4 best practices for training your distributors and dealers

Today’s consumers are savvier and smarter than ever before. Within seconds, they can swipe their smartphones to find reviews of your company and products, ratings of how you stack up against the competition, and recommendations for products from their friends and colleagues. It’s almost impossible for your brand to distinguish itself from others based solely on the products you offer.

The opportunity to stand out lies in the service you offer after the sale.

And guess what — it’s your dealers and distributors providing much of that service. So if it’s their job to understand, sell, and service your products, then shouldn’t it be your job to understand their business challenges and offer critical training to make them stronger, more profitable businesses?

Providing relevant, timely training opportunities for your sales channel is just as important as marketing and advertising to your customers. Unfortunately, many manufacturers spend more time and money on their end users and ignore their distributors and dealers.

Create a training strategy

Develop an ongoing training strategy that takes advantage of existing opportunities and events, like quarterly or annual sales meetings, webinars, or teleconferences, dealer/distributor summits, and on-site visits, and also invest in new opportunities, like online learning management systems, virtual training events, printed workbooks or playbooks, video training series, and social enterprise networks like Salesforce’s Chatter. Begin to build a robust training program that is continually updated with timely and relevant content.

Offer peer-to-peer training

As the manufacturer, you have all of the product knowledge and expertise to educate dealers and distributors. Another benefit you offer is the ability to facilitate cross-sharing and peer learnings across your dealer/distributor networks.

When you create connections between dealers and distributors who do not compete with each other, you give them the most valuable education of all — real-world experience and wisdom from peers who have the same challenges and have found solutions. Help create an environment for them to teach each other and share best practices.

Customize for their needs

When creating educational and training materials, it’s really important to keep your audiences’ needs and learning preferences in mind. Technology has completely changed the learning process — more and more people prefer to watch a video, explore an interactive learning site, or “talk” with their instructors and classmates through online forums, video chats, or social networks.

But there are still many learners who prefer more traditional methods, like workbooks, online courses and tests, and in-person classroom experiences. Provide a mix of opportunities to reach everyone.

Two types of learners

One way to think about the type of educational content you should offer is by dividing your learners into two audiences:

  1. Digital Mindset — people who use and embrace new technologies as part of their learning process
  2. Traditional Mindset — people who are less technologically inclined and prefer the more traditional learning process

It’s easy to stereotype learners based on their age, but we’ve found tech-savvy learners in all generations — from millennials and Gen Xers to baby boomers and the greatest generation. Give them a variety of options and they’ll choose what works best for them. This infographic will help ensure that you’re providing the right mix of learning opportunities for your dealer/distributor audiences.

4 best practices for training your distributors and dealers

Invest in training

Smart companies do more than build products; they develop dealers and distributors, too. Are you helping them grow their business? Are you educating their staff? Do you offer business training, as well as product and sales training? If not, it’s time to focus on training for one of your most important audiences.

The Two Rivers Marketing team has decades of distribution channel experience. We provide in-person training, create classes for online universities, and develop educational videos and workbooks. We can help you get started or enhance what you’re already doing. Send me an email with questions or share your most successful training tactics.