Focus Incentives on Rewarding Channel Behavior, Not Sales

ITA Group
ITA Group

channel sales person excited to receive reward

Targeted incentives can be paramount to your success. But it’s not enough to dangle the proverbial carrot. Today’s sales teams are inundated with overloaded schedules, challenging sales cycles and under-staffed teams. In situations like these, it can be difficult for channel partners to not only picture the end result but create an action plan that can deliver it. That’s why it’s vitally important that your partner enablement strategy includes rewards for incremental performance.

In the increasingly competitive channel market, smart companies are looking to influence behaviors earlier in the relationship continuum, understanding that doing so leads to better participation, higher engagement and more profitable partner relationships.

The Days of Behavior-Based Incentives Are Here

The days of only offering transaction-based incentives are over. Today more than ever, it is critical to drive presales behaviors, because these behaviors have a high correlation to ultimate sales. Smart vendors are moving away from rewarding partner reps solely for finish line results. Instead, they’re rewarding desired actions that are taken at different stages in the buyer’s journey, where a change in partner behavior is desired.

Program goals may include driving portal usage, motivating reps to learn buyer’s journey models and stages, using specific content and tools to engage the new buyer, and encouraging activities that are focused on lead management (e.g., lead reporting, opportunity registration, qualification, etc.) and/or pipeline status updates. In addition, top vendors are also rewarding partners for specific achievements at the bottom of the funnel (e.g., upgrades, upselling, cross-selling, renewals, closed/won business in new buying centers, etc.).

Rewarding Behaviors Helps Break Through the Clutter

According to Jay McBain at Forrester, “Optimizing channel incentives around changes in behavior as opposed to rewarding existing habits is also important to drive channel loyalty. Brands that excel at deploying the right mix, level, and cadence of incentives will improve revenue and profit from the channel, expand the breadth and depth of customer relationships, and increase mindshare and loyalty of partners.”

Moreover, by incentivizing activities based on a defined sales process (e.g., deal registration or product demo), you are breaking through the clutter of information partners receive and reward those qualifying activities that predictably generate sales. Additionally, by offering your partners incentives, you gain visibility into their behavior, so you can measure and analyze what’s working and what needs improvement.

Motivation Is Different for Every Partner

The most successful channel incentives programs are specifically tailored to the intended audience. It’s important to assess participants’ demographics to choose the type of reward that will motivate them. For global incentives, you must address regional and cultural factors that affect what is perceived as a valuable reward. You should also combine rewards with recognition elements (e.g., top-performer awards and leader/scoreboards) for greater success.

A successful rewards program should be based on an understanding of the participants’ values and the creation of tools that motivate and inspire. Providing choices other than cash creates an emotional connection, while cash is an unemotional reward that gets forgotten when spent like a salary.

For the greatest success, align individual incentives with your partners’ company-level incentives and business models. Although points-based rewards incentive programs cannot compensate for the absence of a differentiated or competitively superior offering, they’re effective as part of a holistic incentive strategy that is designed to improve partner engagement at both the organizational and individual levels.

Drive Desired Behaviors By Adding Value

Today, business and market realities have created an unprecedented opportunity for sales and marketing leaders to create value for their channels. Channel incentives need to keep the reseller ecosystem engaged and motivated to drive demand and sell offerings. By increasing partner knowledge and their capability to grow sales and market share—at the same time of rewarding them for a job well done—performance and relationships will get stronger and sales transformation will occur. This is the only way to positively influence behavior and achieve sales transformation.

Just as you’re evolving the strategies around your incentives, it’s time to think differently, make room for more than just our traditional partners and change the way we go to market. And that starts with building your partner ecosystems. Download the Ultimate Guidebook below.

Channel Ecosystem guidebook download