Channel technology service providers are leading the push to streamline channel operations by embedding payments functionality within their solution architectures…
3 Keys to Improve Global Channel Partner Incentive Programs
Simplified Claims, Flexible Rewards and Streamlined Payments are key to improving global channel partner incentive programs.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler... Albert Einstein
Trying to implement channel partner incentive programs, or SPIFs for channel partners and their sales reps, can be quite complex, especially when the program operates globally. It doesn’t have to be.
Here are a few keep-it-simple-suggestions (KISS) to start your program planning and some alternative methods that may enable a globally consistent approach that is flexible enough to accommodate the regional differences required to meet the marketplace realities.
For the program manager, the organizing principle should be to automate as much as possible, beginning with how incentive rewards are earned and claimed and then with how they are paid out and redeemed.
From the partner sales rep’s perspective, the best claims process is no claims process at all. For program managers and developers, that may be a bit of a mind-bender, especially when the need for proof of performance is mandatory for compliance and finance. But think about it; in a market where ease of doing business can be a competitive differentiator and partner adoption is a critical success factor for any channel program, why ask anyone to submit data you likely already have? And, assuming that you and your field or sales operations teams already have a full plate, why add any additional requirements for verifying partner submitted data?
Challenge your program designers to work through each requirement to identify where required information is already being captured and stored in your PRM/portal, CRM, ERP, LMS or other internal system. If the program requires completing a new customer sale is that information captured in your Salesforce CRM? If the deal needed to be registered and approved is that in Salesforce and is the individual sales rep or SE identified? If there are training/certification qualifiers are they at the partner or individual level and where is that status captured?
Optimally, all the data would be extracted from your PRM/CRM tools and fed to a rewards platform to fully automate the issuance of rewards without your partner needing to bear any additional reporting burden. That may not be viable for many firms given the disconnected nature of many channel automation tools but it should be your goal.
With a global platform and program framework in place, then the global program manager is ready to engage their regional counterparts to determine unique program requirements including:
- program participants
- eligible products/services
- other rewards eligible activities
- eligible sale or activity dates
- reward amounts
- business rules and qualifying criteria
Two key areas where flexibility is paramount for global program execution: Reward Payees and Reward Choice.
Reward Payees – Individual or Company? Incentives work best when the reward recipient is the one most directly involved with the desired behavior, such as making a sale. In the indirect channel, this means engaging the channel partners’ sales rep or pre-sale technical support roles directly. In North American markets it generally works well to reward individuals directly – with partner organization permission. To ensure success, it is critical that program offers are aligned with business strategy and that participation is easy.
In the EU and other countries where issuing rewards directly to partners’ employees can be problematic for regulatory or cultural reasons, consider aggregating the rewards at the company level while continuing to track individual performance via the claims process. Then, by providing the company with a rewards account that can both receive and payout rewards, the partner company is enabled to pay their employees directly using the rewards platform and program infrastructure to make it completely turnkey.
Once you’ve simplified the process for your partners and their employees as much as possible, you’re ready to turn your attention to making it faster and easier for them to receive rewards.To automate rewards, start by taking advantage of the digital wallet capabilities.
Reward Choice – Cash or Non-cash? Because we know that choice and transparent value are consistently reported as important reward attributes to recipients, it makes sense to give the choice to reward earners to determine their preference.
Plastic prepaid cards, despite their widespread usage and transparent value, are a largely outdated rewards payment form and they do not scale globally. Why incur the fulfillment costs of card personalization, production and shipping, or the security headaches of lost/stolen cards?
Digital wallets and tools such as XTRM AnyPay™ provide much better speed and security while also providing transparency and choice that reward recipients want. Payments are made directly to the recipient’s digital wallet so they receive payments instantly and they can then choose the form of payment from a predetermined set of options including prepaid debit, digital gift cards or ACH/EFT transfer directly to their personal or business bank account.
And if, for some reason, you are obliged to offer plastic prepaid cards or paper checks, these legacy payment forms can be offered as options where the recipient makes the choice to bypass other forms for more immediate payment.
In some cases, however, the funding source (e.g., OpEx) or the local market may not permit or desire cash payments. Non-cash reward alternatives include closed-loop prepaid cards with limited redemption options or digital gift cards. The rewards platform can accommodate both cash and non-cash option
Most spiffs are paid quarterly. It should be no surprise then to find that the most frequent complaint made by partners and sales reps is that it takes too long to receive their rewards. Why then must incentive payments be so infrequent? Is this done intentionally, even though data shows that the closer incentive is to the qualifying event, the higher the impact?
Or is it due to to resolvable process and resource issues such as:
- not completing the planning for the current quarter’s SPIF before the quarter begins
- not announcing program specifics early enough for partners/partner sales reps
- to make eligible claims as they happen rather than at end of the program or promotion
- rules requiring proofs of performance that require multiple touches and approvals/verification
- lack of resources to process claims on a timely basis
- payment processes that require multiple steps and manual distribution of rewards
Again, by automating internal processes and data sources to confirm proof of performance, you can streamline the process for the partner and reduce, if not eliminate, additional time to validate and authorize reward payments. And, in doing so, create the potential for reward payments to be processed far more rapidly with any frequency that makes sense: monthly, weekly, daily, even instantly.
Keeping things simple can be a challenge for global program managers trying to support regional teams with cultural, regulatory and channel relationship differences. And, given that the ROI impact is highly dependent on partner adoption and partner sales rep engagement, how these channel incentive programs are designed is critically important to their success, user experience and satisfaction.
Contact us [link to contact us] to learn more about how the XTRM Global Rewards Payment Platform can help improve your channel incentive payment operational efficiency and effectiveness.