Why guess at channel sales incentives results when you don’t have to?

Putting together a complicated sales channel incentives program is hard enough to do once. You sure you want to do it twice?

Absolutely you do, when it’s a pilot program.

That’s because a pilot channel sales program is an excellent way to forecast program costs, test effectiveness, gain actionable insights—and maybe most important of all—earn executive buy-in. Given a choice between a trial-and-error run now and learning the hard (and maybe expensive) way later…well, that’s not a tough one.

So it’s an opportunity you probably don’t want to pass up. But like the actual program itself, a pilot program has to be well designed and carefully executed. Here are 10 quick steps to help you get the most out of your test drive.

Why are we doing this?

Sounds obvious, but it’s still often overlooked. Clearly define program objectives and attach numbers to benchmarks like enrollment rate, participation rate and redemption rate. “Increase sales” or “drive engagement” sound nice, but they’re not quantitative goals.

Where’s our sweet spot?

Design your incentives to meet or beat similar programs. If it’s clear you may not be able to compete with big-spending competitors, try a flanking strategy by rewarding for completely different activities, such as training, education, product demos, etc.

Prove value, gain insight, forecast costs. Download our guide,10 Steps for Designing a Successful Pilot Program to learn how to win over skeptics and avoid trial-and-error guesswork.

Apples to apples

Since the goal of your pilot program is to reduce the number of variables between the dry run and the real thing, test only real-world scenarios. If your typical sales cycle is six to eight months, run your pilot program for six to eight months, not two to four.

Something for everyone

Your test group should be as representative of your overall channel mix as possible. Shoot for 5 percent of your reseller base, up to a maximum of 200 establishments. Reasons for non-participation will have a large effect on your real launch, so be sure to capture this information.

TLC for T&Cs

Channel incentives target a third party, so you open up a world of legalities. If your program isn’t completely buttoned up, now is the time to find out by obtaining all the proper legal reviews.

Open the doors 

There’s no quicker death for a channel incentives program than a cumbersome, extensive process. Would-be participants need very little excuse to move on to the next incentive. Resist the instinct to over-engineer and streamline administration to keep it simple, simple, simple.

It’s impossible to over-communicate

Breaking through the clutter of dozens of competing programs may be the single toughest task you have. Experiment with drip campaigns, personalized messaging and presentations, and multidimensional packages to find a route through the maze. And did we mention keeping the messaging clear and simple, simple, simple?

Are we there yet?

Is it working? Since you already have planned measurable goals, go ahead and get measuring. Track enrollment and participation rates immediately after launch, evaluate sales activity and related behaviors, and compare your test group to non-participating dealers.

So how’d we do?

The previous step deals with quantitative metrics; this one deals with qualitative. What do your key stakeholders think? Gather perceptions from important internal and external personnel and use their insights and experience to make adjustments prior to launch.

The scorecard

Thanks to the pilot program, you can now project effectiveness and forecast costs for your full program launch. Post-launch, continue to monitor and fine-tune across its lifecycle. Set up quarterly checkpoints to keep your programs always fresh and engaging.

Designing channel incentive programs that deliver results can be as much art as science. Hawk Incentives can provide the expertise to help you design and deploy a pilot program quickly and affordably, as well as provide best practices, insights and an intuitive, highly flexible channel sales platform that’s quick to launch and simple to use.



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