The processes that underpin sales incentive program management have long been fairly stagnant, as brands have relied heavily on paper-based records to track activity in the channel. This meant significant delays between when sales were made and when brands could start responding to trends across the channel, making it extremely difficult to optimize and improve SPIFF initiatives. Modern channel management tools change this by gathering data in digital formats, allowing for almost real-time communication between brands and indirect sales representatives.
Building stronger relationships in the channel
Getting more and better information from the channel becomes invaluable when it comes to SPIFF programs. A sales incentive initiative is able to derive value only when channel partners are engaged, and fostering more connectivity throughout the channel fuels engagement. Three ways to use a channel management solution to build stronger relationships across the channel are:
1. Make incentive processes easy
If one brand allows sales agents to log a sale using their smartphone and have that sale automatically trigger a SPIFF payout if program conditions are met, you can probably expect a positive response. Conversely, if another brand requires paper documentation with specific forms to fill out, mail or fax, there’s a good chance sales associate will be less likely to file everything in a timely fashion or even bother to engage with the brand and its incentive program. In the end, it’s whichever one can get the payout to sales partners most effectively, which is the digital methodology. It is difficult to get motivated to work hard for a payout that will be processed over the course of weeks and not arrive for a couple of months at the earliest. It is much easier to find energy to work for an incentive payout that will arrive quickly.
“Sales incentives must be easy enough to access to make the effort worthwhile.”
Incentive programs can motivate salespeople in the channel to go along with what brands want, but the benefits must be easy enough to access to make the effort worthwhile. Using digital tools to simplify and streamline incentive filing and payout processes can play a key role in keeping channel partners happy.
2. Streamline training
How do you measure the success of channel training programs? Getting accurate product information to sales partners isn’t enough. Brands must make that information digestible, provide answers to questions that consumers are likely to ask and ensure key specifications are easy to find at any given time. This makes training essential, but figuring out the best way to do it is possible only when brands are aware of the impact training has on sales. Channel management software platforms allow brands to:
- Assess the relationship between when brands release training materials and how timing impacts sales. For example, you can learn if getting materials out well before a campaign is helpful, or if your partners tend to dial in only when the program really gets going.
- Get feedback on which types of training content get the best results – even to the point of experimenting with different types of content and comparing sales data in periods shortly after the materials are released.
- Make determinations about how much and what type of training will most predictably drive the desired sales activity.
Building strong relationships across the sales channel often depends on a blend of accessibility for users and visibility into how sales partners respond. Channel management solutions provide options in both of those areas.
3. Create a positive end-to-end experience
Fostering engagement within the sales channel comes down to more than just money. Sales workers expecting endless incremental increases to SPIFF payouts for selling your products may eventually reach a point where money isn’t enough to keep them attached to your brand – they’ll just go with whomever has the most interesting offer, struggling to say focused on your brand if a product falters even slightly in the marketplace. Building a stronger relationship with sales partners, however, can create a stronger bond. Achieving this hinges on showing you value their time, energy and work.
Making incentive processes easy is a first step here, but it is vital to provide a positive end-to-end experience for sales partners to strengthen the relationship. Rewarding somebody is powerful. Connecting with a person, however, can create a strong partnership. Improving day-to-day interactions between sales workers and brands can build relationships. If training isn’t helping, how does a sales worker reach out? If products aren’t selling, what options do sales workers have for support? The ability to respond to activity in the channel quickly is possible when sales workers are able to reach out with ease.
“Making information more accessible can set the foundation for better relationships.”
A holistic channel management program will support sales engagement at all times. Modern channel marketing tools provide the visibility into processes and sales data that brands need to optimize operations around their channel partners.
Take advantage of the information at your fingertips
Each of these points emphasizes the growing role data can play in managing the channel. Making information more accessible can set the foundation for better relationships. Access to sales data can make it easier to identify how training impacts performance to optimize strategies. Building a positive end-to-end experience is reliant on being responsive to the channel, which is possible when data is gathered in a timely fashion.
Information is a catalyst for innovation in channel marketing and engagement programs, and data lets brands optimize their SPIFF programs in light of real-world performance. Leading channel management solutions are evolving in response, and 360insights offers a SPIFF module within its cloud-based channel management platform that can serve as a hub for all of your sales incentive program needs.