Creating a Sales Compensation Plan that Motivates Your Channel
If you want to set your channel partners up for success, you’ll want to compensate those sales reps for a job well done. Of course, you want your channel partners’ sales reps to go beyond the call of duty. You want your indirect team to be the ideal brand evangelists who are looking around at their prospects’ operations and, using a combination of product knowledge and creativity, are finding the places where your product can help solve their problems.
But if you want to get that level of work out of your channel partners’ sales reps, you need to show those indirect team members that you care as much about them as you want them to care about your product. And that’s done through the right compensation plan.
Compensation models are a different animal from what they once were. Of course, the simple model of the top salesperson dinging the bell when he or she hits his or her sales floor first and getting his or her name on top of the leaderboard is still fundamental to compensation, but now it’s just the foundation.
This basic framework has started to give way to methods of providing compensation that are more creative and, empowered by technology and granular sales data, can provide more targeted rewards — and induce more varied and loyal selling behaviors.
So here are a few different compensation plans to think about when you’re looking at the best ways to motivate your channel.
Beyond the Top of the Leaderboard
It’s a foregone conclusion that hitting the highest sales numbers is worthy of a reward. But with today’s advanced sales acceleration software, companies are capable of monitoring a lot more of what their channel partners’ salespeople actually do — during sales, between them, and after them. This level of data insight can allow you to provide rewards for a range of behaviors beyond just selling.
If you’ve played a video game recently, you may have noticed a common feature where people playing can unlock achievements and collect badges throughout their quests. You can structure your channel’s sales compensation with this in mind. Think of each different behavior your channel partners’ sales team members engage in as a potential opportunity for a reward. Are they successfully completing your training modules? Are they meeting benchmarks for navigating their relationships with prospects? Are they on top of communicating back information to let their contacts on the prospect side know what’s going on? Compensation models that incentivize these types of behaviors set your channel team members up so that they’re always trying to do better — for you and themselves.
Everybody Gets a Chance
Sales burnout can be a big problem, especially if your sales compensation model is tiered in a way that always favors the top-dollar performers. It’s even more challenging in a channel environment, where you’re fighting against other companies for a channel sales rep’s attention. But you can address this by structuring your compensation in a way that doesn’t just help your top tier stay there, but incentivizes sellers who are just all right to do better. A compensation plan that builds in mid-tier incentives to give sellers who are always in the 50th percentile reason to try to get up to the 60th some months will not only boost morale, but it will push extra productivity and profit.
Aim for Clarity in Compensation
With all the possibilities for creating different types of tiered incentives and rewarding different behaviors, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and roll out compensation concepts that get a little too complicated for their own good. They can look good from your end of the equation, but put yourself in your channel partners’ shoes. They’re busy, they’re doing hard work on your behalf, and they want to be rewarded — they don’t want pursuing the reward to become a task in itself.
So while on the one hand, utilizing new, tech-enabled methods of incentivization and loyalty is important to boosting your channel partner reps’ productivity and keeping them engaged, it’s also critical to make the compensation methods easy to understand and digest. Intuitive information architecture goes a long way when you’re putting together client-facing materials, and it’s just as important when you’re building out compensation strategies for your channel team.
If your channel partner reps can’t understand what they’re getting into — which tier they’re in or what they have to do to hit a goal — the compensation strategy will be less of a motivator and more of a source of confusion. If the compensation plan is clearly laid out and managed through an intuitive piece of software, that’s when you’ll see it getting your channel team to go the extra mile on your behalf.
Jen Spencer is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Allbound, a SaaS platform that helps companies empower their resellers and distributors to be more customer-focused through content and collaboration. Jen loves animals, technology, the arts, and really good Scotch. You can follow her on Twitter @jenspencer.
I originally published this on February 28, 2017 here.