Business-to-business (B2B) organizations rely on distributors, dealers, contractors, and agents to bring their products to market. It’s not always easy to push products through this sales channel, but sales incentive programs (sometimes called channels sales incentive programs or distributor incentive programs) can help. Years of experience working in the incentive industry with B2B clients has taught Atlanta-based Loyaltyworks that there are a few key steps in making incentive programs engaging for sales channel partners. These 10 best practices can help your sales incentive program increase participant engagement levels and achieve ROI.
Ten Best Practices for Sales Channel Incentive Programs
- Assign a Respected Salesperson to the Program
Your incentive program needs to be endorsed by a face that people in your company are familiar with, someone they immediately recognize as a leader in the organization. This not only lends your program authority and credibility, it more firmly establishes the link between the program and your brand.
- Define Specific Goals and Objectives
Your goals and objectives are the backbone of your incentive program, so make sure they are well thought-out from the get-go. Remember to keep your goals S.M.A.R.T: specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Leave as little room for misunderstanding as possible and make sure everyone is on the same page. Your goals should be backed by hard facts and data, so make sure you do your homework first. Incentive providers like Loyaltyworks have experience working with distribution channel and B2B sales. They can consult with you to calculate ideal goals so your incentive program can achieve ROI.
- Know Your Audience
Take a hard look at your supply chain and decide who has the most influence over your sales. You may want to refine your incentive program to focus on this particular group of people, as they have the highest chance of growing your profits. You can also take advantage of online technology features like Open Enrollment, which allow anyone who handles your products to join your program without a registration invitation. This is a good tactic to use if you want to reach those members of your B2B sales chain you might not otherwise have any contact with. Either way, you should know who is using your program and target all communications and promotions accordingly in order to drive sales and increase ROI.
- Collect Data
Once you have determined who has the most influence in your sales channel and who your incentive program will target, you will need to gather data about that group’s performance. Without data, you will have no idea how effective your program is, so this step is absolutely crucial. Gather as much data as you can on sales, performances, products, and buyer habits before implementing your incentive program, then continue collecting data as the program operates. Tools like Loyaltyworks’ Mobile App allow salespeople to immediately submit sales claims to you from the field in order to immediately redeem rewards. This facilitates your ability to capture sales data and assess the value of your program.
- Offer a Substantial Value Proposition
Your program must offer desirable rewards if it’s going to motivate your salespeople or channel partners to change their behaviors. Participants must perceive rewards as being worth the effort of going above and beyond normal sales protocol. Using Loyaltyworks online rewards technology, participants accumulate points through the program every time they perform a desired behavior, such as submitting a sales claim for a qualifying product or reaching a sales goal. They can then redeem those points for items in an online shopping catalog featuring millions of merchandise, travel, and event ticket choices. This wide range of reward options means everyone in your program will be motivated to redeem points for something they really want, like a new HDTV or camping gear.
- Keep the Rules Simple but Updated
As a follow-up to step #2, regularly update your promotion guidelines to reflect your current goals, but don’t create rules so complicated that participants lose interest. One of the best ways to keep programs fresh and appropriate to your current objectives is to focus each promotion on a specific product or service for a limited time. This keeps your program limber and interesting, and keeps yours salespeople and B2B partners’ attention.
- Offer Awards Often and Consistently
As your participants begin earning points, they will also begin to keep track of those points, checking their balance through your program website and saving up for specific items in their catalog wishlist. That’s the fun of a long term incentive plan! You save up your points and wait in excitement to have enough for a rewarding pay-off. You can’t build up that kind of anticipation in program participants only to let it fizzle out. Excitement is what will keep people engaged in your program, so don’t be stingy or inconsistent with points. Make sure participants have the chance to earn them regularly; if they perceive your game as rigged, they’ll have no reason to play.
- Market and Communicate
As far as incentive programs are concerned, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it? It doesn’t make a sound. If no one knows what your incentive program does, how they can benefit from it or even that it exists, they aren’t likely to enroll. Effective communication and marketing are essential to getting your program off the ground and keeping adoption levels up. Steps #2 and #8 also apply here: keep all your communications clear and pertinent. Marketing is your chance to stir up excitement, so don’t forget to tell everyone about new promotions and opportunities. You can communicate through monthly statements, your program Web site, email, newsletters and social media.
Loyaltyworks reward programs all come with a communication package to start you off with a multichannel marketing approach that includes postcard mailers, emails, annual call campaigns, brochures and a mobile optimized version of the program Web site. Using the Mobile App module, you can also send instant push-notifications. With many communication tools at your disposal, you can reach the widest range of participants, and ensure you’re doing all you can to deliver messages in the right way to your audience.
- Don’t Forget to Include Your Sales Team
Don’t get so caught up in rewarding your B2B partners and consumers that you forget your internal sales department. Reward them points for promoting products and inspiring new channel partners to enroll into your program. Make their jobs easier by producing exciting, easy-to-understand marketing materials for the program. Your program is an exciting new way for reps to reach out to clients, so position it that way! Including your sales team maximizes your potential to grow sales and shows you have faith in your program’s potential by practicing what you preach to B2B partners.
- Realign and Readjust as Necessary
Track and monitor your program’s progress as extensively as you can. This will help your program evolve as your organization grows and stay relevant to your unique needs and goals. Loyaltyworks reporting and program measurement will help you aggregate data about your participants’ interaction with your program, purchase habits and consumer profiles. Reports and data analysis are key in fine-tuning your program to be the effective and specific tool you need. As you plan out future promotions, you will be able to determine when and where those promotions will have the most impact based on your past history.
Rewarding and staying in contact with B2B channel partners can be difficult, but current online reward technology is very powerful, so take advantage of it! With numerous communication and reward options at your fingertips, you not only have the opportunity to grow sales, but to establish positive and long-lasting relationships with your channel partners.
Copywriter for The ISI Group of companies, consisting of:
Incentive Solutions, Inc.
Direct Contact: 678-514-0248
Sales Hotline: (800)-844-5000