4 Mistakes You Are Making in Your Sales Incentive Program

Jul 22, 2020 | Sales Incentives

sales incentive program

So, you think you have an effective sales incentive program? Your sales team knows what their sales goals are, and they are motivated by the performance cash bonuses. You have a pulse on the situation because you check in with the sales team during their annual performance review. You’ve also created your system to monitor the status and engagement of your participants with good ole spreadsheets. Does this sound like you?

Plainly stated, your business will suffer if you don’t implement a sales incentive program the right way. Yes, we said it – the right way. Not all incentive methodologies are the same (and neither are the companies who specialize in incentives). That’s why you must do your research to not only select a plan that gives you the ROI you deserve and positively impacts your bottom line. Creating and building relationships with your team and adding more engaged stakeholders along the way is just a bonus.

According to One10’s rsX℠ Employee Study, our report gathered data from more than 3,000 US employees across various industries and roles, 74% of respondents said they were more likely to remain an employee of that company when they felt like their organization properly recognized them. You simply can’t afford to make a mistake when implementing your sales incentive program.

Here are four common mistakes we see in sales incentive programs:

1. Taking a one-size-fits-all approach

You motivate your sales team with gifts and then they will sell more, right? Well, not exactly. You have to go much deeper than that.

First of all, are you limiting your incentives to only the sales team? This is a shortsighted approach and you run the risk of alienating other employees throughout your organization. Many roles contribute to the sale and many employees who support your sales network. Everyone should have an opportunity to participate in an incentive program. After all, all employees should be working toward helping your business achieve your objectives, right? Here’s how you can incorporate your entire team:

  • Sales Support Team: Who has direct customer contact and serve as your front line of defense when customers call or have questions? Think about your receptionists, call center staff, sales administrators, or client account teams. Don’t forget about this important group, and make sure they are motivated by your sales incentive program.
  • Service Teams: Who helps build customer relationships after the sale and throughout a customer’s lifecycle? These are essential team members who should also have a place in your sales incentive program. Not only do they offer valuable feedback about a customer’s wants and needs, but they can provide leads in the pipeline that can generate organic growth—which will help you reach your business objectives.
  • Channel Partners: Who helps sell your product outside of your organization? These channel partners are essential for indirect sales and must be included in any sales incentive program. Remember, channel partners aren’t just selling your goods or services. They are also selling those of your competitors. Make sure they are motivated to put your company at the top of the list.

Your communication shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach either. Not all employees are the same, so why are you giving them the same motivational messages or program information? Tailor your messages so it fits the audience. Vary the copy, imagery, and delivery format to reach your teams more effectively.

Learn how to segment your audiences by reading this article.

2. My team prefers cash

But do they? Sure, cash seems enticing, but it’s not always the best solution to motivate everyone on your team. Why? Cash is transactional. You spend the cash, and your experience with it is complete. You may even quickly forget why you were awarded the cash in the first place. Rewards, on the other hand, are lasting. They are memorable. Rewards are a constant reminder (and motivator) to keep doing the behavior that got you the reward in the first place.

A successful plan offers a flexible rewards mix that gives everyone on your team plenty of reward options. Having the choice of rewards is powerful and goes a long way in ongoing engagement within your sales incentive program. Plus, chances are you have a very diverse group of program participants. They represent different generations who are each at varying levels of their careers. They may represent different geographic areas, where certain rewards are more motivational than others. Your participants also represent different psychographics, with some being savers while others being spenders. Having the right rewards mix is vital to engage everyone on your team in the right way.

So, what rewards should be included in the rewards mix? We’ve found the best success with awarding points that can be redeemed for merchandise (like athletic equipment, electronics, and appliances), retail gift cards from traditional brands, event tickets, and individual travel. In light of the global pandemic, rewards have changed. As expected, reward travel is down, but studies from the Incentive Research Foundation show prepaid card or gift card use is seeing the most significant increase.

3. I communicate well with my team already

Congratulations! We recognize how tough it is to continuously communicate with your teams—especially if they are spread across multiple geographies. As a result of COVID-19, we have recognized this need more than ever. Personalized communication with your employees is especially important, and this takes time. It’s essential to craft thoughtful communication and use your communication tools effectively to help all of your employees understand they are a critical component to the overall organization.

Many companies stop at simply introducing the sales incentive program. But, we know from experience that ongoing communication is essential throughout the program to continuously motivate your teams to act. We say this all the time – a secret incentive program is never a successful one.

An effective communications plan is often the piece of an incentive program that receives less love and is sometimes overlooked altogether. Our experience suggests you should think otherwise. To accomplish your program objectives, consider allocating 15 to 20% of your overall incentive budget on an effective communications strategy.

Here’s how you can communicate throughout the participant journey and tailor communication specifically to your employees’ needs:

  • Attract: In this phase, you are announcing the program and garnering awareness and interest. Your goal with your communication should be to get as many participants as possible interested in the program and drive them to enroll. Remember to explain the “why” behind the sales incentive program. This makes sure your teams are all on the same page and have a feeling of being “in this together.”
  • Initiate: After your participants have taken the first step in enrolling in the sales incentive program, you need to encourage them to take the second step and activate it. In this communication phase, you should be reinforcing the rules and promoting the benefits of participating in the program.
  • Achieve: By this phase of the communication, your participants are active. Keep them motivated by offering guidance on just how far they’ve come in achieving an award. This communication can help further engage participants, which leads to increases in overall program participation.
  • Celebrate: When your participants achieve an earning level, make sure you celebrate with them! This will go a long way toward maintaining those high engagement levels among top earners. Plus, it may even help motivate others who might be falling behind.
  • Endorse: Now’s the time to find your program ambassadors who can help motivate the others on the team. These are your top earners who are especially excited about the sales incentive program. Keep the excitement alive through unique communication that comes from, or features, your program ambassadors.

4. My current systems work just fine

Our retirement plan could include placing all of our money under our mattress, but we know there are better systems in place to help us reach our goals. The same goes for your sales incentive program.

You may have a system in place, but is it accomplishing your goals? Did you set program goals in the first place? When we create sales incentive programs for our clients, we always start designing the program with the end in mind. This means we ask the all-important question of “why?” Why do you feel you need a sales incentive program? What are you trying to accomplish? What are the measurable objectives? These are simple questions to ask, but hard to answer, and even harder to build a successful sales incentive program around.

Using technology is key to setting up and implementing an effective sales incentive program that helps you accomplish your “why.” The larger your organization is, the more you leave the success of your sales incentive program to chance. Multiple spreadsheets, disparate programs, and unorganized data lead to manual processes, which lead to human error.

You want a system that is easy to operate and maintain for you, and easy to access for your team. Our PerformX® platform helps you do just that. PerformX helps you meet your business goals by building your top performers. Its easy-to-use portal is at the center of your incentive and recognition program, allowing you to inform, engage, and reward your team effectively. Plus, its measurement capabilities are off-the-charts, so you can prove the value of your sales incentive program and shatter your business goals.

How many times have you been frustrated with a website that doesn’t load correctly on your phone? We hear you! We created PerformX using a ‘mobile-first’ mentality, which means we designed it with the smallest screen in mind. This is especially helpful for program participants who are on the go and need their technology (and sales incentive program) to follow suit.

An effective sales incentive program can do wonders for building a high-performing team, which leads to building your bottom-line. Do it the right way, and don’t make mistakes when creating your sales incentive program that will cost you and your business.

We are here for you. Get in touch.

Samantha Decker

Samantha Decker

Samantha Decker is the Marketing Director at One10. Decker oversees marketing initiatives for all three of One10’s business segments – travel and events, incentives and recognition and marketing services. Bringing unique marketing experience to One10, Decker has led rebranding and growth efforts for every organization she has been a part of and is a strong advocate that purpose and profits can coexist in business. Decker was named a Corporate Connect 40 Under 40, has been published in industry articles, and is currently a member of Team Women in Minneapolis.