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Selling Microsoft

Partner Hiring and Training Lessons from WPC

Non-productive partner companies often hire the best, but fall short at training their talent. Don't make that mistake.

You see it in college sports -- the top teams tend to recruit the top performers. In building a channel as a vendor or building a partner organization, that's the No. 1 job of management.

What tends to be missing or where weak vendors or non-productive partners seem to fail, however, are in two other aspects of management's responsibility: proper onboarding and ongoing training and development.

These two areas normally get casual attention, but seldom do they receive the management focus they require. If you're attending the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2014, look to utilize your time to refine these points for your firm.

At the WPC, as you walk the Exhibit Hall looking for new business opportunities and when talking to existing or new potential vendors, look beyond the sales stories and investigate new partner onboarding programs. How will the vendors work with you and your team? Does the vendor have a simple checklist for quality onboarding, or does it have a more proactive automated tool to ensure you fully understand its offering, market and sales approach? How long does the vendor estimate it will take you to begin to generate consistent revenue? What's the vendor's commitment and what is its expected commitment from you? Is the vendor interested in simply creating a channel, or is its philosophy driven by assisting the partner in building a business with the vendor's product or service?

With my clients I always suggest they need to fully understand the mutual level of commitment both parties need to be aware of and to make to each other for mutual success.

The power of being at the WPC is also the opportunity for ongoing development -- both personal and organizational. The various tracks cover technology, but also leadership, sales and marketing topics. My program this year is "50 Business Tips in 50 Minutes." It's just one example of information that will be shared during the conference. If you aren't attending the WPC, then make sure you check out the Web sites and download the videos and PowerPoint decks and pick up as much as you can. To keep up with what's happening at the WPC, visit digitalwpc.com.

Professional and personal ongoing training and development at your office is more critical. Just as the vendor onboarding plan is important, creating an employee onboarding process is the first step to decreasing the time to revenue or productivity generation. While each office might have a few unique training needs, there are standardized salesperson onboarding programs. (Jeb Blount from Sales Gravy is speaking on that topic at the WPC.)

The secret for the initial employee onboarding is the mantra I always reinforce with my clients: Inspect what you expect! For example, I have new salespeople call me and leave voicemails so I can listen to what and how they sell the voicemail. In a like manner by the end of the third week, the salesperson must be able to present the organization's PowerPoint presentation to the management team to ensure they can properly represent the company. Make sure they can perform in your office before they're exposed to your prospects.

The next piece is ongoing training. With most of my clients I help them build a quarterly training plan -- a minimum of two to three hours a month that includes sales skills, product knowledge, operations training and industry awareness. One easy idea is to purchase a sales training book for each person twice a year and have the team discuss one chapter a week during your regular sales meeting.

The secret to high-performance sales is "in the field" training. I recommend the person who's responsible for sales leadership schedule sales calls with each salesperson and actually track what kinds of calls (first call, discovery, executive presentations and so) are made with which salesperson. This ensures you've "inspected what you expected."

Got the idea? Training is a keystone for growth.

More Columns by Ken Thoreson:

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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