3 Types of Sales Incentives to Motivate Performance

3 types of sales incentivesChoosing the right sales incentives to motivate a team can be challenging. On the one hand, they need to be exciting enough to motivate a sales force to change their behavior, or at least point it in a certain direction. On the other hand, they also need to fit within an organization’s budget and not cost so much that they cancel out the benefit of holding a sales contest in the first place. Incentives can come in a number of different flavors, all of which can be effective.

Job-Related Incentives

This should be the least expensive form of incentive, since it can consist of items like additional vacation time which have no out-of-pocket cost. Non-tangible benefits like vacation time are only appropriate in a company culture which would allow employees to take advantage of them. There is still a “cost” to having people out of the office, but this type of reward can go a long way in terms of employee satisfaction.
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Other choices in this category include tangible sales incentives like a new cell phone, iPad or upgraded laptop. The item should be something “sexy” enough to get a salesperson excited but at the same time also have the potential to positively impact the salesperson’s productivity.

This type of incentive can be a double-win. The salesperson wins by getting a neat toy that helps them to work more productively to drive more results. The company wins because the prize not only motivates the salesperson to work harder to earn it but also because it will ultimately make them more effective, generating increased sales. Plus, the salesperson could be piloting a new sales tool, and if it proves highly effective could be rolled out to others.

Tangible Incentives

While offering a Cadillac or set of steak knives as prizes backfired in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, tangible sales incentives can be extremely effective motivators. The secret is to choose a prize that the members of a sales force want and likely wouldn’t buy on their own.

To understand what prize your salespeople may desire, consider the profiles of your salespeople. A two-year lease on a Cadillac would probably not be as exciting to a Gen-Y team. On the other hand, for a sales team that maintains a business-formal dress code, a couple of custom-tailored suits would be a good incentive. If the sales team couldn’t afford to buy themselves a custom suit, it would be an even better gift.

Finding a sales incentive that the members of your team generally do not have is also important. For example, giving away a 42-inch flatscreen television today is not as likely to excite people, since they probably already have one. Spending the same money on a high-end watch or other aspirational item could very well be the ticket.

Experiential Incentives

Experiences impact happiness more than purchases. Who wouldn’t be excited about a few days in Vegas or a week in Hawaii? There’s a reason that travel and experiences are such popular sales incentives: They work.

And there’s a way you can squeeze more performance out of an experiential incentive, too. Instead of sending one salesperson to Hawaii for a week, create a sales contest with a team experience — such as a team dinner or outing to a fun event — as a prize to add an additional level of effectiveness. Not only do these types of sales incentives reward high performers, but they also help them to bond with each other, increasing the likelihood that they will stick with you for the long run.

Every sales manager has stories about sales incentives that have failed to motivate their teams. By having a clear understanding of you team, their desires and their needs both inside and outside of work, you won’t be one of them. You’ll consistently choose the right incentives to motivate optimal sales performance.

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2 Responses
  1. Great article. I totally agree that “experiences impact happiness more than purchases”. I have run many contest over the years and the very best ones have involved trips or events not cash rewards. We are in Florida and the very best contest, that we have done, included a deep sea fishing trip for everyone that won.