For brands and services that sell through third-party channels, creating a strong and effective incentive program delivers real benefits, says Adam Whatling of incentive and loyalty experts Love2shop Business Services
Building a strong third party sales channel is essential to success in certain industries, including the telecoms, technology and automotive sectors. It is vital to ensure your product or service stands out from the crowd; but that is easier said than done when channel salespeople are bombarded with a variety of rewards and bonuses. In this highly competitive environment, aligning third party salespeople with your brand to promote your solution over those of your rivals is a challenge.
It is essential to first consider carefully the persona of individual, or groups of, salespeople. A person selling mobile phones in a retail store environment is likely to respond to different incentives to sell one product over another than a sales person who is part of an expert consultative team delivering IT services to other businesses.
Also don’t forget that salespeople in different industries may be able to help your brand in different ways. So, for example, salespeople in automotive dealerships are in a position to cross sell add-ons from service plans to finance packages. Incentivising these staff regularly and effectively to make appropriate add-on sales makes all the difference to the bottom line and transforms consumers into brand advocates.
Sales staff in the channel such as mobile phone shops or car dealerships expect rewards and recognition as part of their remuneration. Depending on the type of business, they may be participating in a number of different incentive schemes and accessing more than one online rewards and recognition portal, typically building up points with a number of suppliers to redeem for rewards later on.
There are a number of techniques vendors can use to make sure that sales staff are accessing your incentives portal that will not only drive sales but also support desired behaviours. These might include cross-selling appropriate products and delivering levels of customer service that build loyalty, rather than making one-off sales or, in a worst-case scenario, mis-selling financial products.
Here are six top tips to improve the effectiveness of channel incentives:
- Segment channel sales staff just as you would the end user customer base. That way, it is possible to design rewards and recognition that meet the specific interests and motivations of individuals or groups of employees. Less experienced marketers commonly fall into the trap of focusing purely on the top performing sales people. In fact, incentivising middle tier sales staff to improve their performance delivers the greatest benefits. It is worth further segmenting the middle tier of sales staff – people at the top end might just be able to aspire to the performance and top rewards of the highest selling salespeople. Employees at the bottom end, and underperformers, need to see lower value rewards that they can aspire to and achieve if they are to improve. Highflyers who are hitting targets halfway through the year need a reason to continue to perform well – be ready to offer add-ons to the main incentive, such as a room upgrade within a holiday reward.
- Send regular tailored communications. Personalised push notifications are key to drive salespeople to your incentives portal. For example, let people know that this week they have earned 90 points and if they just manage to win 10 more there will be a reward for them on the portal.
- Make good use of management information. Gather actionable data – and act on it. Set KPIs and check regularly that they are being met. Are sales staff opening your emails or responding to your texts? Are staff in one dealership or region of the country less engaged with your programme than others? Offering frequent lower value tactical rewards to drive performance in response to this data can supplement more generous annual rewards.
- Don’t undervalue the motivational impact of kudos. The most effective rewards are not always the most expensive. In one dealership, top sales staff responded well to the incentive of not only a fancy holiday but also the kudos of sharing it with top management.
- Add bells and whistles. Set your online rewards and recognition portal apart from the competition with engaging add-ons. Consider encouraging sales staff to visit the portal to undertake rapid and relevant training modules or simple quizzes on your USPs – in return for points or rewards, of course. Gamify rewards and recognition, tapping into the ‘local ladder effect’ – the human desire to increase social standing relative to others – in a way that creates healthy competition between sales staff.
- Don’t rely on online alone – press the flesh. Supplement your online portal with regular face-to-face contact. This might include going out on roadshows to demonstrate products in depth to sales staff and being there in person for product launches. Follow-up on these face-to-face meetings with communications that drive sales staff once again to the online portal.
Engaging customer-facing sales teams that are bombarded with promotions is vital. At the same time, channel marketing goals need to be closely aligned with consumer marketing by rewarding channel staff for the sales behaviours that reflect the values the organisation promotes to consumers. Tailored and frequent rewards and recognition are key to transforming channel sales people into knowledgeable ambassadors for your product and service.
Adam Whatling is Head of Engagement and Development at Love2shop Business Services, the corporate division of Park Group plc, which delivers customer and employee engagement boosting programmes that utilise enticing rewards in recognition of consumer actions and workforce achievements. For further information visit https://www.love2shopbusiness.co.uk/customer/channel-incentives