Effective and efficient interaction between your company and your channel partners has many benefits for all involved, notably, improved productivity, increased profitability, high engagement and greater loyalty.
A channel incentive program is one way to ensure that this relationship remains healthy and thriving. Channel management is complex and incentivising can be a costly exercise, so it’s essential to track and manage your ROI.
Three ways to approach ROI of channel incentives
There is an art and science to calculating ROI and you may need to employ multiple measurement methods to get the most complete picture of where you stand. Channel incentives are sometimes begrudgingly accepted by executive management as a ‘cost of doing business’.
Yet, a solidly designed and well-managed channel incentive program offers both hard and soft benefits and both are meaningful to sales success. Here are three methods for determining the ROI of your channel sales incentive.
1. Evaluate via a control group
This method compares the performance of two groups. Both groups should be similar in almost every way, except for your incentive program. Compare the behaviours of each group over the test period. The differences in sales performance will determine the effectiveness of your program.
The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) offers two methodologies using control groups to measure ROI: Post-Hoc Measurement and Outcome-Based Measurement. You can read more on both methods here.
2. Gather insights from qualitative surveys
This method involves interviewing your channel partners, and asking open-ended questions relating to the effectiveness of your incentive program. Qualitative data is easily gathered through digital surveys and feedback loops. Be sure to include questions in your survey that tie directly back to your business objectives.
While your program may have a specific lifespan, feedback and assessment is a continuous process. It’s good practice to keep asking yourself the question, ‘Is our reward strategy still relevant and effective?’
3. Evaluate and compare outcomes of incentive engineering initiatives
This method employs “incentive engineering,” in which the focus expands from the sale itself to the pre- and post-sale behaviours you want to establish and reinforce with rewards. It works like this:
To begin, make a list of the key behaviours practised by your most successful channel partners. From there, add other behaviours that you’d like to encourage. Maybe you’d like to get more people to take up your product training or do more effective deal registration.
Then, consider the importance of each behaviour and the frequency with which you’d like it to occur. This gives you the foundation for allocating your incentive budget, with the reward value of each behaviour aligning with the effort required and its contribution to the final sale.
Effective channel incentive programs are built around behaviour change. Because the real purpose of an incentive is to get your channel partners to adopt the full range of sales practices that drive success.
It’s important to fully understand and focus on the precise behaviours that you want to drive. Your reporting, decision-making and success metrics should all tie back to those behaviours.
The ultimate purpose is changing behaviour
Channel incentives can and should be aimed at delivering more than X% increase in revenue. You want to drive the behaviours that drive sales performance over the long term. According to Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) research, “While harder to measure, intangible benefits – such as positive culture, close collaboration and effective teamwork – are critical components of the most impactful programs.” These are all the result of sustained change in behaviour.
How to implement a channel incentive program that will truly change behaviour
Here are four channel sales incentive best practices to get the most out of your program:
- Set clear objectives. Understand your organisation’s goals and connect them to your program’s tactics, focusing on a strong goal-based structure.
- Send strong and consistent messages. Use emotional and motivating communication that will resonate with your partners to promote your objectives.
- Collect sufficient data. Make sure that you collect enough data to later prove the ROI of the program.
- Regularly optimise the program. Keep testing and evolving your incentive program to remain relevant and engaging to your channel partners.
It’s also important to use the right rewards. For your program to be successful, you need to make an emotional connection with your channel partners. Personalised, meaningful, memorable rewards will help you do that.
Incentive programs can have a massive ROI … if done well.
Channel incentive programs take up a large chunk of your channel management budget, so it’s important to have a ready justification for the costs. No matter which method you use to measure results, remember that your ultimate goal is to create the lasting behaviour change that will transform your sales and generate strong performance over the long-term.