Higher education

The right level and type of training is fundamental for any reseller with aspirations of selling to and servicing their customers properly — which is why vendors in the Middle East are now paying greater attention to their channel training policies.

Tags: EMC CorporationFortinet IncorporationFujitsu Technology Solutions - UAEJuniper Networks IncorporatedTrainingUnited Arab Emirates
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Higher education
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By  Piers Ford Published  October 20, 2009 Channel Middle East Logo

Good quality training is the lifeblood of any vendor's partner programme. At the very least, the reseller enhances its pedigree in the market by ensuring that its sales people and engineers are steeped in specific product and technology capabilities - with skills refreshed on a regular basis.

And for the vendor, training is a vehicle for encouraging resellers to become value-added extensions of its own sales operation, delivering product expertise and consolidating brand reputation in the field.

But the benefits of a successful training programme penetrate even deeper on both sides of the relationship, as Taj El-Khayat, head of channels at Juniper Networks, explains. "A trained channel makes a huge difference," he insisted. "By segmenting the training programmes to different tiers within your channel, you can give the right focus, level of information and tools that fit the channel's business model.

"A one-size-fits-all model does not work. We're a channel-driven organisation and it is key to have a well-trained channel in order to continue to grow and win more customers and, more importantly, to enable partners to be uniquely competitive and achieve the aspired-to profitability."

Like Juniper, many vendors in the Middle East now adopt a university-style approach to channel education, raising the kudos of brand-specific qualifications. Juniper's J-Partner Academy, for example, is a modular programme for tier-one partners, designed to turn salespeople from product specialists to complete solution specialists, strengthened by technology excellence.

Tier-two and -three partners benefit from the J-Partner Empower Programme, delivered via the vendor's authorised distribution network, which offers a monthly one-day session and drills new recruits in the vendor and its products, culminating in sales training. There are also ‘Quick Start' one-day technical workshops focusing on the UTM space. These programmes are underpinned by the six-monthly J-University event, designed to update the channel, raise awareness and boost education across the partner portfolio.

Variations on this model abound across the vendor community in the region, while e-learning formats remain popular and effective for self-paced training, traditional classroom delivery continues to fulfil demand for hands-on experience. And this variety is supplemented by a range of live web training options, workshops, update modules and onsite assistance.

Reseller training requirements are so diverse that vendors are driven to provide ever more sophisticated training models that take cyclical and seasonal influences into account without compromising the reseller's precious time at the sharp end of sales. Training programmes are also often incentivised to maintain motivation. "Our depth training is spread throughout the year on a quarterly basis, focusing on specific topics and segments per quarter," said El-Khayat. "We try to leverage three to four days per quarter, where we ensure that the time investment made by the partner is well spent. We address sales, pre-sales and technical modules in this span of time, in parallel, to ensure we don't capture much time from the field."

He says reseller expectations depend very much on their size, business model and maturity. But in the complex and fast-evolving network and security market, for example, there is a strong preference for classroom and on-site training where salespeople and engineers can get their hands on the kit. Online elements are better suited to theory - although even for this, some vendors, including infrastructure specialist Siemon, prefer to stick with face-to-face programmes.

"Our training follows a classroom format with plenty of practical sessions delivered over either one or three days, depending on the training required," explained Iyer Sivakumar, Siemon's Middle East sales manager. "No channel training is currently delivered online, as Siemon prefers to have a more active involvement with the channel."

All media have an important role to play, suggests Judhi Prasetyo, regional channel manager at network security specialist Fortinet Middle East, which offers classroom training based on an official curriculum designed for engineers who wish to pursue certification. There are also self-paced and live web training options, as well as a variety of non-certification courses and workshops.

"Resellers are aware that different levels and types of training are required, depending on the situation and the partner's requirements," said Prasetyo. "With classroom training, resellers can expect to learn in depth about our products and solutions, not only to be able to pass the exam but also to prepare for challenging scenarios in the field.

"The online training options allow participants to study at their own convenience. The product update training helps resellers to keep themselves up to date with our new products and features in existing products. And the onsite and on-the-job training are essential to enable partners to maintain major installation or complex projects, usually involving integration with other systems."

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