Different channels have designated purposes in the value chain, and every member of the channel is required to skilfully complete their task for smooth channel operations. This calls for each of the channel members to be provided with relevant sales and product training. The training process may include a suite of tools ranging from in-person, instructor-led teaching to virtual instructors or remote e-learning resources, each designed with the view to ensure that all partners are fully skilled to offer comprehensive proposition and value.
A training program must focus on employee development so that it can help channel partners take advantage of current and future prospects. Xerox has designed a competency-based program partner that focusses on developing people skills as a basis for capturing new market opportunities. This is available to second-tier resellers and service providers in emerging markets. “The Xerox Partner Plus Program offers a defined set of training, certifications and learning paths to equip sales representatives and technicians with the skills they need to sell and support products, solutions, and services in the marketplace,” said Pui-Chi Li, Head of Marketing at Xerox Middle East and Africa.
An all-round training program is dedicated to sales and technical audiences with the ability to allow partners to choose the most convenient way to be trained. The training may be imparted in several different ways; one of the most basic ones being instructor-led training that is given in a live classroom environment with the aim to provide a dynamic interactive and hands-on experience.
Another popular method is by giving online classes with courses that offer the dynamic advantage of live instruction while avoiding the cost and time associated with traveling to a remote site. Using distance learning and a virtual lab, online classes provide the dynamics of a classroom with the flexibility of the internet.
Fortinet offers instructor-led training classes that may be taught by its staff at a Fortinet location, contracted training center, or privately on-site. The vendor also offers courses and modules that provide the ultimate flexibility as they are always available through its online learning management system, the Fortinet Network Security Expert (NSE) Institute.
Xerox partners can access their training through a number of methods, namely through the Xerox PartnerNet Portal, our online support resource, ShowPad and delivery of materials in class room settings.
In order to implement their training modules, many vendors and distributors have authorized training centers. “We have authorised training partners that are conveniently located throughout the world and offer hands on training on Fortinet solutions. In the Middle East our training partners are Exclusive Networks, Fast Lane, Insoft, Mantrac and Redington ME,” stated Zacky Vaz, Regional Channel Manager at Fortinet.
Professional certification is an integral part of the training process and may be a free-of-cost or paid exercise, depending on the vendor/distributor’s choice. Certification provides recognition to the sales, analyst and service employees for the acquired skills, endorsing that they now possess the competencies to sell, support and service products and/or solutions in the market.
Xerox training module is accompanied with professional certification which is a part of the accreditation process. “Most of the training we offer to partners is part of our value proposition therefore there is no cost associated to their participation – we want to actively encourage all our partners to continually update and up-skill their workforce. In some instances where we are required to provide additional in-depth and specialist training, we do require a small contribution from partners to cover travel and accommodation expenses. However, all other aspects of the training such as materials, trainer and location are supported by Xerox,” explained Li.
Since customers today are more informed than ever before and their demands for solutions and services are becoming increasingly complex, it is getting more critical for partners to have a highly skilled workforce to understand their business needs.
Fortinet offers an eight-level certification program for technical professionals interested in independent validation of their network security skills and experience. “The Fortinet NSE program includes a wide range of self-paced and instructor-led courses, as well as practical, experiential exercises that demonstrate mastery of complex network security concepts. The only cost associated with the training is for the examination, which partners usually bear,” added Vaz.
“Xerox recognises its partners for their investment in training and development with new specialization branding and partner logos. Once the partner has completed its accreditation, this increases visibility for the partners and positions them as specialists or experts to the end customer,” stated Li.
For the most part, vendors align with certain training partners to ensure that all channel partners are equipped with a defined set of skills and expertise. However, the enormity of this region presents vendors with a huge challenge in reaching out to partners, especially for countries where they do not have physical presence in. To overcome this, vendors need to create a network of training partners that are responsible for partner training throughout their geographical spread. This collaboration is especially important since every vendor requires a different framework of training to enable its partners, which when meshed with the right services give its partners the required competitive advantage.
In addition to standalone training centers, such trainings are also carried out by distributors who then extend their services to provide the requisite training to the vendor’s partners. Ingram Micro which is one of the largest technology distributors in the region also serves as an authorized training partner to various vendors such as IBM, VMware, Veeam, Cisco, Aruba, Red Hat, SUSE, Microsoft, Nuix, Veritas and HPE.
Professional certification plays a significant role in Ingram Micro’s training program and requires professionals to sit for an exam at one of their testing centres. According to the Head of Services, Gulf and Near East at Ingram Micro, Mohammed Sabry, a successful partner training program is not just limited to technical certifications but also includes hands-on experience that enables the customers and partners to bring value to the table.
“While certification is crucial for partners to be able to go beyond product selling, its benefits are way ahead of this purpose. Certifications are not only essential for partnership with vendors they also serve as a means for personal achievement and ranking within the vendor community,” added Sabry.
The training and certification process is a key enabler for partners and their customers to help differentiate their business and gain a competitive advantage. A wide-range training program empowers the partners with the tools, expertise and support to accelerate profitability, expand growth, increase market leadership and deliver the most advanced services to their customers. Being equipped with the right training tools and certifications does not only enable channel partners with the right skills to sell their product but also gives them the required confidence to aptly reach out to their customers and successfully participate in the selling processes.