Article by Christine Rodriguez, Head of Channel Incentives, Blackhawk Network
If your primary responsibility involves motivating external sales teams — including resellers, distributors, independent retailers, dealers, and other partners — you know how challenging it can be to engage all your indirect channels. Of course, you can offer traditional SPIFs or rewards for selling, but what about incentivising the other behaviours you want your external salespeople to achieve: product training, lead follow-up, deal registration, first class customer experiences and so on.
Companies that utilise an incentive programme report a 79% success rate in achieving their goals when the correct reward is offered.
To cultivate a highly successful channel partnership, your channel sales incentives should include a focus on driving behaviour change towards the regular completion of key non-sales tasks. Get started by taking the time to identify exactly which non-sales behaviours you think are most important to help drive performance.
Identifying non-sales behaviours that drive your business
Start by thinking about the key behaviours practiced by your most successful channel partners. Then use this list of sales-effectiveness activities as a starting point, adding others that apply to your channel activity and subtracting those that don’t.
• Marketing, sales, and technical training
• Performing lead generation activities
• Deal registration/deal management
• Joint business planning
• Participation in vendor marketing programmes
• Vendor SE engagement
• Follow up on leads
• Portal engagement
• Community engagement
• Social media participation
• Proof of concept involvement
• Subscription renewals
Identifying your top performer
To decide which behaviours to focus on, you need to identify which of your resellers are consistently bringing in the most sales, and what behaviours or engagement they exhibit:
1. Look at your sales totals to identify your top performer(s)
2. Review your organisation’s sales process
3. Define the behaviours that support your sales process
4. Determine which behaviours your top performers have adopted that your low- and non-performing partners have not
When you’re finished, you’ll be able to put together a basic behaviour profile of your most engaged external salesperson. Let’s call her “Kate”.
Kate-ifying your external sales programme
Now you need to figure out how to get the rest of your partners behaving like Kate. But before you can do that, you need to understand why they aren’t already. Start by talking to your low-and non-performers about those Kate-like behaviours. Why aren’t they already engaging in them? Does your current programme or platform make it difficult in some way? If that’s a big issue, stop right there. You know what you need to fix. Address the problem, then sit back and watch your process for a few months to see if things improve. (My hunch is that while a programme glitch or two will certainly have an impact, it’s likely not the whole story.) If the problem persists, you now know it’s purely a matter of motivation.
Next, you need to determine a plan for incentivising these behaviours. The idea is to overlay additional incentives on the desired behaviours when they lead to actual sales. Implement your plan, then sit back and watch again.
Let’s say Kate always, without fail, completes all the available training. Training doesn’t benefit her financially, but she enjoys having in-depth knowledge about the products she sells. Your low- and non-performers aren’t as interested in knowing all the details, and since they have no financial incentive to complete training, they don’t bother.
You adjust your programme so that now, when a seller completes training before making the sale, his or her sales incentive value increases. By tying a reward to the training behaviour, you drive more participation in your programme, incentivising more sales and increasing partner engagement.
Evaluate and tweak
So, assume now that you’ve 1) come up with several non-sales behaviours to incentivise, and 2) made the necessary programme changes. You’ve watched the numbers for a while to see how well your low- and non-performers do at keeping pace with “Kate”. If they’re neck-and-neck, fantastic. If they’re doing better, but not great, you might consider incentivising an additional behaviour or two to see what happens. Keep in mind that a different behaviour/incentive combination could prove to be a more effective motivator for this non-competitive group. It also may work for Kate, increasing her totals even more.
Don’t do it all yourself
You may be thinking, “this makes sense, but I’m still left with the problem of designing and managing a complex incentive programme that I have neither the time to do, nor the staff to manage.” This is when you need to find a company that can help you execute your reward strategy, so it appeals to your entire channel network, including “Kate”.
To learn more about our approach to Channel Incentives at Blackhawk Network take a moment to visit our dedicated channel incentives page or complete the form to your right, and one of our Channel Sales team will get back to you.
Christine Rodriguez started her career with a global IT manufacturer, where she spent over a decade building expertise in the channel network’s role in a vendor’s route to market.
She has been working in the incentives and rewards industry for almost 14 years, helping clients meet their engagement objectives for their own employees, customers and partners.
Christine joined Blackhawk Network in 2019 and leads a team that works with vendors and brands to achieve their partner incentive goals.
Statistic sourced from Incentive Solutions.