How does a supplier company structure an incentives program for professional services partners versus traditional hardware sales incentives?
First, let me give our readers some background on professional services partners. Research suggests that a growing number of professional services companies like accounting, marketing, legal, and human resources are rivaling the IT/Telco channel in numbers. These companies are rapidly converging into the broader IT and Telco space as a high percentage of these firms are actually reselling software today.
Moreover, research by CompTIA suggests that by 2020, more than 80% of accounting and marketing firms will be indistinguishable from the traditional IT channel, yet the there is no formal engagement, retention and motivation strategy for this fast-growing route to market.
When designing an incentives program for professional services partners, the basic principles are the same as those you would use for a traditional channel partner program, but there are some important steps.
As with any partner program, the first step is getting to know who you are incentivizing.
- Understand who you are trying to incent. Professional services partners generally fall into two categories: resellers and referral/influencers. The former resells your product as one of their offerings and control the relationship post-sale. Referral/Influencers recommend your product, but the customer either purchases it directly from you or a partner.
- Consider the multiple personas that will be involved in selling or recommending your product or service. Offer a holistic incentive program that combines company-, team-, and individual-level incentives. Not everyone is motivated in the same way; the most successful incentives are specifically tailored to the intended audience.
As far as incentive types, two that are successful with professional services are launch funds and points-based rewards.
- Launch funds will drive awareness and demand for new offerings, and in new markets. These would be incremental to existing channel funds, and typically are short-term in nature. They're linked to either the launch quarter, or a certain period of time. They're also discretionary funds that you can use to recruit, enable and drive demand, and that demand is either a new partnership, or a new offering, depending upon where you are in your lifecycle and what your objectives are.
- Points-based rewards are especially beneficial for motivating the individual performer, whether it be sales or non-sales. Anyone who plays a role in that sales cycle. They appeal to a wide range of people, and they're especially helpful in focusing and changing target behaviors. But keep in mind that different partner types require different motivators, and incentives must align to the selected partner business model to achieve aligned success.
So, there you have it. I hope these ideas help with your question. The professional services route to market is growing, you are smart to want to tap into the potential.
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