By Dan Schwab, co-president, D&H Distributing
In the commercial world, by definition, almost everything comes with a price tag. In that case, it’s difficult for businesses to pass up free resources when they are presented. Whether you’re a reseller or an end user, everyone is looking for more resources to augment their skills and allow them to conduct a greater volume of business.
Training holds a special allure in this vein: Resellers can use it to build certifications and increase their level of exclusivity and authorization, extending the breadth and type of work VARs can conduct. Yet, it can also be leveraged as a partner offering and provided to end users as a value-added service, enhancing the VAR’s proposition as a trusted advisor.
Either way, training is one of those highly valued, win-win assets. It can be a sales tool to attract new customers, or a tool to educate the reseller’s customer base, empowering companies to deploy more sophisticated solutions. A quality training program can help VARs differentiate themselves. Here are five ways solution providers can leverage training to their advantage.
1. Teach Your Customers What They’ll Gain
Business people have all heard how technology can save them money and produce considerable ROI, but not all of them comprehend how. Many providers have experienced successful results offering seminars on how to achieve savings through an IT investment that will make them more productive and efficient. Subject matter could revolve around categories such as cloud-based infrastructures, server technologies, virtualization, storage systems, remote management services, or cost- and energy-saving strategies.
The first step in creating a training agenda is deciding how to make customers understand the ways in which different technologies will benefit them. For instance, how can you sell an SMB server network to an office that doesn’t know why they need one? If a customer doesn’t understand the goals that technology can help them accomplish, they won’t buy. They won’t believe your pitch. They’ll feel like their being sold, as opposed to being invited into a consultative partnership with an IT expert who can offer them value.
Be sure to use clear, concise, professional-grade materials to complement your program. Such content can be obtained from your vendor or distributor partners, depending on these partners’ range of offerings. In fact, if your training subject matter is vendor specific, vendors may be able to offer additional support by way of materials, images, product information, or even funding. In the end, an educated customer will very likely be a more profitable, longer-term customer, one who has a greater capability for growth, achieved through the use of a more advanced technological architecture.
2. Try A Lunch and Learn, Or A Road Show
A webcast is a truly accessible and easy-to-mount venue way to deliver training, but it often lacks one crucial networking component: person to person contact. Many companies have had good results with a series of “Road Show” presentations in different regional areas, which basically bring the mountain to you-know-who instead of expecting busy customers to flock to your location.
Free “Lunch and Learn”- sessions, which include refreshments and are scheduled mid-day in local business communities, have also proven to be successful tools. Note that in this and any other educational setting, training should focus on substantial content for attendees, as opposed to being a sales pitch. If you give potential customers enough vital information on how IT infrastructures can benefit them, that should be enough to motivate attendees to come to you with their IT needs.
3. Use Training As A Recruitment Tool
Any training that you offer generates potential new sales leads. Companies that come seeking your advice on disciplines like cloud infrastructures or managed services are qualified, interested parties looking not only for information, but possibly for a trusted partner who can provide the necessary components to create a viable solution. Most business owners, especially in the SMB space, don’t have the budget to maintain their own IT staff. Therefore, your training session is an opportunity not just to create a more technologically savvy potential customer base, but to establish your own value as a reliable, knowledgeable IT provider.
4. Increase Your Own Expertise
An obvious way to leverage training is to increase your own certifications and knowledge base by educating your staff. In the current marketplace, D&H has noticed that more resellers than ever are eager to add new competencies or products to their line cards. Thanks to the recent recession, it seems many solutions providers have learned to embrace adaptation and growth as the most dependable strategy for ongoing stability.
Training is a consistent means by which to expand into new areas of profitability. As a VAR, you should research what new disciplines make sense for your business and immerse yourself in a program, or find a partner that can educate your staff and provide services and product knowledge you don’t yet possess.
5. Become An Authority And Breed Loyalty
In publicizing your training programs, you are branding your company as an authority. In your recruitment effort, whether you’re communicating to an entrenched customer list or placing ads in local business journals, you are marketing your own knowledge as a subject-matter expert. The existence of a training program positions your business to become that coveted trusted IT advisor that all reseller strive to be. The more you can share your own technological acumen, the greater opportunity you have to build credibility as an authoritative partner.
As a distributor, D&H has made training opportunities a huge part of its support proposition. These educational offerings, including trade shows, seminars, webcasts and marketing materials, have helped promote the growth of its customers. Similarly, free training programs for business owners, whether for existing or potential customers, will breed loyalty. Most organizations are appreciative of such a committed degree of support — especially when it provides a means to increase their own productivity.
If you truly view yourself as a partner in your customers’ success, then it makes sense to help develop those customers’ capabilities, control their costs, increase their efficiencies and expand their core competencies. The goal is to provide the greatest arsenal of tools and skills as possible to help them grow. In the end, that is what will help you succeed.