Activating your channel is the most fruitful opportunity available for accelerated sales growth over the next 12 months. For many companies tapping into an indirect sales channel, only 20 per cent of their channel partners is amassing the sales to have a positive impact on the bottom line.
But, what if you can activate the other 80 per cent of your channel network to generate new sales? The task of converting 80 per cent of your channel partners from passive to active status starts with understanding their needs and motivations. The sooner you can figure out what drives their behaviour, the sooner you can get them on the path to driving in more sales.
It’s been proven time, and again that increased motivation leads to improved performance. When you prove to your channel how much you value them, you are rewarded in the form of higher productivity, increased sales and greater end-user satisfaction.
Distributors need constant support with day-to-day activities. This will include marketing materials, samples of your product, and sales data. All of which will all be used to pitch your product to buyers. The best support you can offer your channel partners is a commitment of your time and focus to ensure they are receiving everything they need to be successful.
A carefully designed and well-run incentive program can rouse a sales force, motivate marketing staff, or reinvigorate an uninspired channel network. Any of these objectives are reason enough to use incentives. Work with your distributors to set sales targets that are attainable, yet challenging to keep them interested.
Be Flexible: offering various rewards is a good rule of thumb, but is especially important when you aren’t familiar with the corporate culture of the particular sales force you are trying to motivate.
Reward good behaviour: while increasing sales is always the end goal, time and effort have their merit and should be rewarded as well.
Consider rewarding certain educational pursuits that demonstrate a long-term commitment to professional growth and development. These pursuits may include product training, certification or attending industry seminars and conferences. Incentive programs provide a way for suppliers to fight for the mindshare of their distributors much the way those same distributors compete for the mindshare of consumers.
Suppliers can’t mount a leaderboard at a partner’s office, so consider promoting a program with regular communication. Email updates are always good. Consider even crafting two types of messages, one aimed toward executives and one toward frontline sellers, to get buy-in at all levels of your partner’s business.
Communications that signal the program launch and deliver regular updates to network partners build the brand and drive participant awareness, interest and enrollment. Ongoing discussions promote product sales and encourage participant engagement.
Distributors won’t be motivated to sell a product that they are not familiar with, so take the time to have every new distributor thoroughly trained. The training should focus on how the product works, what it’s made out of, and what unique features and benefits partners should be aware of.
Be sure to discuss how the product may be positioned to buyers, and whether the distributor should work with staff to train them on the product as well. When your channel partners know more about your product, they will become more confident about selling it, and thus be more effective when pitching it.
Your program data is crucial to the understanding of how your program is driving business activity and determining the changes that will improve performance. Your program should be tracking the behaviours of your channel partners (and potentially end-users), and as a result, could yield early warnings about the market and competitive developments.
Track results: return on investment is a key metric to monitor. This will ensure that both sides are keeping up their ends of the deal. Volume, market share, or growth of strategic accounts can all be measured factors as well.
The recipe for a successful incentive program includes the following: establishing objectives, announcing goals and expectations, garnering measurable results, and sufficiently rewarding effort.
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