Working virtually with channel partners isn’t new. Channel partners are their own entities who work on goals for each of their respective companies. Chances are, you already have a plan in place to communicate with your indirect sales team. But is it effective? Are your channel partners motivated to ensure you both achieve your business goals?
Our business environment looks different than it did. We are dealing with new realities, and we are all forced to adjust our business strategies in this new world with virtual teams. In the absence of face-to-face meetings with your channel partners, the need for the right communication couldn’t be more critical. Now’s the time to motivate your partners the right way, by creating a channel incentive program.
Here are five tips for designing a successful channel incentive program with virtual teams:
1. Choose the right incentive program
Incentive programs work, but not all of them are the same. When designed effectively, sales incentive programs offer fantastic ways to establish, build, and deepen relationships with your channel partners. Successful incentive programs start with the end in mind to ensure they are achieving the right goals. The incentive program should include ample communication to inform audiences by communicating to participants throughout their personalized reward journey and engage audiences with the appropriate rules structure to instill trust and commitment along the way. A mix of rewards should inspire and motivate your teams to ultimately drive behavior change while also appealing to a variety of interests. Finally, evaluating your incentive program is key to determining success.
2. Technology is key
You’re used to working with your channel partners virtually, but emails aren’t going to cut it anymore. Your channel partners yearn for more – more technology, more involvement, more being part of a team working toward the same goal. You must design an incentive program that seamlessly fits into your channel partners’ lifestyle. You don’t want your channel partners not to participate, simply because the technology is frustrating. This is why a mobile-first design is essential. What is a mobile-first design? It means your incentive program is created with the smallest (mobile) screen in mind. Features and content that exist in the desktop version of a site might be impractical and unnecessary on a phone. After the mobile design is determined, then you can add features and content to your incentive program design that is relevant to larger screens.
Given our current business environment, few people are traveling, and on-the-go, and more are at home with access to their desktop all day. That said, mobile-first design is optimal for all screens, and it is important to make the technology as flexible as possible for a variety of desires. Regardless of the reality of primarily remote teams, people still want the same experience on their mobile devices that they have on their desktops. Plus, we believe face-to-face business travel will be back – it will just look different. If you are interested, here is the latest report we shared on our thoughts and feelings on the future of travel and events.
3. Don’t forget to communicate
User-friendly technology that offers convenient access to actionable information is key to the success of any incentive program. But, it can’t be a “build it and they will come” approach – especially when it comes to engaging virtual teams. Using effective communication to drive your channel partners back to the incentive portal is essential to encouraging ongoing program awareness and overall program engagement. This communication must take place throughout the lifecycle of the program. Each piece of communication should also be geared to specifically encourage engagement with channel participants in each phase of the participant journey. This methodology is consistent with both in-person or remote teams.
4. Recognize your channel partners as you would your people
Yes, your channel partners aren’t your employees. But what if they wanted to be treated like one? Most of us desire to be part of a team, working together toward a common goal, and sharing the excitement when our goals are crushed. Your channel partners are no different. They have business goals they need to achieve, and they need your help to get there. Get to know them and ask what those goals are that will lead to their success. Celebrate with your channel partners when milestones are achieved, applaud years of service or send a birthday eCard, just as you would with your internal sales team. The right technological platform for your incentive program should make this recognition as easy as possible and remote teams can have the same experience as those who are in an office.
5. Create an Alliance Board
Consider inviting your top-performing channel partners to participate in a virtual Alliance Board. This invite-only group is a wonderful way to discuss product updates with your high performing team while also receiving valuable feedback. Plus, it goes a long way toward building trust with your channel partners. Virtual Alliance Boards can be fun, too. Prior to your virtual meeting, try sending cocktails-in-a-box or a fun physical gift to increase excitement and engagement. The remote teams will appreciate your creativity and you will stand out among their other partners.