Unlocking sales potential requires a well-designed incentive program. HR must develop a promotion and communication plan to grow awareness and encourage company-wide participation.
Rewards can include cash bonuses, extra PTO, trips, merchandise, plum assignments, and other perks. Employees need to see the connection between their efforts and these awards, so make them frequent.
How Incentive Programs Work
Using a variety of tools, incentive programs can motivate salespeople to surpass specific sales goals. A common approach involves offering tangible rewards like cash, gift cards, and merchandise for hitting sales targets. However, research shows that non-cash incentives, like experiential prizes and travel experiences, have more impact because they hold greater emotional and social value and provide a memorable experience your team will want to repeat.
To design a successful sales incentive program, you’ll need to understand who will participate. If you’re not sure who your target audience is, you can survey some of them or interview a group to find out what kinds of rewards they would be most interested in receiving and what kinds of motivators will drive them to meet those objectives.
You’ll also need to determine the length of the sales incentive program. Choosing the right duration is important because it will set a tone for your goal setting and help inspire participants to stay motivated throughout the program. For example, a short-term incentive will help motivate salespeople to achieve shorter-term sales goals, while a year-end rewards program will provide motivation to work towards the end goals.
Another factor to consider is the scalability of your sales incentive program. Generally, modern incentive programs use online interfaces to assign points, fulfill rewards, and communicate with participants. This improves scalability, accessibility, and data tracking. Additionally, using a digital platform that can manage the complexities of a large-scale sales incentive program is a good idea, so you don’t have to worry about administrative challenges.
A well-designed sales incentive program will be easy to understand and manage. To do this, you’ll need to clarify the granular decisions leadership has made about eligibility, payout logic, governance, and what these choices mean for individual employees. This can be accomplished by creating a communications plan that acknowledges the nuances of your incentive program and how these details will affect your participants. Additionally, it’s important to collect feedback on the effectiveness of your program after it ends.
When designing a sales incentive program, it’s important to consider the overall impact and objectives. Incentive owners must ensure that the desired outcomes of a program are clear and that goals and rewards are commensurate with each other. Using this information, incentives should be created that motivate employees to meet or exceed their targets. This includes creating measurable, specific, and understandable goals that align with the company’s core values.
In addition, it’s important to consider the timing of a program. For example, launching an incentive program just before a major holiday is not a good idea. Instead, launching the program during a less busy period is better, which will help ensure that the program receives adequate attention and support from managers and employees alike.
It’s also important to avoid the McNamara Fallacy, which occurs when an organization focuses too narrowly on one aspect of its incentive program’s objectives and fails to see the big picture. This often happens when a desired outcome is too difficult or too easy to measure quantitatively, which causes companies to fail to realize the desired results of their programs. For instance, Wells Fargo once designed a sales incentive program that focused on increasing the number of new customer accounts opened by its reps. While this objective was relatively easy to measure, the bank failed to recognize that the ultimate desired outcome of its program was not more new customers but rather growth in the number of happy, well-served ones.
The frequency with which an organization pays incentive earnings is another important factor to consider when designing an effective sales incentive program. Generally, it’s recommended to pay incentives as close to the time of a sale as possible to maximize motivational impact. However, this may not be feasible for companies that manage complex customer accounts over long periods or for which the sales cycle is more transactional.
It’s also best practice to provide a range of incentives to motivate all sales team segments. This will prevent a top-heavy program that only rewards the highest performers, which could undermine morale and create resentment among lower-performing employees. In addition, it will ensure that all sales team members feel like they have a chance to win.
For an incentive program to be effective, it must have clear, measurable objectives and rewards. Monetary incentives may include commissions, a quarterly or yearly bonus, or stock options. Non-monetary incentives can include items like recognition awards, special meals or events, travel rewards, gym memberships, and tuition reimbursement. Whatever the incentive, it must be clearly explained to employees so they know what they need to do to earn it. Similarly, it must be clear when the reward will be given. This is a critical step because trying to reach a nebulous goal can be discouraging.
To keep the incentive on track, reviewing the program periodically and determining whether it is still working is important. If not, it is time to make changes. This can involve changing the structure of the plan, the goals, or the rewards. It can also mean adjusting the way that sales performance is measured or how the program is administered. For example, many organizations have found that a gainsharing or profit-sharing plan offering employees incentive payments based on the company’s financial gains is more effective than an annual bonus.
Another consideration when designing an incentive program is how to determine who is eligible for a reward. Some research suggests that putting a ceiling on how high a person can be paid under a variable incentive plan creates a hierarchy of talent that puts the top performers in a superior position over consistent contributors. For this reason, some companies opt for a hybrid approach that rewards individual performance as well as the performance of the entire team.
No number of gift cards or concerts can motivate employees if they do not find meaning in their jobs. A positive company culture with built-in benefits and perks, including mentoring programs, professional development opportunities, and flexible work hours, increases employee engagement and reduces turnover. A good incentive program can further bolster that environment, encouraging employees to stay put and ramp up their productivity even more. This, in turn, leads to better business outcomes. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
To get the most out of incentive programs, managers need to create, manage, and optimize them. This includes monitoring and adjusting goals for the program as the business changes. It also means providing sales leaders and frontline employees with real-time insights into their performance so plans can be adjusted quickly to meet company objectives. An incentive management platform can help with this. It provides a central place for managers and sales reps to view the latest performance information, drill down into details and compare data against historical audits.
Incentive programs are a great way to boost morale and encourage productivity. However, they do not replace a positive work environment or other vital employee benefits. For example, an excellent salary, a variety of benefits, and a culture that values the contributions of all employees can boost employee engagement.
For any incentive program to be effective, it should clearly explain how participation is measured and how the perks of the program will be distributed. In addition, it is important to consider the impact of the program on other areas of the organization. For example, an incentive to improve teamwork and collaboration may require companies to change their policies on collaborating with peers or how they handle customer issues.
Many companies offer incentives to their teams based on the number of products or services sold. This can put a huge emphasis on individual salespeople’s performance and leave weaker team members feeling demoralized. A better option for some organizations is to use a team-based incentive model where a percentage of the overall revenue generated by the sales team is split evenly among the team members.
Another consideration is whether to offer incentives based on creativity or problem-solving. For instance, a small business with a limited budget might reward in-house creatives who can provide the most innovative solution to a pressing problem. Software like Stormboard or BrightIdea can help set up these types of initiatives by creating a virtual brainstorming environment that makes it easy for employees to participate and share ideas.