Use a Platform, Not Spreadsheets, to Manage Indirect Sales Team Incentives


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We all know it’s true: A lot of indirect sales team incentive programs are still being managed with spreadsheets. It’s far more common than you’d expect, even in some of the larger companies. And, honestly, there’s nothing wrong with using spreadsheets if you want to manage a very small program, incentive or campaign — or even analyze a set of data. But ask for anything complex, and your spreadsheet is probably creating more work than it’s doing.

Five signs you need an incentive platform, not a spreadsheet

Is it time for your indirect sales team incentive program to move onto a more flexible platform that offers segmentation, tiering and reporting? If you can relate to any one (or more!) of these pain points, it is.

1. Your manual processes have lead to mistakes.
Whether information has been entered incorrectly, a formula isn’t quite right or a sloppy sort has disconnected some data, human error can be hard to identify and undo in a spreadsheet — especially if everything is manually input and manipulated.

2. You spend more time managing your spreadsheet than building engagement.
Spreadsheets are great and flexible tools. But if your channel incentives team is dedicating most of its time to managing a complex, multi-tabbed spreadsheet — and not actually developing engagement optimization strategies — then it’s time to find a better way to keep track of your program results.

3. Multiple users need to access your indirect sales team incentive data simultaneously.
Sure, you can share a spreadsheet on a network with a few people. But as your team grows, so do the challenges of collaboratively managing data in a spreadsheet. Conflicting entries require individual judgment calls. Essential real-time updates simply don’t happen. And, in the end, you’ve created a “database” that’s doesn’t have the power, flexibility or visibility of the real thing.

4. Even medium-size programs require immense scalability.

You may not think your data needs are going to scale up quickly — but get started in a spreadsheet, and you’ll soon have multiple workbooks. Or maybe you’ll have one really, really big workbook that sorts slowly and crashes often. Add bundles, incentive overlays and complex, long-term initiatives, and you’ll definitely need more capacity than spreadsheets offer.

5. You need end-to-end analyses and insights, but only have snapshots.
Ultimately, the data in your spreadsheet needs to be crunched, analyzed, interpreted and used to evaluate the effectiveness of your incentive program. These tasks will all have to be done manually, especially if multiple workbooks need to be data-mined. Even if you can consolidate the required information, you are still merely creating an even larger spreadsheet for behavioral trend reporting that has all the same issues.

New and improved channel management options

If spreadsheets are not the best tool for managing channel incentive programs, why are so many companies still using them? Ask around, and you’ll get plenty of different responses. Some people inherited an existing spreadsheet process. Others wouldn’t know how to begin to find the right channel solution. A few managers are even using spreadsheets to work around internally developed systems that are inflexible. Plus, some managers have had previous problems with clunky, inflexible “platforms.” It’s no secret that custom platform development has been expensive or that managing multiple, nonintegrated channel providers can be a headache.

Fortunately, there are better options today. A handful of incentive providers now offer cloud-based platforms that deftly handle complex grouping and tiering. Plus, these platforms can seamlessly connect to a variety of engagement modules, such as training, headquarter rebates, reward catalogs and more. Best of all? Full end-to-end reporting is available, too, so you can understand how to increase the success of your external sales team incentive program. If you’re still using spreadsheets, what are you waiting for? It’s time to look for a company that can help you execute your incentive strategy, including a fast and flexible platform and a wide array of appealing rewards.


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