Does Your Channel Sales Partner Know They Are Your Hero?

In channel sales partnerships, just like in romantic relationships, sometimes it’s hard to be the first to say “I’m serious about you.” No one wants to run the risk of unrequited feelings. But the first person to express the depth of their connection is often the one who pushes the relationship forward. Think of your channel sales relationships as long-term commitments—don’t be afraid to tell your partners how important they are. Using a sales channel incentive program and the four-step process described in this article, you can be on the way to solidifying mutually lucrative, long-lasting channel management strategies.

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Step 1: Give sales channel partners aligned, informed goals.

The first step in improving channel sales relationships is deciding what, exactly, partners can do to help you reach mutually beneficial goals. Before you implement a sales channel incentive program, you should analyze your financial and marketplace standing to identify exactly what your sales and channel management strategies should be. Do you need to penetrate new markets? Spread the word about new or improved products? Collect more dealer, contractor or end-user data so that you can refine and specify your marketing strategies? Even something as simple as encouraging B2B partners to make on-time payments can ease and speed up your cash flow.

When you’re able to properly analyze your needs, you can give your channel partners very specific goals, which removes the guesswork of a prosperous partnership. It’s the first step in earning your partners’ brand loyalty by showing them how much you value them.

Step 2: Reward partners with channel incentives for helping you reach your sales goals.

Once you’ve given your channel partners clear, well-researched goals, use channel incentives to show them you recognize and appreciate their efforts in reaching those goes. Don’t reward them with sweatshirts, mugs or discounted stock from your warehouse, either. Rewards should be motivating and instantly gratifying—use a prepaid reward card program or online rewards catalog with millions of merchandise options so that everyone participating in your channel incentive program can redeem their rewards for something they truly want. Undesirable rewards won’t get your channel partners’ attention or motivate them to change their behaviors. But the chance to earn a new TV or grill? Those are incentives that can break partners out of their sales comfort zone and breathe new life into plateaued performances.
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One caveat: the idea of shiny new TV will quickly lose its luster if your participants find your incentive program difficult or inconvenient to use. If they have to deal with turning in new forms to claim their sales or always miss your sales promotion deadlines because they forgot to access your program website, they may decide your incentive rewards aren’t worth the hassle.

The most effective types of sales channel incentive program are mobile-optimized or mobile app online incentive programs that suit the busy lifestyles of on-the-go distributors, dealers and contractors. A Loyaltyworks incentive program app, for instance, integrates with native smartphone technology to streamline the reward redemption process. Channel partners can use their camera phones to photograph UPCs, invoices, warranty registration and other documentation to immediately validate their sales. They can receive email and push notification alerts on their phones so that they can stay up-to-date on promotions and program updates—even in the middle of a sale, out in the field.

The more convenient your channel incentive program is and the more appealing your rewards are, the more effectively you communicate your channel partners’ importance.

Step 3: Show sales channel partners how they helped you increase sales and improve your business.

A channel partner relationship isn’t improved just by the simple exchange of incentive rewards for improved performance. In order to emphasize that you value your channel partners’ skills and cooperation, you should demonstrate how they’ve impacted your company. Show them with graphs, rewards, speeches or presentations at corporate events the positive ripple effect of their hard work. People put forth more energy when they know that energy goes to a positive place. Behavior economist Dan Ariely found that, when studying two groups assigned with the same task, the group who saw positive results from their task worked 36% harder.

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Use incentive ideas and tools such as a configurable Leaderboard to not only display top performers and sales leaders, but include information about how their sales are contributing to channel-wide sales goals and brand vision. Make it clear, visible and exciting to channel partners how important their role and relationship is to you.

Step 4: Measure, analyze and share incentive program performance results.

The last step in improving your channel sales relationships with an incentive program is to assess the impact the program had on your company and share this information with your channel partners. With Loyaltyworks performance measurement tools, you can determine the ROI of your incentive program to uncover strengths and weaknesses in your products, supply chain, sales teams and B2B marketing strategies. Share this data with others in your channel sales network so they can work in tandem with you to become close collaborators and develop even more effective sales tactics in the future.

You may be hesitant to share your secrets with others in your industry—even your B2B partners—but discoveries you make through the incentive rewards process can make you an authority in your industry. Use performance analysis data as the backbone of the industry content you produce. Rather than relying on advertising, demonstrate your expertise to become a known, trusted authority in your industry. As Lee Kantor, founder of Business RadioX® puts it, “By underwriting a media property that truly serves and provides value to your industry you are no longer another vendor. You are a key member of the community who is bringing something to the table that is much more valuable than your product or service. In short order, your company becomes the de facto media outlet, chief storyteller and story curator for your industry, your profession and your community.”

Although you may think your reliance on your sales channel partners and their importance to your success is self-evident, that’s not always the case. Your partners likely work with many other suppliers, distributors or contractors and there may not be much substantially distinguishing one company from others. Being open about how much you value your B2B partners is one way to make yourself distinct among their other channel sales relationships. Using an effective sales channel incentive program and channel management strategies, you can elevate your brand so that you are a trusted, go-to partner.

For more info on how Incentive Solutions can help you nurture B2B relationships and drive better performances throughout your channel sales, call us at (800)-844-5000 or use our contact form.

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