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Coronavirus Impact on Channel Incentives

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented disruption, which requires a new look at the world of channel incentives. Social distancing, working from home, and meetings over video calls have changed the way companies look at keeping their partner sales reps motivated.

From our previous webinars with record-breaking attendance on incentive travel, meetings, roadshows, and sales incentives, it’s evident that there is a desire in the industry not only to understand what the “next normal” will look like but how we can start preparing for it now so programs can resume as soon as possible and remain impactful.

The Goal

While the circumstances may have changed, the goal remains the same: pipeline generation.

covid-19 next normal sales incentive funnel pipeline generation

Keeping the sales pipeline active is top-of-mind and remains a priority for the majority of channel incentive programs. With so many companies recoiling from the events following coronavirus’s arrival, this has become extremely difficult. Spending is going down, and it’s becoming harder to reach decision-makers. Now is the time to get back to basics and cut the excess off programs to make the sales process more efficient and rewarding for everyone. Revamp channel incentive programs with these easy to remember rules of thumb.

1. Simple

First up on the list: remembering to simplify programs as much as possible. Added disruption and information overload mean it’s become necessary to make incentive programs easy to understand and participate in. Leave the complex rules and qualifications out and just Keep ISuper Simple! The Incentive Research Foundation recently published a study on what top-performing companies do differently with their incentive programs, and surprisingly, simplifying programs was a major trend among the best of the best.

simple programs after covid-192. Speedy

The importance of quick implementation will be highlighted coming out of the shelter-in-place orders and quarantines. Using a prebuilt plug-and-play promotion, like the one below, helps reach different audience segments without having to curate a reward catalog to suit each channel rep. Get in touch with Brightspot to learn about more of these plug-and-play promotions, and see if it’s a good fit for kicking your incentive program back up!

3. Protect Run Rate

In the (somewhat paraphrased) words of sales training guru, Jeffrey Gitomer: “do you want your channel partner to be satisfied, or do you want your channel partner to be loyal?” There is a big difference between loyalty programs and incentive programs for channel partners that needs to be identified when protecting run rate. The goal of loyalty programs is to keep partners selling; many transactions but at lower price points. Loyalty programs are ideal for distribution, food service, consumer products, etc. Incentive programs focus on motivating new sales or behaviors. Incentive programs fit industries that have fewer transactions at higher price points, much like tech, software, and construction. The big takeaway is to identify what the real goal is and what program can help achieve that. Loyalty maintains. Incentive motivates.

4. Show the Way

With so much distraction in the daily life of a channel rep, it will be necessary to re-focus their attention. Don’t be afraid to pivot on messaging or offerings, in fact, plan on changing things up to make things simpler and streamlined. Now is the time to narrow down to the higher-margin products with shorter sales cycles and make it as easy as possible for channel reps to offer it to clients. Keep the scope of the program in mind and pay attention to the macro goals, as well as the micro-goals set along the way.

5. Not Survive but Thrive

Consider the competition in the channel space right now. Are they reeling back from COVID-19 and softening their engagement with channel reps? Good! Now is not the time to play nice and let sales reps float in limbo. Grab the market share while it’s there for the taking. Much like the big movers in the stock market, using this time to not only survive but thrive will be the biggest opportunity presented to channel partner managers.

Incentive Trends 2018

6. Reach v. Exclusivity

There’s been an ongoing debate in the incentive industry for a long time about the importance of “reach” versus “exclusivity.” Being more exclusive by highlighting the best of the best has been a standard in the past, but after the IRF Top Performer Study, it’s now clear that reach is winning out over exclusivity. The top-performing companies focused more on extending their reach with rewarding by offering smaller value prizes for all in addition to a few big-ticket items for the top winners.

 7. Power of Choice

One of the biggest trends in the last few years of incentive programs have been giving the participant the power to choose their reward. Providing an extensive catalog of award options allows every participant to choose what motivates them. Fulfillment and tracking are also incredibly simple when paired with an incentive software platform, like Ignite.

8. Creative Collateral

Constant bombardments of email and advertisements while sitting at home on the computer trying to get work done means it’s harder than ever to cut through the clutter. Put forth more effort into the creative collateral and communications piece of your program by designing some tactile pieces that can be mailed out, thus avoiding getting lost among the sea of junk in an email inbox.

9. Focus Behavior

Behavioral incentives will also see a rise in adoption, while sales cycles slow down. This is the perfect time to reward participants for continuing their education and acquiring certifications while the phone isn’t ringing, and decision-makers are slow to respond.

10. Virtual Trends

Virtual prepaid cards have been trending upward for a while now, especially for international participants, but now they’re booming! Having a reloadable prepaid card that can be used to buy anything that participants may need may be more appreciated than a gift card or piece of merchandise that may not get much use until the economy is back to full-strength.

You can view the full recording of the webinar, including the Q&A segment, below:

Michael Pisterzi

Author Michael Pisterzi

Marketing Manager | Tech-centric marketer with a dedication to relationship marketing in the incentives & events industry.

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