Are You Overlooking These Critical Channel Partner Training Components?

Tim Gass

People going through channel partner training

Launching or evaluating an active channel incentive program includes many considerations. From evaluating different earning structure concepts, to mapping out an effective communication strategy, to deciding on the right mix of motivational awards, to name just a few.

I frequently see a lot of work put into a program that’s entirely focused on the end result—like total sales by year end—and only rewards a top performing group on that metric. While these programs show initial results, they fizzle in the long run. The same top finishers repeat year after year, resulting in a demotivating effect for everyone else leading to stagnant sales.

If this sounds like your program, then it’s time for a change. You are missing out on engagement opportunities that can truly move the needle and set your channel partner program up for sustained success.

Motivate Middle Performers—Your Untapped Potential

Program development should take a step back and look at what makes these top performers tick. This paves the way to assess how we can motivate the middle-of-the-pack to rise to their levels. A key reason top performers claim their title is their knowledge and experience. They know your brand, your product and/or services and the benefits of having a strong relationship with your business.

When looking at the variety of ways you can adjust a program to achieve better performance out of your middle (and low) performers, don’t just look at modifying your earning structures and tiered approaches solely focused on the end results.

Look for what your channel partners need to truly be successful and find ways to integrate that into your incentive program.

Arm Channel Partners with the Tools for Success

A key inclusion is often how to better inform your middle performers, arm them with ways to improve their effectiveness through training, and reward them for those efforts.

The best approach to a learning component can vary widely depending on your situation, but here are few high-level considerations we keep top of mind:   

  • Assess your audience
  • Develop personas to guide strategy
  • Review how message is sent out
  • Review how content is developed

For getting the information in front of your audience, it’s ideal if you have an opportunity to offer in-person instructor-led training or live, hands-on sessions.

But more often than not, you’re dealing with an audience located all over the place, and budgeting, schedules and resources can limit these opportunities.

Unfortunately in these cases, we often then see audiences only receiving spec sheets, one-pagers, etc. attached to program-related emails or just made available as content pages or for download through an online resource.

This is fine as a supplement to your learning strategy, and is a great way to make information handy for quick referencing or deeper-dives following introductory training. But be careful to not solely rely on this approach. The key is developing your content strategically, and providing it through options.

Bring Your Information to Life

People prefer learning and receiving information in a variety of ways. If you’re not relaying what you want them to know through a cross-media approach, you could see some quick tuning out to your content. Or if you’re not consistently reinforcing that information, you could easily have a retention issue. Your audience, especially younger generations, are hungry for training and it could be a key differentiator for you. Look for ways to bring life to your information—make it relevant and memorable, and provide options for what works best for them.

Webinars or online “town halls” are a great way to do this. These offer a chance to absorb information directly from a knowledgeable representative, and questions and considerations can be addressed on-the-spot. It also offers a chance to strengthen relationships and better position the benefits you provide compared to the competition.

Through the webinar approach, you can end up with a cost-effective video that captures the walk-through of a well-structured deck and an engaging discussion.

What’s more, it’s simple to record and make it available for anyone on-demand so it works for their schedule.  

Video is another strong option to bring your information to life. Investing in video content that’s developed specifically for your audience can be a really effective way to make sure your information is retained. Attention spans are short these days, and they could potentially be decreasing even more. And your audience likely already feels busy enough as it is. If you overload your content, it’s easy for your audience to get intimidated and not even take the first step. Smaller, bite-size videos are not only a great way for your audience to learn when best suits their schedule, but studies show it’s also how many of us best remember the material.

This applies to static messaging as well. Incorporating visuals like infographics, related imagery and color is not only another great way to break up content, but the pairing of visuals with your information has a big effect on retention.

Whether the delivery method is through video, content pages on your site, emails, etc., look to how you can break the info up into smaller more easily absorbed portions.

Utilize Feedback from Top Performers

An important consideration to your training component is where your information is coming from. Audiences want information from people they trust and relates to them as closely as possible. Unfortunately, training often feels like a top-down approach. You tell your audience what they need to know, and they go out and execute. It can feel like a one-way conversation.

To combat this, as well incorporating another effective method for retention, look for ways to bring information that’s pulled directly from your audience.

Whether it’s relaying best practices compiled directly from first-hand experience, including testimonials from your top performers, or just positioning the information from their perspective, it’s a very effective way to get your message across. You can also look for opportunities where a top performer or strong advocate could even directly lead or support training sessions.

Improve Engagement with a Better Informed Audience

A lot of factors go into what best fits your situation. But the goal and key concept are the same. A better-informed audience opens the door to more engagement in your program, more advocacy on your behalf and, ultimately, leads right back to your main goal—better performance across the board.

Providing training and instructional opportunities, and rewarding your audience for their completion and retention, is a core component of a successful incentive program not to be overlooked.

Learn how you can foster reciprocity and commitment from your channel partners while enhancing productivity with our ebook, How to Scale Employee Motivation.

Scaling Motivation Ebook Download Image

Tim Gass

Tim Gass

Tim is a strategic, multidisciplinary creative director with over 10 years experience. While at ITA Group, he has developed and managed communication campaigns supporting engagement and incentive programs for several Fortune 500 companies. When he’s not helping ITA Group clients develop creative digital and print communications, you can find him enjoying live music with his wife, Erin or rooting for the Chicago Bears with their dog, Buckley.