Update Your Distribution Channel with 21st Century Incentive Programs

As we make our way further into the digital era, businesses in all areas of industry – both B2C and, increasingly, B2B – are feeling the pressure to get on board with eCommerce adoption. Most are still struggling to find their footing here. That’s not surprising – with everyone throwing around the phrase “digital transformation” all the time, it can seem pretty daunting and, well, transformative. Where do you even start?

In our recent survey of contractor buying preferences, HMI partnered with Prokeep, which offers solutions to exactly this challenge. Prokeep provides software for B2B businesses that allow contractors to text the counter sales reps of their branches, allowing for more efficient and user-friendly interactions with sales teams. 

Getting your sales channel onboarded with new technology can still be tough, though. Maybe they think they have other priorities, maybe they’re just old dogs who don’t want to learn new tricks. So today, let’s take a look at how incentive programs might help ease the digital transformation process and bring your channel into the 21st century.

Why You Should Be Adopting Texting 

First, let’s be clear about one thing: eCommerce is here to stay. Adopting it isn’t just about being trendy, it’s about understanding what your partners are coming to expect about doing business. And it’s not just about having a website, either: as consumers (and, more generally, just people with smartphones), we’ve just all gotten used to the speed and convenience of mobile technology. 

Our research shows that to be true. In the contactor survey with Prokeep, HMI found that 22 percent of contractors are currently ordering products through text messaging. 37 percent also said within the next three years they expect to decrease their physical purchasing and increase purchasing over electronic interaction. 

In short, customers are increasingly expecting the omnichannel — expecting to be able to reach their sales reps in a variety of ways depending on what’s most convenient at a given time. Texting helps streamline the sales process, saving time and money for both parties and giving buyers the sense of convenience that they’ve increasingly gotten used to in their personal lives.

Getting Sales on Board with Texting 

So, you know texting is a good tool for your sales team to have in their toolkit – but how do you get everyone on board with using it? What if you set up the service but your salespeople don’t feel comfortable using it or don’t even pass the necessary information on to their contractors? 

This is where an incentive program can be really helpful in encouraging preferred behaviors in your channel partners. Each link in your channel needs to understand what they’re using and why it’s important. Let’s explore how this works… 

  • For the counter sales rep: your CSRs are probably used to helping buyers over the phone. With a new technology thrown in the mix, it’s important for them to be able to comfortably use the tool to help buyers make decisions and make sure they’re communicating to buyers about the new option. Consider an enablement program that rewards CSRs for taking an e-learning module that helps them get comfortable with the texting system. 

  • For the outside sales rep: your outside sales reps are probably going to be the most important player in evangelizing the texting system to buyers. They need to make sure that their buyers are aware that it’s there and help them understand how it works. An enablement program would also help onboard your outside salespeople or consider a points program that rewards them for getting their contractors to adopt the technology.

  • For the contractor: None of this is really going to do anything if your contractors don’t actually use it, right? Like with CSRs, enablement programs help the contractor get comfortable using the technology, potentially mitigating UX issues on their end. You might also offer rewards for just getting started using the system, sending their first text to a CSR, etc. 

How to Keep Things Fresh

It can be all too easy to get excited about a new technology or program but fall off down the road. It’s important to have mechanisms in place to keep it top of mind—again, an incentive program can go a long way in mitigating these challenges. 

Stoking the competition a bit can help keep the system relevant for your sales reps. Try a short-term promotion that gets your branches competing against each other to see who can get the most contractors to utilize the texting system, with the highest performing branching winning a team-based reward. Or maybe try an individual leaderboard for certain KPIs within a single branch, with the winner getting a free trip to somewhere awesome. No matter what you end up doing, keeping things fresh and relevant for your sales team is vital. 

Keep in mind as well that any enablement program should aim to enrich the lives and work of the person being enabled. It’s not just training, it’s meeting them where they are in order to help them learn what they need to learn along the way to success.

Conclusion

As we’ve said before on this blog, adopting digital technologies for sales is really a “when” at this point, not an “if.” Text management platforms like Prokeep provide vital tools for businesses looking to embrace new technologies but getting all your channel partners to align around eCommerce is the real challenge of the digital transformation. Fortunately, incentive programs provide a number of ways to communicate the new system to the many links in your channel, get them comfortable and excited about it, and keep it fresh in their minds.