How to Incent ‘Non-Sales’ Behaviors in External Sales Teams


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DanIf your primary responsibility involves motivating external sales teams—including resellers, distributors, clinics, dealers and other partners—you know how challenging it is to engage all of your indirect channels. Sure, you can offer traditional sales performance incentive funds (SPIFs) for sales, but what about incenting non-sales behaviors, such as training, lead follow-up and deal registration?

First, you need to identify exactly which non-sales behaviors you should be incenting. To layer on additional incentives that will result in a measurable bottom-line increase, you need to 1) know which behaviors to focus on, and 2) have an incentives platform capable of handling an array of flexible programs. So how do you figure out which non-sales behaviors are the most profitable within your channel?

Identifying non-sales behaviors that drive your business

Start by thinking about the key behaviors practiced by your most successful channel partners. Then use this list of sales-effectiveness activities as a starting point, adding others that apply to your channel activity and subtracting those that don’t.

• Marketing, sales and technical training
• Advertising/marketing
• Performing lead generation activities
• Customer event hosting/attendance at vendor events
• Joint business planning
• Participation in vendor marketing programs
• Vendor sales engineer (SE) engagement
• Follow up on leads
• Portal engagement
• Community engagement
• Deal registration/deal management
• Social media participation
• Proof of concept via demo or seed unit placement
• Customer satisfaction

Identifying your top performer

To decide which behaviors to focus on, you need to identify which of your resellers are consistently bringing in the most sales, and what behaviors or engagement they exhibit:

1. Look at your sales totals to identify your top performer(s)
2. Review your organization’s sales process
3. Define the behaviors that support your sales process
4. Determine which behaviors your top performers have adopted that your low- and non-performing partners have not

When you’re finished, you’ll be able to put together a basic behavior profile of your most engaged external salesperson. Let’s call her, “Jill.”

Jill-ifying your external sales program

Now you need to figure out how to get the rest of your partners behaving like Jill. But before you can do that, you need to understand why they aren’t already. Start by talking to your low- and non-performers about those Jill-like behaviors. Why aren’t they already engaging in them? Does your current program or platform make it difficult in some way? If that’s a big issue, stop right there. You know what you need to fix. Address the problem, then sit back and watch your process for a few months to see if things improve. (My hunch is that while a program glitch or two will certainly have an impact, it’s likely not the whole story.) If the problem persists, you now know it’s purely a matter of motivation.

Next, you need to determine a plan for incenting these behaviors. The idea is to overlay additional incentives on the desired behaviors when they lead to actual sales. Implement your plan, then sit back and watch again.

An example

Let’s say Jill always, without fail, completes all of the available training. Training doesn’t benefit her financially, but she enjoys having in-depth knowledge about the products she sells. Your low- and non-performers aren’t as interested in knowing all the details, and since they have no financial incentive to complete training, they don’t bother.

You adjust your program so that now, when a seller completes training before making the sale, his or her sales incentive increases. By tying a reward to the training behavior, you drive more participation in your program, incenting more sales and increasing partner engagement.

Evaluate and tweak

So assume now that you’ve 1) come up with several non-sales behaviors to incent, and 2) made the necessary program changes. You’ve watched the numbers for a while to see how well your low- and non-performers do at keeping pace with “Jill.” If they’re neck-and-neck, fantastic. If they’re doing better, but not great, you might consider incenting an additional behavior or two to see what happens. Keep in mind that a different behavior/incentive combination could prove to be a more effective motivator for this non-competitive group. And it also may work for Jill, kicking her totals up even higher.

Don’t do it all yourself

You may be thinking, “This makes sense and all, but I’m still left with the problem of designing and managing a complex incentive program that I have neither the time to do nor the staff to manage.” This is when you need to find a company that can help you with executing your incentive strategy, including your platform, programs, incentives and reports.

Ideally, all of these behaviors would be managed in a single channel platform. So, make sure you find a provider that offers a fast and flexible technology solution, along with compelling rewards that will appeal your entire channel network, including “Jill.”


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