How can you keep your Incentive Program relevant and current?
How Can You Keep Your Incentive Program Relevant and Current? That’s the question every IT vendor should be asking themselves right now.
Keeping your incentive program relevant and current was one of the topics under the microscope during the recent Channel Mechanics webinar, ‘Is your Partner Incentive Program worth the Incentive?’ Head of Sales, John McArdle was joined by Don Lopes, Director of Global Partner Programs with Juniper Networks, Laura Evans, Senior Global Program Manager with Poly and Channel Mechanics CEO, Kenneth Fox to understand what steps vendors can take to keep partners engaged in today’s ever-changing channel landscape.
The first thing, said Lopes, is that vendors “need to continue to evolve, innovate and challenge what we’ve done in the past”. This means keeping one step ahead of customer buying patterns and preferences.
“You’ve got to lock in on the behaviours your organization wants to drive,” said Lopes. “Where’s your customer going? What are the needs of your customer when it comes to how they want to consume your technology? Or even how they want to be influenced? Is your buyer still influenced by the IT organization or is it the business driving some of those elements?
“That’s going to drive the types of partners that you’re going to work with, and the services and solutions the partners are going to offer.”
It is then the vendor’s job to build incentives that promote and drive these behaviours, he added.
Delivering an “Amazon-like” Experience
The second part of keeping your incentives program relevant and current is to deliver an exceptional experience to your partners. Like customer experience (CX), the value of the partner experience (PX) continues to grow in the channel. In fact, partners want the same ‘Amazon-like’ experience from their vendors’ programs that they receive from the big consumer tech companies.
“They need to have that same type of experience. So to be relevant, we’ve got to deliver that back to them: easy, fast, simple, predictable, and specific to their needs,” said Lopes. “The more we can do those things, will help us stay relevant within their organization and probably maximise the investments that we’ve put in place.”
Who and What to Incentivize to Keep your Incentive Program Relevant
Deciding who and what to incentivize is hugely important to staying current and relevant to partners. The list of activities and behaviours that vendors can incentivize is extensive. From deal registration, closed opportunities, training, proofs of concept, webinars, and referrals to growing recurring revenues, to name a few.
However, all these incentives have an associated cost, and each has to be justified.
“Consider what is the outcome that you’re trying to achieve from your incentive?” said Fox. “Are you driving a training program? Is it increasing sales? Net new accounts? Is it the transition from on-premise to SaaS offerings? Or the adoption of associated services with your offerings?”
As a vendor, once you have settled on what you would like to achieve with your partner community, the focus then shifts to who to target – resellers, distributors or perhaps one of the new wave of personas, such as referral partners? Again, vendors need to consider the complexity of the channel, and the changing ecosystem of partners.
“Is it the partner entity? Is it the individual at the partner entity? There’s a huge appetite right now to incentivize training, deal reg and closed opportunities,” explained Fox. “So when you have a deal registration you have line of sight or visibility into your sales pipeline. A SPIFF program can be very impactful to those sales guys at the partner to target specific deals to close in the quarter. Now you can have a true impact on how you monitor your revenue or your sales pipeline.”
Don’t Exclude Valuable Partners!
Finally, Evans believes it’s really important for vendors to look at the full landscape of who sells their products.
“It’s important to structure your incentive programs to align with the company’s strategic goals. It helps define who gets incentivized,” she said
“Many people assume that your ‘metal level’ partners are the ones driving the bulk of the business. But when you start to analyze the overall sales of your products, you may have more transactions through other partners that are actually doing more, smaller transactions. So you need to think about the holistic view of your channel to make sure that you’re being inclusive with all partner types, and you’re not excluding the ones that are 40% to 50% of that low hanging fruit, run-rate business that you’re pulling through.”