The Value of Running a Channel Incentive Program & Getting Executive Buy-In

By: Kristin Brandenburgh
woman presenting channel incentive data to executives

You’ve got the data showing the significant impact a channel program can have on your organization’s bottom line. The last thing to do before moving forward is getting executives to say “yes.” 

Simple enough, right?

Often times it can be an uphill battle to gain executive support (and get them to approve the budget). The program’s future all comes down to how you frame and present your pitch.

Sales and marketing executives want to know what they can expect in return for investing in a channel incentive program or B2B customer loyalty program. To get the backing you need, you must tie proposed initiatives to what executives care about most.

Understanding the Value of Channel Incentive Programs

Before having a conversation with executives, make sure you fully understand the value the program brings to the organization’s bottom line. Knowing the answers to these questions will come in handy later. 

What is a channel incentive program?

A channel incentive program uses positive awards to reinforce desired behaviors and encourage repetition, whether they’re transactional or non-transactional. 

Why are channel incentive programs important?

Channel partners regularly interact with several suppliers, so it’s key to differentiate your organization from the competition to capture mindshare and discretionary purchasing. Offering attractive incentives ensures partners prioritize your products and services over competitors. 

How can channel incentive programs benefit your organization?

Organizations that successfully deploy the right mix, level and cadence of incentives can:

  • Improve revenue and profit
  • Expand the depth and breadth of customer relationships
  • Increase mindshare through partner loyalty

Related: Ultimate Guide to Creating High Return Incentive Programs Whitepaper

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5 Tips to Secure Executive Support for Channel Incentives

You know the value of the program, now it’s time to get executives fully on board. Here are five steps to prepare you for the presentation. You’ll even get a template at the end to help you craft the pitch. 

1. Tie the program to the organization's goals.

Do you want to implement a channel incentive program because your organization needs to grow, maintain market share, launch new products, improve product mix or build loyalty? Does the program align with your brand’s top three priorities? 

Executives are more likely to support a program aligned with the organization's overall goals and objectives. Gain insight into what’s important to executives then speak their language. Showing how you can help the organization achieve better results is an instant win in credibility and support. 

Think about complementary initiatives in your organization that can support the program objectives. For example: 

  • Objective: Grow revenues
  • Goal: Increase sales by 10%
  • Strategy: Implement a brand standards program to enhance the customer experience

2. Do your budgeting research.

Successful programs need realistic incentive budgets to reward participants in meaningful ways. A well-thought-out budget is important to getting an incentive program off the ground, not only for yourself, but also for generating executive buy-in. 

It can be challenging to know what your budget should be and if it will move the needle. But don’t just guess! A budget chosen in the dark, without any background or analysis, can fail to achieve the performance change you’re looking for. 

Instead, use budgeting methods based on who you’re trying to influence while also caring for participation rates and qualifying audiences. Try our budget calculator to receive a baseline number.

81% of top-performing companies use channel incentive programs as a win-win solution to activate and reward channel partners while powering partners to gain more revenue. —Incentive Research Foundation

3. Be prepared to measure the results.

Executives want to see the program actually works. Come ready to share key performance indicators the program will focus on like total or incremental sales (revenue or product based), profitability, market share growth, made/sold referrals, and following steps-to-the-sale. Then provide data and metrics that show the program is a strategic asset to the organization’s long-term sustainability. 

4. Bring in an expert.

An outsider like a consultant or incentive design expert can challenge traditional thinking. They’ll help bring executives to their own "aha!" moments about how a channel incentive program can help the organization reach its goals. Sample insights include: 

  • Competitive insights to justify program spend 
  • Full year of sales data to showcase results and projected returns

5. Make a strong case.

Be specific with executives on what you hope to gain from their buy-in and make it clear the program’s success is their success. The presentation should be easy to understand so executives don’t have to read a long, complicated proposal. The specific program benefits should be front and center to show why it’s a worthwhile investment (refer back to #1 for tying to organizational goals). 

The Right Presentation Approach Is Crucial for Leadership Buy-In

When seeking buy-in from executives for a channel incentive program, craft the presentation from an organizational view. Executives want to know how this new initiative will significantly impact the brand’s bottom line and generate a positive ROI across the board. 

And remember, don't surprise your executive team with the pitch. It's beneficial to gain buy-in along the way by meeting with executives individually to share your approach and get initial feedback. Ask questions and actively listen to what they're saying, so you can feel confident and prepared for any tough questions during the formal pitch. 

Download an executive pitch template to get started crafting your internal presentation.

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Kristin Brandenburgh
Kristin Brandenburgh

As VP, Client Strategy, Kristin oversees the team responsible for strategic program consulting, design and delivery. She leans into her Incentive Professional and Expert Design certification to ensure clients' business goals are met and execeeded. In her free time, she's an outdoor adventure seeker, boating, hiking and white-water rafting her way through the summer months.