Want Better Engagement with Partner Reps? Collaborate to Motivate.

Posted on May 11, 2016

By Jen Spencer

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In my home life (do those still exist?), one of my kids will do just about anything I ask as long as the reward is dessert or a social outing. It’s not bribery … it just makes my job as a parent a bit easier — do this, then receive that. I know what his currency is (thanks Dr. Phil), and I dole it out quite intentionally.  My other kid, his twin brother, could not care less about dessert or social outings. His currency is personal freedom; his typical wish involves time to himself to do whatever his heart desires. Here are two people who share the same parents, share the same home with the same rules, and they’ve even shared a womb, but in so many ways they could not be more different.

In my work life (balance, see?), I work with a team of sales and marketing professionals who report to the same person, work for the same company, and own the same goals. But, their driving forces, the intrinsic WHY behind their actions, are different. One may be driven by results and ROI while another may be driven by status or recognition and another by the opportunity to learn and acquire knowledge. It’s important as a leader for me to understand why individual team members do what they do so I can motivate them to succeed not only for our company, but for themselves.

Much is made these days regarding the alignment between a team member’s motivation and his or her role within the company. It’s an area of business many of us refer to as cultural fit, a burgeoning topic in the HR space, and rightfully so. The Society for Human Resource Management cites that the result of poor culture fit can cost an organization between 50-60% of the person’s annual salary. Ouch.

Let’s take this into your partner channel. Perhaps THE most popular topic among suppliers is how to keep channel partners engaged, motivated and productive — not an easy task when you consider that one channel partner might be represented by hundreds of individual sales representatives, each of whom is a unique individual with his or her own motivating factors, company goals AND personal goals.

And you may want to sit down for this one: They definitely aren’t thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about them (cue Taylor Swift).

Ok, let’s pause there. Am I suggesting that you go learn the drivers for every salesperson who works for every one of your channel partners? Well, in a perfect world, yes, I sure am. The paperwork that is drawn up between you and another business entity does not sell your product to your customers — people who work for that business entity sell your product (and others, in most cases) to your customers.

Research companies like SiriusDecisions have written extensively about how to motivate partners and their reps by developing personal relationships and earning trust, and by developing programs with incentives like recognition and awards, non-cash rewards, and, the most common incentive seen in sales: CASH. But, much like the members of my own direct team, two people can have the same job but be motivated quite differently.

You might be thinking, this is all well and good but knowing the personal drivers of every single sales rep who works for all of my channel partners is impossible. And, if you’re thinking about communicating with people in the traditional sense, you’re right. It’s not a scalable solution to have one-on-ones with every single rep who works for every single partner. However, this is where collaborative software gives you an excellent edge.

Archaic PRM (partner relationship management) systems and legacy partner portals are historically built to be unidirectional utilities and do little to provide suppliers with both quantitative and qualitative feedback from partner reps. On the other hand, partner sales acceleration software is different. From the moment a rep requests access to your platform, and all throughout the lifetime of that rep’s relationship with you, there’s an amazing opportunity to gather, store and put motivation backed by real data to actual, practical use.

A few quick, easy ways to build personal profiles of all of your reps include the following:

  • Ask “this or that” questions during a new rep’s profile setup. “If you took part in a contest, would you rather earn a free trip for you and your family, or would you prefer to receive a cash award?”
  • Collect data throughout an individual rep’s usage to learn more about what matters to her. Does she click on the incentive announcements that have to do with public recognition, or does her mouse consistently gravitate toward the dollar signs?
  • Set up quick polls and one-question surveys throughout the system that contextually make sense based on the content a rep is consuming at that time. How does he vote? And, is that vote consistent with other feedback he’s provided throughout his lifetime with you as a rep? BONUS: Quick polls and one-question interactive surveys provide relevant and anonymous data that you can expose to your entire partner channel. There’s power in transparency, and almost any partner will tell you that one of their top desires from suppliers is to feel heard.

While the concept of gathering relevant data to better understand your partners’ sales reps’ motivational drivers seems daunting, a simple and straightforward approach is actually quite manageable. And, right there in front of you.

When you make an effort to learn more about the people who are working hand in hand with your customers, they’ll appreciate those efforts. No one wants to be seen as just a number on a spreadsheet or a dot on a massive revenue chart. The littlest things you do to better understand the human beings that are working with you and for you ultimately make for a more profitable, culturally harmonious sales ecosystem.

 

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