Distributors Embrace Live Online Virtual Training

Virtual training is gaining traction as a service offered by distributors because it enables channel partners to educate their sales reps and technicians about in-demand technologies with greater convenience and significantly lower cost. Ingram Micro and Tech Data lead the pack.

Live online, virtual training is gaining traction as a service offered by distributors because it enables channel partners to educate their sales reps and technicians on in-demand technologies at greater convenience and significantly lowered cost.

Distributors Ingram Micro and Tech Data are using online, instructor-led virtual classes, which differ from traditional e-learning settings such as webinars in that an instructor actually leads the class, to urge training despite the difficult economy. With the cost of conducting business increasing and resources dwindling, offering resellers a way to tackle training, certification and virtual labs while saving money can be an attractive proposition.

Both Ingram Micro and Tech Data recently have expanded or improved upon their existing live online offerings. Others such as Avnet, Arrow and Bell Micro so far have not adopted the practice and could lose ground to competitors training resellers in virtual classroom settings. D&H Distributing earlier this year moved closer when it introduced “D&H TV,” which currently provides multi-vendor educational marketing and sales programs and may be expanded to include reseller training.

“Live, instructor-led, web-based training is growing for a number of reasons,” said Jim Cooper, senior manager for TDEducation, the training and certification business unit of distributor Tech Data. “Economic concerns and convenience are part of it, but it’s also an effective way to get to a large audience in a short period of time."

“It’s not just that live online training saves travel time and costs,” said Ken Bast, Ingram Micro vice president, vendor management. “We think there’s a big opportunity for resellers to add training to what they offer and become more valuable to their clients. Live online fits that model well.”

Ingram Micro recently rolled out a new roster of live online, virtual training classes provided by VPN Dynamics, a subsidiary of the distributor offering networking, security and virtualization training. The courses are open to all levels of partners. Class size is limited to six people at one time. They feature training from vendors Citrix, VMware, Check Point Software, Juniper Networks, Meru, Nokia, SonicWall and Websense. 

Bast said that VPN had provided training to about 250 resellers in the past 18 months. He added that Ingram believes that adding live online training to its offerings can greatly increase the number of partners it trains.

Classes range in length from one to five days depending on a vendor’s courseware. Training costs vary from $795 to $5,495. Students of the live online classes may log onto VPN’s equipment to do lab work in real time. At the end of the training an extra day is left over for additional time to brush up on the material and demo equipment.

Bast added that resellers can sell live online virtual training at 30-percent margin, “which helps build up their service margins and cement their role as a trusted solution provider with their customers.” Even if the “market picks up,” he said, “live online classes rate more highly with partners even than leader-led, and a fair number of people will use it because of its convenience.”

Tech Data officials said that the distributor, through its TDEducation services, has provided access to hundreds of live, online instructor-led virtual training sessions for resellers’ technical and sales personnel. “This year alone we’ve instructed over 1,000 students via this model,” said Cooper.

Tech Data also offer remote training through web-based, remote cameras and conferencing solutions in its solutions center, a 5,000-square-foot technology lab at its Florida headquarters.

Live, online, virtual training is not without its drawbacks. While it can save resellers time and money, inherent advantages of the traditional leader-led classroom add to a partner’s learning experience.

“The virtual, instructor-led model works because it’s convenient,” Cooper said. “What you lose in the virtual format is student-to-student interaction and the sharing of anecdotal information, which can be an important factor.”

TAGS: services,distributors,Tech Data,Ingram,virtual training

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