Andrea Johnson

How Reversing the Funnel Increased Sales by 14% for a Sales Incentive Company

Traditional marketing practice presumes the more you invest in driving leads through the top of the sales funnel, the more revenue will come out the other side. But, when Certif-A-Gift Company, a sales incentive company, reversed this presumption, it ended up increasing sales by 14% and moving prospects through the sales cycle 23% faster.

The company had previously invested most of its time and resources at the very top of the funnel by building awareness among its channel partners. Certif-A-Gift Company developed features-and-benefits content, went to trade shows and made office visits.

“We wanted to get them on track to call us first if an opportunity did arise,” said Mark Repkin, Vice President, Certif-A-Gift Company. However, only 10% of its channel partners have a need for a sales-incentive program in any given year.

“Spending all that time and energy on an ‘if-come’ [basis] was very expensive,” Repkin admitted. “Then one day, our marketing team had this crazy idea, ‘How ‘bout we ask our partner representatives what they need from us to help them get more sales?’”

The team brought in a marketing strategy firm to help with this process. For six weeks, the firm interviewed enough Certif-A-Gift channel partners to see consistency in the answers. [Editor’s Note: Repkin did not want to share exact numbers for competitive reasons.]

“It was obvious that our channel partners wanted more leads from us, but a trend emerged amongst all of the top sales people. They were asking for more tools to use when they were in front of the customer,” Repkin explained.

The company found these top channel partners …

  • Needed to give influencers a document to convince others in the buying process to use sales incentives from Certif-A-Gift. Repkin explained relationships are often built at a lower level, but when it was time to advance the relationship, the lower-level contact wanted to introduce the idea to management without the channel partner.
  • Had many of the same types of questions on how to sell and execute a sales incentive program.

In response, over the next year, Certif-A-Gift would take its focus from top-of-funnel awareness to end-of-funnel closing materials. This included:

  • Creating a straightforward, concise executive overview document that is …
    • Used to help influencers secure a meeting between the channel partner and the decision maker
    • Free from traditional discussion about features and benefits and focuses entirely on the business case for running an incentive program
  • Developing a free 60-page e-book, SalesContestology. It outlines the principles of designing an incentive program. When channel partners or customers download this e-book, they:
    • Receive an email every two weeks that outlines a chapter in the book. “I call it spoon-feeding,” Repkin said. “If you don’t spoon-feed, the e-book is going to reside on their desktop and they’re never going to read it.”
    • Must answer this question to download the book: “What is your single most important question about sales contests or motivating your team?” The language used in the responses is repeated in the executive overview document and other sales content.
  • Creating short videos, fewer than four minutes, which answer common questions channel partners have at the later stages of the sales process. Certif-A-Gift’s inside sales team directs partners to these videos, and invites them to call back if they had more questions.

“Channel partners can use these videos to educate themselves at their own pace, in their own time, and go back and revisit them if needed,” Repkin said. “This gives the inside sales team more time to coach and mentor instead of explaining the same information over and over.”

Ironically, by focusing on the end of the funnel, Certif-A-Gift’s top-of-funnel activity expanded. As channel partners actively used Certif-A-Gift’s end-of-funnel content, they offered recommendations to make it better, which informed top-of-funnel efforts.

“You can only brag so much about yourself before you get to the point where no one is paying attention,” Repkin said. “Focusing on helping our channel partners close deals gave us more empathy to their needs, and therefore, we were able to create lead gen content that became more relatable and more effective.”

Related Resources:

B2B Sales Cycle: 4 steps to avoid the wasteful ‘no decision’

Webinar Replay: Six Funnel Focal Points to Finish 2011 Strong – Part I

Webinar Replay: Six Funnel Focal Points to Finish 2011 Strong – Part 2

Fresh Ideas to Reignite Stalled Leads and Accelerate the Sales Funnel

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  1. | #1

    Mark, it’s great to see the results you achieved. Thanks for bringing us in to assist on the strategy development and to help you extract all those terrific ideas hiding in your gray matter.

  2. | #2

    Once you have a proven sales system, why wouldn’t you want every single person to be as prepared as possible when meeting with a client. Even as a reference of straight cost vs recurring maintenance cost. Anyone in sales knows a cheat sheet never hurts if you close it.

  3. | #3

    The hardest part is getting that sit down with the decision maker. If you get that far, you may be in better shape than you think. Don’t tell them what you think they want to hear, tell them how much better things will be once you are working together. In more detail of course.

  4. | #4

    Great article. I’m experiencing a few of these issues as well..

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