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Six reasons to automate your sales incentive programme

Incentive programmes can be difficult to implement, but that's no excuse to rule them out

You likely have hundreds, possibly thousands, of sales reps in your indirect channel that you depend on every day to sell your product - but how are you connecting and incentivising them?

Administering incentive programmes can be a hazardous, time-consuming process, and they're often inaccurate, inconsistent, expensive, hard to manage and can do more harm than good. Whilst it may be the case that no incentive programme is better than a bad incentive programme, the answer is not to rule them out completely. Instead, you need to automate.

Motivating sales teams through recognition

One of the main motivators of a sales associate is recognition amongst peers. Sales reps are generally competitive by nature and enjoy the acknowledgment of a job well done. Recognition boosts the confidence of the salesperson doing well and also pushes those that are under-achieving to do better.

A recent survey by Bottom Line found that it takes on average 60 days to process a sales incentive claim by post. The length of such a process could discourage a salesperson from making a claim and disconnects them from the activity which earned the incentive in the first place.

The same survey found that 60% of salespeople prefer an electronic payout as it's the quickest way for them to receive their payment. If you are planning on paying out sales incentives anyway, you might as well make your sales team happy in the process and pay them out fast. This will keep your team motivated.

Avoid annoying your sales teams

Incentives matter. If a salesperson is rewarded for success, this motivates the individual and those around them. But handle with care. Errors and inconsistency can be very demotivating for those who sense that the playing field is not fair.

A wrong entry on a spreadsheet or an under-reported achievement can cascade to cost a great deal in terms of sales team motivation. Automation can increase the accuracy of reporting and ensure that the right people are getting the rewards. A sense of fairness leads to fair play, which in turn leads to team success.

Maintaining benchmarks

The most important reason for automating an incentive programme is the consistency it brings. The programmes become less vulnerable to local managers or the CEO or any other person in the business coming in and tearing up the rule book and starting afresh. When it is managed and implemented via spreadsheets and hard work, then often less thought is put into the planning at the outset, and the programme is vulnerable to being switched off, forgotten about, or changed at the whim of senior management.

Thinking of both the short term and long term view

Let's face it, not all sales reps are equal. Neither are all products, and some companies may find that those achieve sales one week may not the next. An automated platform will reveal, not only the successful salesperson of the week, but also the month, the year, or even within a specific product or service, all at the click of a mouse. Getting this kind of insight via spreadsheets and paper-based reporting can be slow or impossible.

Ability to adjust to real-time data

According to a recent IDG research survey on channel marketing, 59% of leaders said they have insufficient visibility into their sales activity.

This should be a major concern. When running a programme, it's vital to look at real-time analytics and make changes as it is running. Utilising analytics to make positive adjustments allows a company to enhance their programme in real-time, not at the end when it's too late to make adjustments.

The most important details to look for and adjust in real-time are the top-performing associates and the top-performing products. By keeping an eye on these, a firm can quickly reward and recognise them or tailor the programme around getting the under-performers to the top. In regard to products and services, knowing what is selling best allows companies to adjust the current promotions around them.

Eliminating the administrative burden

A digital program doesn't just enhance engagement and performance, it can help eliminate the administrative burden. There's no doubt that running an incentive programme using spreadsheets can prove a difficult task. Dealing with a large number of documents, dynamic information, creating reward systems for meeting sales quotas, and bouncing files from one department to another, are all major headaches for channel marketing managers.

By adopting a vendor, marketing managers will be able to lighten the mammoth administrative workload and simplify the process of data entry, by having a single view of all programmes for efficient and effective management.

Eliminating fraudulent data

Duplicate claims, inconsistent invoices and misinterpreted programme requirements can all lead to companies losing money through their incentive programmes. According to industry insights, approximately 2.5% of all claims made in incentive campaigns are fraudulent. In the grand scheme of things, this is a lot of money for a company to be losing out on.

Internal action can discourage misconduct, but implementing a platform that carries a robust fraud detection engine is the only way to be completely secure. Fraudulent claims do not only hit companies financially, but they also take up valuable time and resources to put right.

When choosing an incentive vendor, a company should not have to settle. The programme needs to be aligned with the marketing plan and follow its objectives in order to be useful. When it comes to partners, the right relationship can help a company to get work done efficiently and maximize the experience and revenue of the programme.

John Bird is UK general manager at 360insights

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