When it comes to seeking efficiency in the sales channel, many companies are met with the harsh reality of the “indirect salesforce.” While the indirect sales model offers a variety of routes for a product to be seen, it also places a distance between distributors and the channel partners who keep them in business. Throw in the added wrench of daily channel disruptors, and distributors are left with very little leverage. This is where CEO and President of Incentive Solutions Mark Herbert suggest investing in an incentive program.
Featured in Supply House Times, Mark Herbert’s article How incentive programs leverage an indirect salesforce discusses the biggest channel disruptors faced by HVAC and PHCP distributors in today’s sales channel, and the variety of ways in which an incentive program can help.
Challenges of the Indirect Sales Force
Ranging from a “changing buyer demographic” to the “rise of digitalization,” distributors are in need of tools that help adapt business practices and remain relevant. Let’s take a look into five main challenges faced by distributors in today’s sales channel.
1. The Evolving Buyer Demographic
With an estimated three quarters of the channel buyer demographic to be millennials by 2025, Mark emphasizes the engagement and purchase styles that characterize this group:
“Experiential and lifestyle rewards can be used to engage millennials and start building brand preference. However, the primary advantage of an incentive program for helping distributors adapt to this demographic is technological. Millennial channel partners expect their communication with distributors to be instant, engaging, relevant and omnichannel.”
By utilizing the help of a digital incentive platform, distributors can begin connecting to channel partners on their terms, incorporating the convenience and efficiency of technology into their business model.
2. Improved Communication and Engagement
Direct communication seems impossible within an indirect sales channel. An incentive program forms that direct line of communication with participants who prioritize your connection as a source of rewards. Today’s incentive technology creates a fluid, omnichannel experience, acting as your company’s online resource or integrating into your pre-existing business platform. Be it email, SMS, or push notifications, your brand will remain top of mind within the indirect salesforce.
3. Collecting Data and Analytics
Proving the success of a distributor’s marketing efforts is impossible without measurables to back it up. Incentive programs are at their most valuable when providing insight into your customer’s journey. By measuring program engagement, you can identify opportunities for cross-selling and more competitive promotions while also identifying weaknesses in current marketing strategy.
4. Effective Data Exchange
Collecting data from your channel partners is another key benefit of investing in an incentive program. It is important, however to make sure that this exchange of information is convenient for both your partners and your business. For dealers, contractors, and sales reps who spend a majority of their time out in the field, providing a mobile app submission tool that can both upload and verify documentation will provide accurate data, and increase the likelihood of participation in your program.
Another way to increase the effectiveness of your incentive program is to integrate reward technology with your existing online platforms. Program participation is easy when your company website, employee portals, and incentive platform are centrally located.
5. Maintaining Success
Mark dives into a variety of ways to keep your program efficient, educational, and engaging, such as:
- Supplying training videos with interactive quizzes;
- Encouraging the use of rewards toward travel expenses for trade shows and events;
- Offering official certification titles after completion of virtual or onsite training; and
- Using pop-culture trivia as a means to encourage daily visits to your reward site.
Securing Relationships to Combat the Indirect Salesforce
With a digital, multi-functioning sales and marketing platform, incentive programs effectively inspire a culture of motivation and collaboration. As Mark states it: “Non-cash rewards serve as a tangible reminder of your brand and create the sort of emotional impact that distributors, in particular, struggle to achieve.” Combating the challenges of the indirect salesforce with an incentive program is a benefit to both your channel partners and your business.
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