The channel partner ecosystem is rapidly evolving. So how can you, as a vendor, build a modern incentives program? One that caters to all partner types and business models?
This was one of the topics under discussion on our recent webinar: ‘Modernizing Incentive Programs for Today’s Channel’. Channel Mechanics’ CEO Kenneth Fox was joined by Sunny Song, Director Channel Operations at SentinelOne and Margaret Fetting, Channel Strategy, North & Latin America with Zebra Technologies. Here they shared, from experience, their tips for modernizing partner incentive programs.
Download the full webinar on-demand: “Modernizing Incentive Programs for Today’s Channel”
Firstly, take stock of your different partner types and their go-to-market strategies, with a view to incentivizing them differently. Examine this against your total investment in the partner and make sure that your budget is going to fit with your plans.
“Some partners are more motivated by rebates. So if you want to grow your market share, or your wallet share within an organization, you definitely want to look at rebates,” said Fetting. “If you’re trying to gain mindshare within the sales reps, that’s a different motivator, so maybe look at tying rebates with a spiff, where it’s allowable. Looking at distribution, definitely look at a mix of the two.”
Finally, having a funded head at distribution can be helpful. They represent your organization within that company. Therefore, they have access to sales reps and other people within the organization that you may not and can help influence business in that fashion.
Another best practice is to work alongside both finance and the product team to develop your incentives strategy. If you’re pushing a particular product, it is important to ensure that your incentives are designed to achieve the results you’re looking for. Additionally, you can create incentives for partners that are aligned with the vendor sales reps, so they are focused on, and rewarded for, the same things.
“Just make sure that you’re working very closely with finance to understand that budget threshold and making sure you’re measuring that, and showing the results,” said Song. In fact “a lot of times, finance want to see the return on investment for all the money that you’re spending. And if you are not tracking that well, it could really jeopardize future funding.” Song believes support and buy-in from finance, is extremely important: “I’m a firm believer in working very closely with finance and financial analysis as well as circling back and going over the results of the incentives.”
Asked the most common reasons incentive schemes fail, Fetting replied: “Because it’s not simple. Honestly, it’s as simple as that.” If an incentive is too difficult for your partners to understand how to get that rebate or that spiff, they are never going to pay attention to it. “If you’re not engaging with your partners, the whole point of the incentive will come off the table. So keep it simple and fast.”
Fox agreed that vendors can sometimes try too hard to be too clever, and it can backfire.
“They come up with convoluted incentives. And they forget that partner’s could be working with five or 10 other companies. They’re not going to even care. They’re not going to spend the time to learn about it. It’s a fairly simple message but yet people constantly trip up.”
The partner ecosystem is constantly changing. Partner incentives that may have worked for traditional products and partners in the past, are not translating to the new world. The same is true for time-consuming, manual ways of running partner incentive programs that are prone to error.
“It’s no longer good enough to send an email and a spreadsheet. You’ve got to have something like a dashboard or a report for partners to see how they’re doing, and keep the revenue updated,” said Fox.
This is certainly relevant for SaaS partners. A significant number of rebates, certainly in the SaaS space, are no longer based solely on revenue – it is a combination of revenue, tiers and training. As such, there are many moving parts. And if you think about the fact that an average partner will work with between seven and 12 vendors, the easier you make it for them to interact with you, the better chance you have of winning their business.
Fox believes “it can make you really competitive in the partner space if you can offer that dashboard. If a partner says, ‘where’s this invoice or where’s this record?’ “You’ve got to be looking at the same data. For both the internal and the external, it’s two different sides of the same coin. It has to be the same source of truth.”
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