Finding The Right Vendor For Your Sales Incentives Programs

By: Albert Vaartjes

I realize, of course, that my title suggests that it isn’t easy to find the right vendor for your sales incentives programs. This may seem true but really it is a simple matter of getting very clear on what your program’s goals and executables are and then matching your program to the correct type of vendor. From there, finding the best vendor in a given category should simply be a matter of a bit of searching both online and through your own network.
Of course finding the right vendor depends mainly on your needs and specifications. As a great starting point, do some analysis to determine whether you do or don’t need incentive programs to drive your sales. Incentives work, especially when your sales team and customers see that you are serious about building up long term relationships with them. Incentive programs are interesting for your dealers, sales reps, customers, and employees because everyone likes to have a reward or gift or something valuable.

Incentives motivate, attract good employees and give your brand loyalty. But, be consistent in your programs, make sure you validate and submit any claim smooth and fast. Give feedback on questions and quick response when anything seems to be wrong or doesn’t work. Are you sold on the value of incentives? Good.

The next and most important step is to determine is which kind of incentive program you are going to setup and what are your expectations of the vendor when you take in consideration the different type of incentive companies.

There are many types of incentives companies, which one you will need depends on your program. Incentive Marketing Association describes them very well here:

Full-service performance improvement companies.
 These companies generally have the most comprehensive service offerings, reflecting the broadest definition of performance improvement. The full-service performance improvement company starts with an analysis to determine the client’s core business issues. They offer a variety of communications, training, measurement, and reward services with a consultative, solutions-oriented approach. The performance-improvement solution they offer may include one, or a combination of, key performance levers, including employee education and training, communications, management training, and incentives. By conducting the necessary research about the company, by determining what group of people can positively affect its business goals, it can recommend targeted applications to properly motivate that group’s performance. The full-service performance improvement company starts with a clean palette, applying precisely the right strategies for the situation with no pre-ordained solution.

Full-service incentive company. The full-service incentive company can provide incentive programs from design through operation, including the support services of promotion, administration, and awards. It can offer a range of “off-the-shelf” programs with less sophisticated design and with limited financial modeling capabilities. These companies typically focus on current users of incentive programs and assist with the development
of communications campaigns and rules structures associated with incentive programs. They generally deliver group incentive travel and/or non-travel rewards (merchandise, certificates, debit cards, etc.).

Incentive fulfillment company. Incentive fulfillment companies typically deliver “product” in the form of group incentive travel and merchandise awards. They generally provide only the award and related administrative components of an incentive program, which may involve a catalog (hard copy or online) and the delivered item, trip, or card (debit, credit, or stored value). They generally do not provide extensive support services for such programs, other than those required for award fulfillment. Incentive fulfillment companies operate with lower overhead and often consist of smaller companies dedicated to a specific aspect of the fulfillment business.

So, once you’ve determined what sort of program you’re going to run (points, employee, consumer, dealer/channel, sales, cash or gift cards/ certificates) compare it against these types of vendors for your incentive programs.

Key Considerations When Looking For The Right Fit:

  • Speed of deployment – do your programs need to be launched and phased in and out quickly?
  • Customization – does your program require special treatment for different VARS or territories or will a ‘black box’ approach just work for all partners?
  • Support Level Required – what level of support will you need to offer to ensure that your partners have a great experience with your program? (You had better be making sure that they have a great experience!)
  • Speed of rewards – have you ever trained your dog to do a trick by giving him a treat 10 or 12 weeks after the trick is done? Of course not. Reward the desired behavior fast and get more of what you are after!

Another very important consideration: when you want to set up an incentive program or programs which need expert support, design and rigid service level agreements, you should choose a full service incentive company who will take their role in communications with your client most seriously.

Finally, be sure to keep your eye on management reporting, innovative solutions, cost savings, fraud expertise and reductions, supporting your sales and marketing teams and continuous improvement on platform technology.

As with so many decisions in business, keeping your eye on the correct variables and not “losing the plot” will help you to make your choice a simple one and one which you can feel confident about.

Albert Varrtjes 360 IncentivesAlbert Vaartjes is Director Of European Sales Operations with    Connect with Albert on Twitter