Two in One

 DAMEROW ARTICLE 01Combine your CRM and online reward platforms for maximum ROI.

By Steve Damerow

CRM stands for “customer relationship management,” but the term has morphed into “managing direct salespeople.” There are more than 40 CRM platforms on the market that do the same thing — manage salespeople. If you use a direct sales approach, you can force your team to adopt CRM; however, US Commerce data maintains that 80 percent of the U.S. sales economy operates through a distributor, dealer or channel network — and you can’t force a dealer to adopt CRM.

It’s time to focus on integrating CRM platforms with new online/mobile incentive reward platforms that will reach all the goals of “forcing” the team, yet do it with a carrot instead of a stick. The net effect will be better sales accounting and a more engaged dealer network.


My proposal is to merge the sales tracking process with the new online/mobile incentive rewards platform to promote the activities that generate the sought-after goal for both internal and indirect sales channels within the wholesale and distribution industry. Here’s how:

Step #1: Promote adoption.

Create and communicate your expectation of “good adoption” by segmenting users by your objectives. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for each segment and use CRM platform as “tutorial” to communicate KPIs.

Measure who is doing what, how much and how often. Use performance tracking features within CRM as means of quantifying goals. Also utilize CRM to create a leaderboard and post status. Use “pick lists” and rules of validation to promote timeliness and quality. The info is only as good as the quality and timeliness. Penalize for poor performance.

Bind compensation with proper adoption. Compensation should have a direct correlation with segmented KPIs. Pay for performance!

Step #2: Reward the proper route to sales.

Integrate a mobile/online point program that immediately rewards goal attainment. New non-cash point program reward platforms offer a user experience that is similar to Amazon or Expedia – a choice of hundreds of gift cards all wrapped into a single dashboard. Determine what will motivate best above the normal cash compensation and reward often and openly.

Create competition and an upper echelon via leaderboards. Users maturity will affect how best to motivate; i.e., new users will need immediate short-term spiffs but experienced users will be more motivated by public competition and recognition of a leaderboard.

Try using gamification to create a sense of Vegas-type big winners. “Spin to win” and other types of gamification allow you to parlay small rewards that probably will not move the needle into a sweepstakes type, all or nothing gambling event; i.e., bet $30 with a 1:1000 chance to win a $30K bass boat.

The key is immediacy, flexibility and transparency with your participants. The beauty of online/mobile platform-based programs is the ability to load a cyber currency immediately for fulfillment either on the web or smart phone as a mobile wallet. Transparency is achieved by being clear which activities will be promoted and for how long. For example, a new sales person or dealer may receive points for product knowledge, whereas a more seasoned individual receives points for an end result.

To ensure flexibility, make it clear that your rules will evolve as your corporate objectives change. Promote the activities you need as you need them.

The new rules of CRM adoption

According to Luke Kreitner, VP of Sales, Loyaltyworks, “The key is to gain that dealer salesperson ‘mindshare’ and promote best practices that translate back to reaching predetermined KPIs for the manufacturer.”

Kreitner explains, “Obviously, it is easier to insist a direct sales force adopt a CRM platform, but 80 percent of the American economy relies on channel sales. In channel sales, the incentive reward platform actually functions as your customer relationship tool. Your dealers are adopting CRM through the sales incentive platforms and don’t even know it, because it is rewarding and painless.”

CRM adoption varies greatly by user, and using immediate rewards promotes both the proper usage and reiterates that following the CRM procedure is beneficial to the user. It’s similar to Pavlov’s dogs. The amount of reward and the time and hassle it takes to receive it are related. If you reduce the time/hassle factor, you can even reduce the reward but have a greater consequence.

Kreitner concludes, “New CSS-based platforms allow our clients to actively change their promotions as needed so they can be more responsive and garner ROI all for less money than previously attainable.”

To sum it up, combining CRM and online reward incentive platforms will achieve maximum ROI for your wholesale and/or distribution business if you follow these two key guidelines:

1) Promote adoption AND individually focus not only in the stage of sale, but the maturity of the recipient.

2) Integrate the new mobile/online engagement reward platform to incentivize the recipient and promote “mindshare” engagement.

Steve Damerow is CEO of Incentive Solutions. He is a recognized expert and published author, and hosts the national radio show “Business Matters.” Incentive Solutions currently manages more than 100 incentive loyalty programs in the wholesale/distribution sector. He can be reached at or 678-514-0203. 

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