How to Motivate Your Channel Partners

by: Nichole Gunn September 26, 2017

If your indirect sales are flagging, it means only one thing: it’s time motivate your channel partners.

With so many different inputs vying for attention, it can seem impossible to shift the focus to you. What’s going to make them pick you over another vendor? How can you align them with your business objectives? And how do you ensure you don’t get lost in the white noise again?

The answer is easy: leverage incentives.

But there's one big catch: Identifying the right mix to achieve your goals. How do you employ them properly, so you aren't just throwing money away?

First Things First: What Do Partners Want?

Most people think the answer to this question is money. And it is. But it’s still not the most important factor playing into vendor loyalty.

The one thing your partner wants more than anything is better training. Let’s pause and let that sink in a moment.
To gain their attention and motivate your channel partners to sell your product, the single best thing you can do is equip them to do it well. Train them to be your advocate, and they will become one. It's the most fundamental step you can take, and yet it is the most often overlooked.

Other Factors Influencing Partner Loyalty

Aside from better training, what else do partners want? Based on partner responses, the following list is in order of importance:

1. More personal contact. They desire more meaningful connections. Broad newsletters from large enterprises are impersonal. They may provide useful information, but they lack a personal touch. At the end of the day, you want to be building a relationship with the sales force, and personal contact is an excellent way to do it.

2. Better systems. How many systems does your partner need to access to complete a sale and function day to day? Is it four? Ten? Even more? The more systems they must use, the more difficult it is for them to perform an activity quickly. And in the world of high volume sales, every second counts. Think of it this way: If they need to go to ten different places for your product, but only three for another vendor, who do you think they're likely to prefer? And in today's massively mobile environment, can you really justify desktop-only access? To gain success, your systems also need to be accessible anywhere, anytime.

3. More incentives. Yes, incentive programs do help. From monetary bonuses to unique prizes, these incentives can take on a variety of shapes, and target different audiences. Is the prize monetary or recognition based? And is it at the company, team, or individual level? Creating the right mix of each will help you motivate your channel partners.

Now that you know what it takes, let's talk about striking the right balance. Keeping your four key partner desires in mind, it's time to analyze where your program currently sits.

It’s Time for an Audit

Three of the four largest partner complaints are straightforward systemic solutions. You want your partners to agree to the following three statements:

● I have the product training required to sell this product easily.
● I feel like the vendor values me personally, and their communications reflect that
● I can complete a required activity quickly, and without visiting too many different systems

If any of the above statements don't receive a "Yes!" response, you have a systemic problem. You need to examine what it takes to change the answer and whether your current technology allows you to do that.

Finding the Right Incentive Mix to Motivate Your Channel Partners

Addressing the proper incentive mix is a bit more challenging. To do it properly, you’ll need to take a four-step approach:

Step 1: Program Assessment. Take a look at your partners and answer the following questions:

a. Who are your partners, and where are they located?
b. How does your product fit into their portfolio, and do you have any direct competition?
c. How does their individual performance look?
d. How does your compensation compare to their other partners?

Step 2: Current incentives. Take an end-to-end look at your current program. Do you have a mix of incentive types? Are they geared toward the corporate or individual audience? Do they emphasize short-term or long-term performance? What behaviors are they attempting to motivate your channel partners, and are they successful?

Step 3: Know your goals. How will you define success? And do you have reporting in place to accurately monitor performance? Also, consider whether you want to make the changes unilaterally, or on a partner-specific basis.

Step 4: Test and learn. Once you’ve made changes, it’s important to monitor their performance over time. And, if they aren’t doing what you intended, then it’s time to adjust.

Bottom line: Your incentive systems should both empower you to draw meaningful conclusions regarding performance and make the necessary adjustments to maximize effectiveness.

Expert Guidance on How to Motivate Your Channel Partners

Let Incentive Solutions help you. Get in touch with our team of experts today to learn more about what you can do to motivate your channel partners.


About Nichole Gunn