Channel Partners: Accessibility is the Magic Word

Kristina Belyea 17 September 2015 - 7 min. read

You might spend hours, millions of dollars, and all the resources at your disposal to create strong sales training tools and resources for your field reps. But if they aren’t using them, then all that time, effort, and investment is going down the drain.

Distributor reps in particular may be managing 20+ products at one time. That’s a lot of products, relationships, and customers to juggle without dropping the ball. Their mindshare is a coveted – not to mention hard to get – commodity. Manufacturers often train distributor reps with the assumption that they’ll retain what they’ve learned in an in-class session, webinar, or slide-deck two months down the line. This just isn’t realistic. In the 1880s, Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, examined how people learned, retained, associated, and reproduced information. Through his theory, The Forgetting Curve, he found that although information is well retained right when it’s learned, a person’s ability to remember it can drop to 40 percent in mere days. Here’s the reality. That once-and-done training you’re investing in is bringing you lower returns than you’re expecting. It’s just not equipping your distributor reps to succeed.

Your distributor reps are already overwhelmed with too much information and they lack a personal connection to your company. The result is that they tend to walk into meetings, list off a series of product features and benefits, and hope for the best – if they bring your product into the conversation at all. What they typically are not equipped to do is manage common objections, speak to the value of your product, and differentiate your product from the competition. And this is really what drives sales results.

Why do your reps sell your products in this less than ideal manner? The chances are, they don’t understand your product’s unique value, which means they’re likely not comfortable selling it. To get them comfortable – and make it more likely that they even pull it out of their bag – it’s your job to make it easy for them to access and refresh on crucial product, sales, and clinical information. When you take the initiative to make it easier for your distributor reps to sell your products, not only do you increase their comfort level, you create a closer connection between them and your brand. This has the direct effect of capturing their mindshare.

Aside from price-point, the accessibility of your sales training and collateral directly impacts a rep’s ability to see value, feel comfortable, and sell products. Here’s the key. Training always needs to be accessible.

Accessibility means three things:

One. Your training needs to be well organized. If you’re storing all your resources on a (semi-organized) cloud drive or CMS, this provides little value to reps in the field. They have five minutes to refresh in their car or in a clinician’s waiting room before a meeting. If they have to navigate through a sprawling warehouse of information to find one salient point, you’re losing an opportunity to reach them. And if they fumble on their pitch because they’re underprepared, they might conclude it’s your product that’s at fault, and not pull it out of their bag again.

Two. Your training needs to be well structured. Accessibility doesn’t just mean organizing your folders on a drive. It means that every bit of training collateral needs to be well structured. Less is more, so we suggest you back away from that 150 slide deck or that glossy-but-never-used behemoth marketing created. Short videos, pre-recorded webinars, one-page sell sheets, summarized clinical information – this is the type of concise and practical content reps will actually reach for when they need to quickly refresh on your product. This is how you capture crucial moments to keep them prepared to sell and build a better connection to your product and your brand.

Three. Your training needs to be mobile. It’s 2017. If your training and key sales resources aren’t accessible on a mobile device, they need to be – yesterday. A Director of Training and Development we spoke to called training tools without mobile access “unfeasible.” If you’re trying to capitalize on those limited moments your distributor rep has before or during a meeting, expecting them to sign in to a portal on their laptop and get the information they need quickly just adds unnecessary resistance. Most of us are already plugged into our devices, constantly. Having training available on their devices makes it much more likely that reps will access it.

Sales generated through your channel partnerships are crucial in growing your top-line revenue. To maintain that competitive edge, getting distributor mindshare is critical. This means that your distributor reps need to see your product’s unique value, and feel comfortable and confident bringing it up at every opportunity. Giving them powerful training content, tools, and resources is just the first step. The second is giving them access to these tools at their fingertips. Without well-organized and well-structured content that’s mobile, you’re putting them – and yourself – at a massive disadvantage.