by Chris Becwar
In recent years, as the competition for partner engagement has increased, more channel leaders have been realizing that they have not been listening close enough to the real needs of their partners beyond typical margin and channel conflict discussions. Vendors are realizing that if their channel investments don’t focus on shaping their partners pre-sales habits and ‘teaching them to fish’ vs. ‘feeding them for a day,’ sales lift on partner investment will tend to hover between low to zero.
This is inspiring vendors to re-examine how they target their partner incentives, SPIFs, and rewards. Traditionally, the issue of rewards and gifts in the channel has been almost entirely predicated on partners either:
- Closing a deal
- Closing a certain number of deals
- Closing certain types of deals
But to channel leaders’ dismay, they’ve increasingly found that rewards systems that focus purely on post-sales triggers often just reinforce old, outdated ways of doing business with folks who are already fully enabled, leading to a phenomenon of ‘the old, rich partner getting richer’ at the expense of promising new partners that need more help getting going. So instead, many vendors are seeing more incremental return by focusing more of their reward budget on ‘soft’ pre-sales practices that model, and then condition, new ways of marketing and selling and increase their partners’ sales velocity in an era of more recurring, lower margin business.
In parallel to this, a new generation of more configurable, integrated, and easy-to-use incentive management tools has been springing up that make it easy to target partner rewards at just about any measureable, pre-sales partner behavior taken with a vendor’s partner program. In utilizing simplified points-based reward engines, the new generation of channel rewards tools can easily reward and condition ‘soft,’ pre-sales actions that demonstrate a partner’s progress towards new, more sustainable ways of doing business. This includes things like:
- Technical product certifications
- Use of partner portals and deal registration systems
- Participation in vendor-provided courses on marketing and sales best practices
- Use of available Market Development Funds (MDF)
- Use of partner-provided TPMA (thru-partner marketing) services and social media platforms
- End-user satisfaction and renewal rate performance
Rewarding in this way is proving to be a key weapon in the continuing battle for partner loyalty, and it’s helping many vendors guide a wider swath of their partner community through the new skills and habits that will deliver repeatable, scalable success for decades to come.