— May 12, 2019
If your channel incentives program isn’t functioning as well as you’d like, the element that may be lacking is relevant training for your participants.
You may think your program is pretty cut and dried—that the rules are clear, the rewards system easy to understand and the claims process hassle-free. Your partners should have no problem helping you achieve your goals and raking in their own benefits, you may believe.
But to busy partner sales reps trying to navigate all that from the other end, the details may seem too convoluted to even bother with. After all, people who choose sales careers are often far better at relationship-building than paperwork; you may find that some lack the time and patience to learn about your program unless you can introduce it quickly and easily.
Research supports that truth; one WorkStride study of manufacturing managers running incentives programs found 40 percent see the administration and/or rewards as too labor-intensive, and 38 percent see the programs as too time-consuming overall.
So what’s the answer? Providing onboarding and ongoing product education that’s thorough enough to cover all the bases, yet not so burdensome or complex that it makes participants shy away from completing it. If you can provide relevant training for your partners without wasting their time you should be well ahead of the game; one recent survey found only 35 percent of U.S. companies offer effective coaching and training for their channel salespeople. So what should you do to make training successful?
- Know your audiences. Use all the data you can gather to learn about your partners, their learning styles and their communication preferences. The more you know, the better you can segment audiences and tailor your training accordingly.
- Identify training needs. Don’t assume you have to start from scratch. Evaluate what your partners already know, then design your training around the specific information they’ll need to effectively sell your product and collect their rewards.
- What’s in it for them? Make that the centerpiece of your training. Your long-term business goals will be far less interesting to your partners than shorter-term additions to their own paychecks.
- Base training on real-life scenarios. Understand the challenges channel sales reps will regularly encounter when trying to sell your product, then offer practical, realistic suggestions for overcoming those difficulties.
- Offer information in digestible chunks. If your partners don’t need to know about a new product until halfway through your program, don’t ask them to memorize its details now. Instead, divide your training module into sections that will apply to different stages of your program.
- Go digital. In-person training can be inconvenient for busy sales reps, especially if they’re frequently on the road. Don’t rule it out, but make sure your module is mobile-friendly and available 24-7 for those who will learn best by accessing your info on their own schedules.
- Add short quizzes. This can help you tell if the content is being understood. You can even toss in an incentive for successful completion—say, an extra $ 50 for getting 10/10 correct.
- Keep communicating throughout the program. As you learn more about the challenges and successes your partners are encountering along the way, offer related information that will help them make the most of your program. Email messaging can be a noninvasive way of boosting their morale and making them feel informed and supported.
Finally, make sure you keep tweaking your training. As you move forward with different channel incentives promotions, you may discover that certain training techniques are working remarkably well while others seem to be duds. As each program wraps up, ask participants for feedback so you can continually fine-tune your methodology for better effectiveness.