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Salesforce tackles B2B rebate management automation

Salesforce's tool for manufacturer rebates may have applications in other verticals, as it automates typically spreadsheet-driven processes.

Today, Salesforce introduced Rebate Management, a feature set designed to automate the rebates manufacturers give to sales partners and distributors when they move enough product to trigger incentives.

Rebate management programs typically are run by financial departments, often on spreadsheets, according to Gordon Evans, vice president of product marketing at Salesforce Industries. Salesforce built the pricey -- subscriptions are $120,000 per year -- tool at the request of large manufacturing customers that wanted to more fully automate the process, give partner sellers real-time feedback on their progress toward incentives and connect financial applications to CRM data.

While sales rebate programs are popular in the manufacturing sector, Evans said, they also show up among Salesforce customers in other verticals, such as pharmaceuticals and retail. The programs incentivize stores or distributors to favor a company over its competitors.

Salesforce Rebate Management features include real-time tracking and visibility to users -- including sales, finance and other interested departments -- as well as a mobile dashboard for the channel partners that show how much progress they've made toward achieving a sales goal during the current sales period. The features, available now in the Spring '21 Salesforce release, were homegrown and not part of any Salesforce acquisition, Evans said.

Salesforce Rebate Management mobile dashboard
The Salesforce Rebate Management mobile dashboard tracks progress for incentive programs for both users and their distributor partners.

Rebate Management data can be paired with its close sibling, Loyalty Management for consumers, to give Salesforce users a more complete picture of who is buying product and where in order to fine-tune partner incentives and further drive sales, Evans said.

Rebate management is in a very similar category to loyalty programs.
Nicole FranceAnalyst, Constellation Research

Rebate programs a long-lived marketing tactic

Salesforce can't be faulted for giving its customers what they need to do business, Constellation Research analyst Nicole France said. That said, rebate programs in general represent an antiquated marketing tactic dating back to the 1960s to drive sales. Today's technology and data management strategies should be able to replace them with more precise, analytics-driven programs that benefit both a manufacturer and its distributors.

"Rebate management is in a very similar category to loyalty programs, especially when you look at loyalty programs outside of airlines, hotels and credit cards," France said. "Wow, these are some old-school tools. These are tools that we had when we didn't have very good information flows, certainly nothing close to real time."

While there can be a place for rebate management in the marketer's toolbox, France said she believes the whole idea should be reimagined to generate better business results and the technology built to support a better, "more nuanced" model based on revenue operations.

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