As the level of sophistication of your channel programs grows, the likelihood that an incentive program will be put in place becomes increasingly more evident. When initially launching a channel program, early partners are often found by leveraging existing relationships. As the channel program grows, the number of sales representatives potentially representing your product who are completely disconnected from the original relationship will be exponential.
The trigger, or data point as to when this happens is a bit unclear most of the time, but the moment a deal registration is submitted by someone you have never met, that is a good indicator it is time to look at introducing a channel incentive program to your partners. The next question is, “how do I go about introducing this to my partners?”
Sales reps, whether internal to your organization or external to your partners, are typically financially motivated individuals who are as some might say “coin operated.” We often jokingly use the analogy of training a puppy. When a puppy performs the task, you want them to perform, you should immediately put that treat in its mouth to reinforce that behavior. Sales reps are no different.
If you want a sales rep to register deals earlier, incentivizing them to do so is just as much about how much they are paid, but also how quickly they are paid. Paying that partner sales rep 60 days (about 2 months) after they registered the deal is unlikely to change their behavior. Paying them within 24 hours of the deal registration being approved is highly likely to cause a ripple effect almost immediately. Understanding human behavior and the motivation of your target personas for the channel incentive program is step one, in recognizing a higher return on your investment with this strategy.
Having a foundational understanding of what motivates the individuals to whom you are seeking a behavioral change is step one, after that there are a handful of things your organization should consider implementing as you consider launching, or even relaunching your channel incentive program out to your partners. What are those?
1) Make sure the rep gets the reward:
Organizations often forget that the partner agreements they are signing are with the partner company, not the sales reps themselves. For larger partner organizations, they will actually implement policies that the vendor cannot directly SPIFF or incentive the rep at all. This immediately creates a roadblock for any organization looking to drive excitement to the sales rep level.
So, what can you do? Instead of directly paying the sales rep at the partner an incentive amount, try negotiating quota relief or multipliers by registering deals earlier with your company. Or, if cold hard cash is not an option, can you give actual gifts or rewards such as a Peloton bike, or an iPad?
As the vendor, it is your responsibility to understand what you contractually can and cannot do at the sales rep level. Get creative, but no matter what, make sure the impact is felt at the front-line level so behavior can be changed.
2)Effectively communicate expectations:
As a sales rep, one of the worst feelings in the world is when you think you did something (like registering a deal) that was going to result in a nice incentive bonus, only to find out you did not read the fine print and will not get anything at all. This is a sure-fire way to ensure that the sales rep never registers a deal with your company again. A sales rep should be able to easily understand how much they will earn, if they do what you are asking of them. It should not take a calculus professor to run through a mathematical formula to figure out they are going to earn $50 for properly registering that deal with you.
3)Keep your rewards realistic (and obtainable):
By now, partners know how and when they will get rewarded, but the question is, are those rewards realistic to achieve?
Sure, every company is chasing the holy grail of enabling partners to chase down enterprise software deals that close in the seven-figure range. The reality is, given the turnover rate of sales reps at partner organizations most deals are going to be on the smaller side. That is ok, revenue is revenue.
Do not put out an incentive program that alienates the majority of your audience, or sales reps will instantly swipe next every time your company name comes up again.
A Channel Incentive Program is an amazing motivational tool in the competitive landscape and can keep your organizational at the top of all your partner’s toolkit. The best way to gain a competitive edge starts with strategic, effective, and measurable channel marketing for your incentive program.
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