Channel Meet Up review: Why this is a GOOD time to motivate partner Sales Reps

Posted by Dan Kelly

Channel Meet Up review: Why this is a GOOD time to motivate Partner Sales Reps. Here’s a view from the inside

I think it is fair to say that there were a few jittery nerves from the organiser and sponsors of the first Virtual Channel Meet Up in the build up to the event that was just held on May 27th, 2020. Would the Zoom links work, how will people get to the breakout rooms, will people engage and be as open and conversive as the real-life events? There is always so much energy and discussion at the CMU events in both EMEA and North America that it could prove hard to replicate that in an online environment.

While the event was undoubtedly different, I felt from my personal experience it worked really well, and of course it was always going to be successful. With meticulous preparation by Emily Cotton (Founder of The Channel meet Up) and the huge experience brought from the fantastically passionate and motivated Channel professionals that always attend these events. Combined with the vast industry experience of the sponsors the Virtual On-Air series was always going to get the blood pumping and the senses tingling.

Join us on June 24th, for the next Channel Meet Up event - Creating a Better Partner Experience for the ``New Normal``

Sign up here

Main session takeaways

We are all having to adapt and change the way we interact in our business lives and the event optimised that. Adaptability was a key theme of the main panel session hosted by Peter Thomas (E2Open), where we heard from Sandra Glasser Cheek, Jennifer Judy (Poly), May Mitchell (Cylance) and Larry Walsh (2112), all the way through to the discussion groups in the breakout sessions. My colleague Mike Ryan captured the three key takeaways in his blog.

Why this is a GOOD time to motivate partner Sales Reps

The breakout groups element of the event is always the highlight for me. It is a chance to get to know fellow ‘CMUers’ and hear about their challenges, innovation, and solutions as a session host.

The session I hosted was ‘Why this is a GOOD time to motivate partner Sales Reps?’, which proved a hot topic with over 40 people signed up. Sales Rep motivation and engagement is always a topic that sparks a lot of debate. Why do it…they get paid right? When is a good time? Is it appropriate? How do I align my needs with my partners? How much should I budget? The questions are endless, and of course for every vendor, every partner and every sales rep the answers are different. There is no ‘one-size fits all’, as with all partner facing channel activity, collaboration, goal alignment and personalisation are key to success.

However, such flexibility can make any motivation and rewards program clunky and hard to manage. So, you need a framework that is robust enough to be efficient and scalable but have enough flexibility to allow you to be responsive to specific needs. The single most important advice I can give to anyone wanting to design and launch such a program is simple. ‘Start with the end goal in mind’. Work out what business benefit you are going to bring to everyone involved and work backwards. Factor in timing, resource availability and budget and you have a solid launchpad to work from.

Our session focus was helped by people submitting some of their questions and challenges before the event via the registration page. This helped set the agenda and focus for the session. Some of these are highlighted below:

  • What tools / working patterns have changed to ensure Partner Sales Reps are connected to their Partners?
  • What are some incentive best practices for driving partner Account Exec behaviour?
  • What tools, promotions, SPIFFs, are being used to motivate partners in today’s pandemic?
  • Besides ‘why’…  can we discuss best practices for ‘how?’

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Why Nutanix have chosen to launch a reward programme now

The session was well attended, and we had representation from some fantastic companies across hardware, software and cloud. I was pleased to see some familiar faces (running these sessions can be quite daunting at times, especially if no one speaks up) as well as few new ones to add to more value to the discussion. We had invited Rowena Case from Nutanix to our session as Rowena has worked with CR for many years on engagement, motivation and reward programs and we knew that she would have some great insights to share with the group. I invited Rowena to kick things off and get the discussion going for the group with very brief Q&A and we were not wrong! Here are a few of the helpful insights she shared:

Why is now the right time to motivate for Nutanix?

  • Partner engagement and enablement programs existed previously for Nutanix, but not as much virtually
  • It’s been about adapting quickly, primarily looking to get call out days online to enable large scale sales activation across EMEA and South Africa
  • Scale and Reach – There has been huge benefit of this, such as having more Nutanix representation on these virtual events, rather than just being able to speak to one or two people in person
  • Allows for the use of virtual functionality, such as a live leaderboards and more support / facetime with Nutanix employee – Overall, just a wider breadth of people resources for partners to feel connected to Nutanix

Is digital / virtual the new normal?

  • Very likely, yes, but even when we do get back into physical interactions, we can still utilise all of the digital assets we have created. We anticipate seeing a better mix of physical and virtual contact, given how seamlessly many of us have adapted to strictly virtual contact

What are vendors using right now to dangle the ‘carrot’ for partners?

  • E-vouchers as rewards, or small gift / food vouchers for people to order in and get a takeaway or dinner. It does not have to cost the earth, speed and convenience are more valued right now
  • Taking physical events online – Nutanix runs ‘Brewtanix’ events with local coffee shops and breweries, so they have started to bring these events online by sending beer or coffee to partners instead
  • Deploying more surveys and direct mailers to elicit feedback during this time – Make the partners feel heard and reward them with something like a t-shirt, box of chocolates, or an instant reward code via email or SMS that directs them to a branded platform where they can use the unique code to redeem a reward of their choice

 What about gamification?

  • Gamification is really key to driving high levels of engagement. In a vendor crowded channel space, being stand out, fun and giving even more value to the reps is paramount to success
  • Focus on instilling the right behaviours that support the partner reps not just demanding closed sales
  • Potentially use gamification not just for partners, but for the partners’ end customers as well
  • Utilise small rewards and limited budgets when other incentives might be on hold for the time being – re-purpose MDF allocated to cancelled events and training and get a bigger bang for buck

This then flowed into a discussion and sharing session, and here is a summary of the main thoughts and take-aways:

  • Partners are crying out for support right now: Enablement is the key to keeping them engaged
  • Provide them certification and learning tools to keep them going while they’re at home
  • Look to run programs that are low-cost while still being engaging – Gamification and fun will make you stand out
  • Be creative with your interactions and programs; don’t just focus on KPIs and revenue goals – While still important, partners want to feel valued for more than just their numbers
  • Be open and honest with partners – Share some of your personal challenges (or company challenges) as well; bring a more human element to virtual interactions

So, as I said at the beginning of this blog, the event was a success. It was different, a new different, but so much valuable experience and insight shared amongst the group as always. From the panel to the breakouts. Yes, we miss the physical face to face interaction, the debates, the jokes, the great food, but the same energy, knowledge excitement and passion was there in abundance for the benefit of the whole community.

I am really looking forward to the next one…. Join us on June 24th 2020 to discover how to ‘Create a Better Partner Experience for the New Normal’. In our breakout room we’ll be discussing ‘How to use Gamification to Boost Partner Engagement.’

Register your place for free here and selected our room from the dropdown. See you there!

To discuss how we can help build and implement new channel sales and marketing initiatives within your business, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented reward solutions in these businesses.

As a founding partner of CR Worldwide in 2002, Dan helped develop the company from a start-up business into the multi-million global brand it is today.