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How to avoid ‘Failure to Launch’ in your distribution channel

Written by: Marie Hilliard, DVP of Automotive Group, BI WORLDWIDE
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After a tremendous investment of time and resources to develop a new product, the last thing you need is to have it flounder and stagnate in your distribution channel, like a 20-something living in your basement.

Launching a new product through a sales channel that you don’t control requires you to cut through all the other priorities facing your channel sales reps to capture their attention. The even bigger challenge is keeping their attention focused on your new product and inspiring them to care. Will they learn all the features and benefits of your new product? Do they have the time to add this to their list of everything else they’re asked to do?

You want your channel reps focused, emotionally engaged and setting goals to sell your new product. Chances are you’ve developed an incentive promotion to inspire them to take action.

There is one thing that will make all the difference between success and failure of your incentive: Engaged field managers.

An engaged field manager will inspire far more enthusiasm from channel sales reps for your new product.


BI WORLDWIDE conducted a recent study to determine the impact a field manager representing the manufacturer has on the engagement of independent channel sales reps. The results were statistically significant between an engaged field manager versus a disengaged field manager.

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In addition to inspiring excitement among channel sales reps, engaged field managers have a significant impact on the level of participation in channel incentives. Two identical incentive programs were aimed at independent automotive dealer sales reps. In one instance, the OEM field managers were highly engaged and in the other they were not.

The program with highly engaged field managers resulted in 8x the engagement of channel sales reps.

Your busy field managers juggle priorities all the time as they call on your channel. Here are four tactics that work to engage your field managers and accelerate the results of your incentive programs:

  1. Ask for their input. As you plan incentives aimed at your channel, take advantage of your front-line managers’ knowledge of the channel audience. They have valuable insight to share.
  2. Give them a preview. Give your field organization a heads up of what you’ll be sending out to the channel. Explain the program to them so they can explain it to channel reps. Sending out materials and following up with a webinar can be effective.
  3. Keep it simple. Resist the temptation to complicate your incentive program with excessive qualifiers and other KPIs that distract from your new product. Your field managers should be able to easily describe the program to their channel reps.
  4. Give them a reason. Some organizations don’t believe in providing incentives to their field managers and rely solely on compensation to motivate them. That doesn’t mean you can’t incite a little friendly competition by using leaderboards to reflect enrollments, engagement and results for each field manager’s region.

By mobilizing your field managers around your new product, you’ll significantly increase the engagement of your independent channel sales reps.

Marie Hilliard

Marie Hilliard

Division Vice President
Automotive Group

As Division Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Automotive Group, Marie Hilliard’s primary focus is to develop engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of automotive employees, consumers and the dealer network to drive positive business results. An expert in applying behavioral economics to program design, Marie coaches professionals throughout North America on how to best engage people to drive desired results.