The Marketing Strategist:

How to Get Channel Salespeople to Train: Appeal to Their Core Motivations

November 23, 2011

Selling in B2B has become difficult for companies accustomed to a simple, transactional purchase. Customers are demanding more holistic solutions to address their needs rather than individual products and services. For companies that sell complex solutions through a partner channel, this can lead to a problem: not all partners have the consultative-selling skills needed to handle these deals. In these situations, providers need to respond not by pulling business from partners but by helping them gain the skills they need to succeed. Changing how you train your partner network is never easy, but for a large company like Cisco, it is downright daunting. Besides the vast size of Cisco’s partner network and its global reach, there is also the issue of diversity. Cisco’s partners range from mom-and-pop shops all the way up to big, sophisticated full-service companies. How do you create a program to serve all partners? Cisco created a partner training program called Accelerate, a password-protected Web portal designed to serve the partners. To get and keep the attention of such a broad range of partner companies, the project team focused on appealing to the core motivations of salespeople, including the following:
  • Reward them. Early on in the program development, Cisco discovered that partner salespeople were much more likely to participate if they were paid to do so. “We had some negative reactions to that idea,” recalls Pete Davis, Senior Marketing Manager at Cisco. “‘Why should we have to pay people to train?’ But we just had to acknowledge what truly motivates salespeople. If we could get them hooked on the experience, then everyone would win through growing the business. Our hypothesis ended up panning out.” Cisco developed a points system in which partners could redeem points for cash and/or prizes.
  • Play to their competitiveness. Selling is inherently competitive, and salespeople are motivated to compete both with themselves and with others. Davis determined that the program would need a mechanism to give partner salespeople a way to monitor their progress and compare themselves with peers. Participants receive points for taking training courses and for contributing content (case studies, testimonials, opinion pieces) to the Website. There is also a “LeaderBoard” posted prominently on the Accelerate portal so that participants can see who has the most points across the program. Top finishers receive gift cards on a quarterly and an annual basis.
  • Give them a test. It’s not enough for participants to simply consume the training materials on the Accelerate portal. To qualify for points (and the cash rewards they bring), partners must score at least 80% on an online quiz after taking each module of the training. Those with the most correct answers on all the quizzes they take qualify for special prizes.
To get the details on how Cisco created the Accelerate program for training channel partners, read Cisco: How to Train Partners in the Complex Solutions Sale.

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