV channel – your external sales and distribution channel.  No, I don’t mean get a new channel. I mean change the behavior of your channel with training and certification to drive measurable business results.

Ironically, while many corporations strive to change the behavior with learning technology, still more continue to send out indentured human trainers for point-in-time sessions as they have for decades.  Every time I encounter an organization relying primarily on trainers, I can almost here Dad saying “Channel 3 please.” At least we all moved on with TVs.

What Is An External Channel?


The channel can go by many names including partners, value-added resellers, franchises, dealers, distributors, retailers and agents to name a few.  The external channel is the part of your extended enterprise responsible for selling and distributing your products and services, but you don’t hire them, they are not your employees and you usually can’t tell them what to do.

In most cases, the channel sells and distributes more than just one organization’s products so your growth, brand and livelihood are in the hands of a third party that also can represent your competitors’ products.

The only way to gain and keep mindshare in your channel is to provide them the support and knowledge to be able to sell your products and services easier than the competition. In the heat of the sales moment, salespeople will sell what they know best and will not remember a 3-day training session in 2012.  They will remember the constant push of learning and tools that help them take this particular prospect to customer status.

There is only one measurable way to have an ongoing relationship with your channel and their employees — a Learning Management System (LMS).

How Can Changes In Sales Channel Behavior Pay Off?

Organizations in every industry globally use an LMS to train and certify their channels as a competitive differentiator and also to make money, save money and reduce cycle times. When you gain the mindshare and thus change the behavior of your channel, you too will enjoy these top 10 measurable benefits:

  1. Increase sales and revenue from each channel partner or distributor
  2. Create new revenue streams from the sale of partner-related content and certification programs
  3. Decrease time to market with new products
  4. Decrease time to proficiency of new channel partners
  5. Decrease cost to penetrate into new markets
  6. Increase end customer satisfaction
  7. Increase brand and product awareness with channel
  8. Decrease technical support calls
  9. Decrease traditional training costs
  10. Increase channel’s ability to cross-sell and up-sell

Measuring the Impact of Changing Behavior

It is easy to measure the business impact of channel learning if you have a learning management system.  An extended enterprise LMS makes it possible to track, analyze and report on channel partner education – what content partners consume, how much they consume and when they consume it.  It also tracks the results of those interactions and can track certification progress and completions.  By comparing behaviors and performance of trained vs. untrained channel partners in terms of sales they generate, support call volumes tied to their accounts, or other business metrics, you can demonstrate the measurable impact of your training efforts.  And that impact can be huge.  Want real-world examples?  Check these case studies for inspiration.


How Can You Get Started With Channel Training?

You don’t need to buy and implement a complicated and expensive system to train, certify and communicate with your channel.  You can start small and inexpensively, prove your results and grow from there.   Channel learning is a process, not an event.  You really only need three things to get started:

  • A channel-friendly Learning Management System (LMS)

To house and manage all your content, your partners and their employees, as well as the relationship between these three elements.

  • Product and Sales Content

This can come in many forms and formats, including instructor-led training, virtual classrooms, elearning courses, video, audio, infographics, how-to guides, documents, games, performance support guides and more.  Typically much of the content you develop for your sales team can be repurposed — sometimes without revision — for external channel partners.

  • Measurable Success Criteria

You’ll need to develop appropriate metrics in order to win your initial budget, prove business impact and expand your program over time.  Changing your channel’s behavior can lead to competitive advantage.  It can be as simple as testing a single piece of content on a trial basis.  Or you could develop sophisticated programs with multiple levels that take months or years to complete.   Regardless, having the proof that users consumed content is the baseline you need to prove that the content improved the business in some way.  More importantly, it allows you to provide your channel with tools to make them more successful and isn’t that why they are in your channel in the first place?

Sure beats sitting on the floor next to the TV, waiting for someone else to change the channel.


Want more insights? Replay this webinar:

Franchise Performance and the Modern LMS


How can training innovation elevate franchise business performance?  Learn from real-world examples!

Training plays a central role in the world’s most successful franchise organizations.  But what does it take to deliver effective learning programs to a network of independent partners?

Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning as he hosts a special panel discussion with franchise learning experts:

  • Trista Kimber, Director of Training & Design at Hooters of America
  • Christine Shanks, LMS Administrator at International Dairy Queen

In this dynamic one-hour session, you’ll get practical, proven advice about training best practices that lead to franchise business success. For example, you’ll learn how to:

  • Balance your organization’s learning objectives with those of franchisees
  • Leverage your LMS as a marketing and demand generation tool to recruit new partners
  • Engage learners in onboarding and ongoing experiences that ensure compliance
  • Streamline content development, delivery and other operational tasks
  • Identify key LMS features that drive franchise partner performance
  • Measure learning progress and tie metrics to business results


Do you Need Help Getting Started in Channel Learning?

That’s it.   You’re sold.  Time to buy an LMS except you don’t have time to figure out which of the 700+ learning systems with thousands of features is best for your particular needs.  We can help.  Contact us for a complimentary phone consultation:

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John Leh
About John Leh (177 Articles)
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC. Named among the “Top 20 Global Elearning Movers and Shakers” in 2018 and 2017, John is a fiercely independent LMS selection consultant, blogger and podcaster who helps organizations select and implement learning technology strategies – primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based on more than 20 years of industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $65 million. You can connect with John on Twitter at @JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.

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