Focus Incentives on Rewarding Channel Behavior, Not Sales

ITA Group
ITA Group
channel partner participating in training incentive program


Targeted incentives can be paramount to your success. But it’s not enough to dangle the proverbial carrot. Today’s sales teams are inundated with overloaded schedules, challenging sales cycles and under-staffed teams. For that reason, it's difficult for channel partners to not only picture the end result but also create an action plan that can deliver.

It’s vitally important your partner enablement strategy includes awards for incremental performance.

In the increasingly competitive channel market, smart companies are looking to influence desired behaviors earlier in the channel partner relationship continuum to achieve better participation, higher engagement and more profitable partner relationships.

Changing Behavior Starts By Getting Incentives Right

The days of only offering transaction-based incentives are over. Now, it's critical to drive desired presale behaviors because they have a high correlation to ultimate sales.

Smart vendors are moving away from rewarding partner reps solely for finish line results. Instead, they’re rewarding desired actions taken at different stages in the buyer’s journey where a change in partner behavior is desired.

Program goals may include:

  • Driving portal usage
  • Motivating reps to learn buyer’s journey models and stages
  • Using specific content and tools to engage the new buyer
  • Encouraging activities focused on lead management (e.g., lead reporting, opportunity registration, qualification, etc.) and/or pipeline status updates.

In addition, top vendors are also rewarding partners for specific achievements at the bottom of the funnel (e.g., upgrades, upselling, cross-selling, renewals, closed/won business in new buying centers, etc.).

Offering Awards Helps Strengthen Desired Behavior Adoption

According to Jay McBain at Forrester, “Optimizing channel incentives around changes in behavior as opposed to rewarding existing habits is also important to drive channel loyalty. Brands that excel at deploying the right mix, level, and cadence of incentives will improve revenue and profit from the channel, expand the breadth and depth of customer relationships, and increase mindshare and loyalty of partners.”

Incentivizing activities based on a defined sales process (e.g., deal registration or product demo) breaks through the clutter of information partners receive and rewards qualifying activities that predictably generate sales. Additionally, offering your partners incentives, gives you visibility into their behavior to measure and analyze what’s working and what needs improvement.

Tailoring Incentives Motivates Specific Audiences

The most successful channel incentives programs are specifically tailored to the intended audience. It’s important to assess participants’ demographics to choose rewards that motivate them. For global incentives, regional and cultural factors affect what is perceived as a valuable award, and combining awards with recognition elements (e.g., top-performer awards and leader/scoreboards) achieves greater success.

A successful awards program understands participants’ values and creates tools that motivate and inspire. Providing tangible awards rather than cash creates an emotional connection since cash is an unemotional award that gets forgotten when spent like a salary.

For the greatest success, align individual incentives with your partners’ company-level incentives and business models. Although points-based awards incentive programs cannot compensate for a lack of differentiated or competitively superior offerings, they’re effective as part of an incentive strategy designed to improve partner engagement at organizational and individual levels.

The Keys to Driving Desired Behaviors Are Motivation, Recognition & Awards

Today, business and market realities create an unprecedented opportunity for sales and marketing leaders to create channel value. Channel incentives need to keep the reseller ecosystem engaged and motivated to drive demand and sell offerings. By increasing partner knowledge and their capability to grow sales and market share—at the same time as rewarding them for a job well done—performance and relationships will get stronger and sales will transform. This is the only way to positively influence behavior and achieve sales transformation.

As your incentive strategies evolve, it’s time to think differently, make room for more than traditional partners and change the way you go to market. That starts with building your partner ecosystems. Download the Ultimate Guidebook below.

Channel Ecosystem guidebook download