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Need a killer sales incentive program? Here’s our step-by-step guide.

May 28, 2021 | Incentives & Recognition, Sales Incentives

Motivating your teams is easy, right? All you have to do is arrange a friendly competition among naturally competitive sales teams and hand out cash bonuses. It may seem like a winning combination, but it will do little to move the needle and improve sales results.

Motivation isn’t as easy as it looks. The world of work has changed and as a result, our methods of motivating teams needs to change, too. Your employees want more, whether that’s more time with their family, more flexibility in where they do their jobs, or more recognition from their leaders after a job well done.

There’s a science to the art of motivation. It’s time to break the old rules and try something new, and something that is strategic. Follow these steps to creating your new rules and designing and executing a killer sales incentive program.

Step 1: What are your objectives?

Resist the temptation to start planning your program around the rewards you’ll give your top performers. We know, it’s fun (and easy!) to skip right to the good stuff when it comes to thinking about a sales incentive program. But starting with the end in mind is crucial to an effective sales incentive program.

What objectives and goals do you want to impact? What specific behaviors do you need to modify? Don’t worry about creating a long list of measurable objectives. Too many objectives may have a negative effect on your program outcomes because your participants will lose focus. Most effective sales team incentive programs have up to three objectives.

For a sample list of objectives, check out our Ultimate Guide to a Killer Sales Incentive Program step-by-step workbook here.

Step 2: Who can impact success?

Everyone on your team is essential to business success. But, it’s important to identify champions on your team who can help with your sales incentive program design. These are your employees or channel partners who can influence objective achievement and help you exceed your high-level goals.

All roles should be represented within your champions, from management on down. For example, your sales support team most likely has direct customer contact and therefore can affect sales. Channel partners are also instrumental in helping organizations achieve sales goals through an indirect sales process.

Questioning if you need a program based on individual or team performance? Read our Ultimate Guide to a Killer Sales Incentive Program.

Step 3: What are the rewards?

“But what’s in it for me?” A killer sales incentive program needs killer rewards to keep participants motivated. This motivation drives us to be satisfied in our jobs, with our leaders, and with our companies. If you aren’t motivated, then you aren’t doing more to help impact the organization’s bottom line. Thus, rewards are key.

No two employees are the same, therefore, each employee is motivated by different things. Your colleagues represent multiple age groups, they are part of different career stages, and they all have different interests. Don’t pigeonhole everyone on your team and assume they will be motivated by the same type of reward.

Instead, give them a choice of rewards. A sales incentive program that is built around choice allows everyone on your team to spend on their schedule and get exactly the type of reward they want. Now that’s motivating.

Think cash is the best type of reward? Think again! Learn why cash isn’t king when motivating your team in our Ultimate Guide to a Killer Sales Incentive Program.

Step 4: What is your budget?

You’ll need buy-in from your internal stakeholders, and this will require providing an initial program cost estimate. Business is driven by numbers, so it’s only fitting that a killer sales incentive program is, too. Start by tying your budget numbers to your KPIs. This will help you drive those important conversations with your leadership team to fully fund your sales incentive wish list.

When determining your budget, there are several program structures to consider. Will you have an open or closed budget strategy? Are you determining your budget’s value based on projected results or potential earnings? What’s your program duration? All of these answers factor in to your final program budget.

For a full list of budget parameters, check out our Ultimate Guide to a Killer Sales Incentive Program step-by-step workbook.

Step 5: How will you communicate the program?

Secret incentive programs are never successful ones. In order to create a killer sales incentive program, you need a killer communications plan to help emphasize the importance of the program and motivate your teams even more. But as we mentioned when determining rewards, not all employees are the same. Your communication plan needs to take that into consideration, too.

In order for your sales incentive programs to gain traction among your teams, you must communicate with your audiences in different ways. Start by segmenting your audiences to identify how they are most likely to want to receive information. This could be done by job roles or internal vs. external teams. As your program continues, don’t forget to vary the communication among top performers to keep them engaged, while also continuing to motivate other participants to meet their goals.

For a full list of audiences and communication tools, read our Ultimate Guide to a Killer Sales Incentive Program step-by-step workbook.

Step 6: How will you measure success?

Don’t wait until the end of your killer sales incentive program to start measuring its success. Measurement can be an ongoing process, and successful sales incentive programs are built around regular review of the analytics so the program can be adjusted.

It starts by understanding the performance drivers that influence behavior and establishing your success parameters. Planning now to ensure all KPI data is captured is key to program success. For example, additional tracking tools may be required to capture all of the program information, which is sometimes the case when channel partners.

Need ideas on how to measure success? Read our Ultimate Guide to a Killer Sales Incentive Program step-by-step workbook.

The world is changing, and so have your employees’ motivations. Don’t fall back into the old way of doing things when it comes to your sales incentive program. A killer sales incentive program is dependent on breaking the old rules and establishing new rules that are built with the end in mind.

Richelle Taylor

Richelle Taylor

Richelle Taylor is a leader in performance improvement and marketing services in North America. Richelle oversees One10’s go-to-market strategy and its Incentives & Recognition business segment which includes global rewards as well as technology development for One10’s propriety performance improvement platform, PerformX. Taylor brings a seasoned background to One10, having held leadership positions in marketing, sales and product management for enterprise recognition and incentive technology solutions. She is an active member of the Cincinnati chapter of the Network of Executive Women (NEW) and a member of Women in Business Networking (WIBN), in which she was named Top 25 Women to Watch in 2013. Over the last 20 years, Taylor has published articles and spoken on incentive and recognition best practices.
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