Any Portal in a Storm

By Malcolm Fleschner

What’s the hottest thing going in incentive management these days? According to Mark Sullivan, a VP with the online incentive solutions provider SalesDriver (www.salesdriver.com), one of the hottest topics in the incentive world today is the idea that a Web-based incentive program can become a virtual clearinghouse for all sorts of critical sales information, from training and product updates to market information and best practices communications.

In fact, Sullivan says, customers who take their sales incentives online quickly realize they can do much more with a Web-based program than simply provide updates on how the reps are faring. “We find the majority of our customers understand the value of sharing information, not only with the direct salespeople but also in any channel programs they are running,” Sullivan says. “This allows them to easily have pricing information, product spec sheets, competitive information and even client presentations available. Imagine the power of launching a new product, building an incentive program around it and then incorporating a training module on that new product, product spec sheet, product pricing and a turnkey client presentation all as part of the incentive portal.”

Sullivan adds that it just makes good business sense to incorporate as much of the information salespeople need to do their jobs in one place where it will be easily accessible. “Salespeople will visit the incentive website to understand where they stand against their specific goals and in some cases against their peers,” he notes. “They normally are viewing this information daily, so having critical sales tools easily available is the key. Participants might log into SalesDriver and see a new message appearing on the homepage of the site letting them know a new product spec sheet is available. With one simple click they can be brought to the spec sheet to read or download it. Another example would be salespeople getting ready to make a client call about the new product or service and knowing they can simply get all the information they need in one spot.”

Sullivan advocates doing more than simply including additional information into the incentive site, however. He says that to maximize the site’s utility as a portal, companies should fold aspects of these other sales tools into the incentive program itself. “The incentive should incorporate the necessary activities to help the person become successful,” he notes. “A well-designed incentive program should include training and even a quiz to make sure the material was understood. The training director or marketing department can then easily measure participants’ product or industry knowledge and develop other course material that will help them.”

Taking this process one step further, Sullivan suggests that truly forward-thinking organizations will add a marketing element to the online incentive portal as well. “When you’ve opened up communication with the people who are face to face with end users, you’ve opened up a pipeline to critical market data,” he says. “Motivate those salespeople to share their experience by giving them points for filling out an online survey after every new lead or sales transaction. You’ll get immediate feedback on product pricing, features, packaging – whatever you need to know to make strategic sales decisions – and it’s coming right from the customer who is buying your product or listening to your sales pitch today. And we’re not talking about increasing your market research budget here. We’re talking about data that come to you as part of your performance improvement program – a program that pays for itself with increased sales. Further, when you build and manage the program online, you’re leveraging the power and reach of the Web to reap the rewards of a truly cost-effective sales strategy.”