Training Incentives Are Vital in the Digital Sales Era

Author: 
Lincoln Smith

The modern world asks a lot of B2B business owners. Between long-term evolution like the digital transformation and (hopefully) short-term disruptions such as economic downturn or the coronavirus pandemic, it’s a lot to navigate. As a longtime member of the incentives industry, I am often asked what businesses can do to better manage their sales teams and their relationships with their channel partners in the constantly changing world. My answer: sales training initiatives.

We’re currently in what some might consider the golden age of sales training initiatives. Sales training has grown in importance in the past decade. For example, one of our key high-tech clients initiated a straightforward deal registration program and quickly pivoted to a robust sales training and engagement effort. Today, this popular program creates channel brand advocates by rewarding those who view learning videos, complete in-person courses, take surveys, generate participant content (testimonials), or engage with an assigned sales/account rep (bring them in on a joint sale).

A closer look at a sales training incentive program

Traditional sales incentive programs reward participants with merchandise, travel or something else (preferably not cash) for achieving a goal. That’s a component of what we do at HMI, but equally important are programs that grow our clients’ businesses indirectly through training and enablement initiatives.

These sales training/enablement incentive programs can be focused internally, (i.e., at a business’ direct sales team) or toward indirect sales channel partners (or both). Either way, a training incentive program helps build its participants’ skills in areas such as product knowledge, navigating a digital platform and communication. The result isn’t just that they sell more of your product; it also helps them grow their business (if they’re
a channel partner) or grow as a member of your company (if they’re on your internal sales team).

Why now?

Why is this a trending incentive initiative? It’s a product of the era we find ourselves in — the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As technology continues to advance, the products and services salespeople are selling are getting increasingly complex, as are the channels they sell through and buyers they sell to.

The days of the transactional, mundane and repetitive nature of sales are long gone. Anything routine now is attempted to be streamlined through technology. To succeed in sales, sales teams and channel partners need to focus on adding value. They need to be more educated on the value proposition and how the solution helps drive superior results for each stakeholder.

Why consider a sales incentive strategy?

In the COVID-19 era, online training and certifications have skyrocketed. People have turned to learning to fill their time and improve their skills. Consider that:

  • Attendance for massive open online courses (MOOCs) increased 640% from mid-March to mid-April for just one provider.
  • LinkedIn learning usage increased 3X during the same period.
  • LinkedIn Learning Group memberships increased 130% from February to March.

It’s also clear that the digital transformation is upon us. As we move further into the 21st century and our economy becomes more and more entwined with the digital world, businesses are reconsidering their sales structure: How many people should you have on your sales team? And what, exactly, should their role be?

A training incentive program can help your team adjust to
the digital transformation and come out on the other side stronger. For example, Motivforce recently conducted a sales training program for IBM in which participating partners ended up selling 10 times more IBM product compared to non-participants.

Training is expected

Without a sales training initiative, you may fall behind your competitors in terms of channel partnership or struggle with employee retention. Well-chosen incentives are proven to stimulate salespeople to act.

Whether your sales training incentive program participants are indirect channel partners or your inside sales team,
helping them achieve professional success is a win-win. Sales commissions will reward results, incentives will reward activities and behavior.

Lincoln Smith is the chief strategy officer for HMI Performance Incentives, where he works with companies in over 30 industries to design strategies to accelerate growth and increase customer engagement.


Sales & Marketing Management is the leading authority for executives in the sales and marketing field.

Sales & Marketing Management is owned by Mach1 Business Media, LLC Minneapolis, MN.

Connect With Us

Sales & Marketing Management invites YOU to take an active role by joining the SMMConnect community.

Take advantage of your complimentary membership at SMMConnect.