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The 12 Components of a Channel Sales Incentive Programme

Mike Harrison 14-Sep-2022 09:55:30
Incentive Carrot

Your Channel Sales Incentive Dissected

Incentives can be a highly effective way to influence channel behaviours to help you meet your business goals.

On the surface, it looks easy but they actually require a lot of planning and organisations may face a number of challenges along the way. Managing them often requires specialist skills to combine and analyse complex data sets, to establish which partner has achieved what goals.

Below, we break down the components of a typical channel incentive programme to help you understand how to alleviate the issues.

You may be unaware of all the things you need to think about when planning your incentive - this short guide also acts as a checklist of all the things you need to consider. 


The first key step is to calculate the budget for your incentive as that sets the parameters and scope.

To estimate the budget allocation you need to:

  • Make sure your goals dictate the budget.
  • Analyse your audience.
  • Identify the type and purpose of the incentive programme.
  • Try to get buy-in from channel partners.
  • Review previous incentive reports and analytics.  


Establish what results you aim to achieve and these should be attributed to SMART goals i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. 

You can use previous results by analysing what was achieved and where improvements can be made for future incentives.

The goals can be:

  • Financially based (deals registered, deal value, closed deals etc.).
  • Number of leads or prospects generated.
  • Enablement-based e.g. sales reps complete enablement training or certifications.
  • Learning based i.e. focused on the training and knowledge of sales reps.
  • Brand-based i.e. getting buy-in from partners and sales reps in your products, services and solutions, getting them to promote your products by executing their own marketing campaigns or using campaigns you provide via a Portal. 
  • Fun-based i.e. focused on those taking part and enjoying themselves so they are motivated to sign up for other future incentives.


Gather all the stakeholders together to generate a list of ideas that are achievable within the budget, and that will allow you to achieve your goals.


With the ideas generated from the brainstorming session, the next step is to create some initial concepts - this will help the stakeholders visualise what the incentive programme could look like and how it will work. 

The concept broken down includes:

  • The incentive brand banner or logo: something which will go on all incentive communications and collateral to easily indicate what the communication is regarding
  • A process diagram - outlining visually how it will work
  • A list of the core elements involved

The Plan

Map out a clear plan in an easy-to-understand and visual format -  we recommend using a PowerPoint deck that contains the below content:

  • Overview
  • Budget
  • Goals
  • Concept
  • Collateral
  • Process
  • Team: Roles and Responsibilities
  • Timelines
  • Action Plan (who is doing what and when)
  • Key Milestones
  • Reporting / Data
  • Prize fulfilment


Work out how, what (e.g. collateral) and when the incentive will be communicated and promoted both internally to Account Managers and externally to Channel partners. Create a comms plan for your incentive programme.


Once the final concept has been approved, internal and external assets and materials can be produced, such as a flyer, landing page, PPT deck and banner.  These are used to explain and promote the incentive to the participants.

Programme Execution and Management

Assign a dedicated project manager to ensure the incentive runs smoothly from start to finish - this will keep everyone on track and will ensure actions are completed within the set timescales as set out in the plan.

Data and Number Analysis

Get a clear brief on the data set before the incentive programme commences to ensure the right information is extracted for the incentive rewards and also for accurate reporting.  It's worth testing this beforehand by getting a sample report run to ensure your data team can provide the data you need. The data is key to the whole incentive.

Within the plan, schedule when the data is going to be extracted and provide reporting timelines of ongoing incentive results to the participants.

It is important to work out a clear process and method for analysing the data, calculating points if this is applicable, and verifying the data against the incentive criteria to establish the results. Sometimes this can involve multiple data sets that have to be combined or cross-referenced.

To find out more, read our earlier article: How to ensure your incentive programme doesn't fail due to data. 

Progress Notifications and Tracking 

The data analysis then makes it possible to track the progress of the incentive and provide regularly scheduled notifications to the participants and other stakeholders.

Prize Fulfilment

The data analysis also enables the prizes to be allocated and tracked. If you are using a fixed budget pot this allows for close monitoring of the prize fund spending throughout the incentive to make sure it stays within budget.

Ensure the budget plan factors in the management time of administering the rewards, fulfilment costs, and the actual cost of the prizes.   

Consider the persona profile of the participants when choosing the type of rewards to offer - NB if the incentive is sales-focused most sales reps prefer cash incentives rather than merchandise items.

In the communication schedule and T&Cs, include a timescale of when the rewards will be delivered and notify this timeline to the participants in order to set the correct expectation of when they can expect to receive their rewards.  

Wrap up and Reporting

Once the incentive has been completed the last key step is to assess the success of the incentive from the final results data analysis report - this should provide measurements against the original estimated performance metrics and whether the incentive achieved and/or even exceeded the original objectives.

An assessment should also be carried out to establish what worked well for repeatability and what enhancements can be incorporated for future incentives.


In conclusion, the most important element to running a successful incentive programme is careful and in-depth planning - this guide can show you the way. 

Alternatively, you could leave it to us, as Essential provides an end-to-end channel incentive management service. We are experts in incentives and can do all the heavy lifting for you. We can run your incentives offline or support your incentives with a platform that enables your partners to check on their progress themselves.

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