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How to ensure your incentive doesn’t fail due to data

Mike Harrison Oct 20, 2022 11:00:00 AM
When data fails

The impact data, or the lack of it, has on your channel sales incentive

At Essential, data is at the core of everything we do. It directs decision-making at all stages of activity. It informs strategy, goal setting, and progress tracking. It allows us to learn what works and what doesn’t and it helps reward success and plan for the future. Without data, we are flying blind.

A channel sales incentive is an excellent example of how data plays a massive part in whether the campaign is a triumph or a damp squib.

Insight-driven channel sales incentives 

Data is at the centre of all channel sales incentives; in fact, it will be the data insights that trigger the need for the incentive to be created in the first place! The importance of data cannot be stressed enough, get it right and it serves you well.

There are 3 key stages to an incentive: before, during and after:

Before:  use data insights to establish your incentive, and goals and ensure you can report on everything you need to, that you have the correct data fields and filters set and capture a snapshot of the state of play when the incentive commences.

During:  use data in communications both to participants and all internal and external stakeholders, update participants with their progress to drive engagement and motivate them to go the extra step.

After:  use the data to calculate, track and fulfil the rewards participants earned. Also, reporting on the success of your incentive to stakeholders will motivate them to provide the budget for the next one.

Here are our data top tips to ensure your channel sales incentive is a glowing success.

1. Use data to inform your incentive goals

What is your incentive trying to achieve? Comparing historical and current information makes it easier to set goals that align with the objectives you've set for your incentive. Analysing historical data can also help to pinpoint the ideal timing for your incentive.

For example, the data might tell you that partner sales drop due to the summer holidays in the third quarter of the year. Knowing this information means you can plan to create a partner sales programme/incentive to bring forward some of these deals that often slip into Q4.

2. Take data snapshots

Take snapshots of your data prior to an incentive starting. This allows you to look back and see the impact your incentive is making. For example, by capturing the data leading up to the incentive, you can compare a ‘typical week’ with the ‘incentive week’ and see the difference.

Snapshots also allow you to identify behavioural trends as the channel sales incentive progresses, such as the number of sales deals that have been brought forward from a ‘pipeline’ status to ‘closed’. Or with a more enablement-based incentive, the uptake of specific training certifications.

3. Check the data (and access to it) before you start

This is the area we’ve seen the most issues in the past. The most common challenges include:

  • The sales data isn’t very accessible in the CRM system and requires a specialist to extract it. Reliance on the provision of data from a single person is problematic, you often don’t get the data on time and sometimes not at all when the person is unavailable.
  • It’s the wrong data. Sales data extraction can be filtered incorrectly giving you the wrong data set. It’s often not obvious that this has happened and often you only notice when it’s too late.
  • Missing fields. Certain fields in the data are crucial in the analysis and when missing they can make reporting impossible.
  • Multiple data sources. Some incentives require multiple sources of data to be combined and analysed. Take enablement incentives for example, where you are tracking webinar and training attendance. Often, you are pooling data from Zoom or Teams, a Learning Management System (LMS) and potentially an in-person lunch and learn session. Merging that data requires advanced expertise in Excel, and without it the process is incredibly labour-intensive, requiring days of manual processing and increasing the risk of human error. 

The key takeaway here is to ensure you check all your data sources thoroughly before you commence the incentive. Don’t just check that you have data, or that it is available when you need it. Thoroughly check your data sources are accurate, have all the required fields and have been filtered correctly as well.

4. Ensure you have the ability to analyse the data to gain insights

It is unlikely that you will be able to review and immediately draw insights from your incentive data without extensive number crunching. Even in situations where your data is being housed in an online platform with its own reporting, at some stage, you will find yourself in Excel, knee-deep in numbers, feverishly filtering and pivoting. With good Excel skills, crunching the numbers won’t provide too much of a challenge, however, without these skills, drawing insights can either take an exceedingly long time or, worst-case scenario, not happen at all.

With a data guru onboard, you won’t have any issues, data can be analysed and insights rapidly disseminated to the team. Also, make effective use of what you did in the past. If you have run the same, or a similar incentive before, you may be able to leverage the previous Excel work and create templates for future ones.

5.  Use data in your communications

Data is very useful in driving engagement with incentive participants, interested stakeholders and internal teams.

  • Onboarding. Use data to get buy-in from stakeholders; data provides a straightforward way to articulate incentive goals and success criteria.
  • Incentive updates. Providing the team with updates based on data means you can leverage their ability to drive partners further in their efforts. Plus, it helps keep sales forecasts on point (which also keeps key stakeholders happy!).
  • Updating participants on their individual or team progress, or highlighting how they compare to their peers, helps to encourage competition, and drive participants further (see more in the next point).
  • In the incentive summary, how did we do? Stakeholders need the reassurance that the investment made in running the incentive and paying out for the prizes was worth it. Participants also need to be able to draw their own conclusions about their contribution, effort versus reward, and to see how well they did in terms of results and recognition.

6.  Grant incentive participants access to update data and track progress themselves

Whilst it is not key to the operation of an incentive, providing participants with the ability to track their own progress takes the incentive to a whole new level.

As mentioned in the previous point, if participants can see how they are performing during the incentive programme they are more likely to maximise their efforts to gain rewards.

One way of achieving this is by setting up an incentive portal or platform where participants can log in and check their progress. The information available for participants to view could include deals closed, courses attended, meetings booked, upsells, as well as the rewards they have earned and the status of any prizes they are due to receive.

There are lots of benefits to using an incentive portal including:

  • Use it to record incentive registrations (plus acceptance of the incentive’s Ts and Cs)
  • Use it for data capture, for example, in situations where participants need to log actions as completed. This could include forms to claim against deals they have closed, training attended, certifications achieved and more
  • Have a leaderboard so participants can see how they rank against others
  • Enable an approval process, so that relevant individuals from your company can review and approve or decline completed activity
  • Provide real-time ROI pipeline reporting for both participants and stakeholders
  • And many more!

Providing users with the ability to check their progress at any point not only increases engagement but also results. As many organisations don’t currently have this capability, it also elevates brand awareness and increases buy-in from participants.

7.  Keep stakeholders informed

It’s the stakeholders that give you the budget to run your channel incentives and so having good data means it is easy to keep them informed. Good data leads to good reporting, and also means you can draw valuable insights to inform future planning and strategy.

Without the visibility data delivers, stakeholders could lose faith in the benefits that incentives deliver. This could result in a reduction of the budget for future programmes.

8.  Get the data basics right

We’ve already highlighted that you must make sure you have the right data. Analysing and processing that data is also critical so it's important you get the basics right:

  • Don't make maths errors. Getting your basic maths wrong and reporting incorrect figures to stakeholders.
  • Ensure your data is correct before reporting it to participants. Incorrect data can also lead to you delivering inaccurate figures to participants, resulting in a lot of, potentially irate, queries.
  • Check your formulas and pivots. Excel only does what you tell it to, copying and pasting formulas or using previous incentive spreadsheets can cause trouble if formulas aren’t updated. You could be summing the wrong column or counting data in the wrong tab.
  • Be clear on what reporting is required before you start as this may require additional fields to be added to claim forms or to be included in your data.
  • Make sure there are clearly defined goals that your stakeholders have agreed with and that can be measured.

Looking to run your own channel sales incentive or interested in an incentive portal for your next campaign?

 

Channel Incentives