Building a Sales Incentive Program: Informing Your Audience

Jan 23, 2020 | Incentives & Recognition

Inform your audience
“We don’t care about increasing sales.” That is something you just don’t hear when talking to business leaders. Certainly, there are many factors involved in driving sales. But, one of the most important is to ensure your sales team is motivated.  Is yours?  Some studies indicate only one in five salespeople meet or exceed their sales quotas. Even if your team is operating at a higher level, isn’t there always room to grow? We think so.  And, incentive and recognition programs are often key to ensuring your team is performing its very best. Incentive and recognition programs certainly get a lot of people excited at the prospect of earning desirable rewards and being acknowledged for their extraordinary efforts. Just as important, they can establish trust and build relationships with your employees or channel partners. That is vital to long-term success. But, not all rewards options are the same. Your incentive approach must be properly designed and executed to achieve the best results. And, the strategy has to include an effective communications strategy to engage all of your participants.

Design with the end in mind

You’ve decided you need to offer rewards, so you start planning the program by determining the type of rewards you’ll offer your team, right? Wrong. Before you jump into the rewards solution, it’s essential to take a step back and ask what you’re trying to accomplish in the first place. The critical questions we always ask are, “what are you trying to do?” and “what are the measurable objectives?” Answering these questions, though, is often easier said than done. Sometimes we hear clients respond with “because my competitor offers incentives, so should I.” Yes, ensuring that you are mindful of your competition is important. But, instead of stopping there, we dive even further into your company’s specific objective—your “why?”: Are you losing market share to your competitor because of their sales incentive offering? Do you need a solution that will establish a foundation of trust and commitment among your team? Answers to these questions will help create a much stronger plan.

Broaden your definition of a “sales team”

Include everyone who influences your objectives. That’s right; we said everyone. Don’t limit your sales incentive program to only those who are directly involved in the sales process. Consider all the roles that contribute to the sale, supporting your sales network: Sales Support Team – With this group having direct customer contact, they have a wealth of information that can impact your sales. Sales administrators, client account teams and receptionists are all on your front line of “customer defense”. Make sure you take their feedback into program design. Service Teams – This group, which helps build customer relationships after the sale and throughout a customer’s lifecycle, can offer information on leads in the pipeline that could result in a new sale or increased business by adopting other services. Channel Partners – They are essential for indirect sales processes. Your channel partners are an extension of your direct sales team and should be treated as such. Not only do your channel partners sell your products, most likely they also sell your competitions. This group might provide you with the most helpful feedback on your program. Don’t forget to bring them into the incentive design process.

Communicate differently

A secret incentive program is never a successful one. A robust communications plan is essential to introduce your program and continue to motivate your participants. But, not all audiences are the same. So, why should they receive the same motivational messaging or program information? Varying the copy, imagery, and format are ways to tailor your message to each audience. To keep all of your audiences engaged, it’s essential to communicate to each audience differently. There are a variety of ways you can segment your audiences, including: Job Roles – Acknowledge their specific roles and responsibilities—what are the things that each audience can affect in helping you achieve your objectives? Internal vs. External – What can your organization directly influence? What can you only suggest or recommend? Top Performers and Shifting the Curve – Keep your best performers engaged while encouraging others to strive for new heights. Winners AND Participants – Properly recognize winners in a way that reinforces what they did to achieve their reward AND reinforce that everyone’s efforts matter. Using a variety of tools is also important. A multi-pronged approach to communication could include mailing printed materials to homes, turning the print material into a digital form that can be emailed, driving participants to an online portal and continuing to connect through text messages and SMS.

Messages that move them to act

You aren’t merely telling people what you want them to do. Instead, you’re communicating in a way that drives them to act. Your participants are motivated by a variety of things, like social drivers, values, and perceptions. What matters to your team? Using research and feedback, you can determine what drives your team to take action and use this to communicate your employee rewards effectively.

Communicate throughout the participant journey

An effective strategy follows participants throughout their personalized reward journey. That means your messaging doesn’t stop after you introduce the program. Your rewards program portal can only do so much to help communicate the program effectively. Instead, you must get your information to audiences quickly and consistently.
One10 participant journey model
We follow the participant journey model to deliver effective communications and tailor content to their needs: Attract – Announce the program to create awareness and interest. In this phase, your communication should recruit participants and drive enrollment. Initiate – Reinforce the rules and continue to promote the benefits of participating in the employee rewards initiatives. Here, you are trying to activate participants. Achieve – In this phase, your communication should offer guidance on how much participants have earned. Your communication can help encourage participants to increase their engagement or maintain high engagement levels. Celebrate – Recognize your participants when they achieve earning levels. Endorse – Use the excitement from your participants to create program ambassadors who can help motivate the rest of your team. Incentive and recognition programs are powerful tools to deepen relationships with your employees and channel partners while enhancing your company’s bottom line. Not all programs are the same. Make sure you select a partner who keeps your overall objective and participants’ needs front and center and offers effective communication throughout the program. Sales incentive programs are powerful tools to deepen relationships with your sales teams and channel partners while enhancing your company’s bottom line. Not all programs are the same. Make sure you select a partner who keeps your overall objective and participants’ needs front and center and offers effective communication throughout the program.
Patti Pagels

Patti Pagels

Patti has nearly 40 years of experience in performance improvement with an emphasis in channel sales marketing. She has designed a wide range of solutions that integrate any combination of her areas of expertise: communications, direct marketing, partnership and special-event marketing, travel and events, retail and wholesale training as well as product information tools and advertising. While a significant focus of her career has been in the automotive industry, she has also worked with clients in retail, pharmaceuticals, construction, high tech and agribusiness. Patti has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Central Michigan University, with a major in Marketing and concentrated studies in Journalism, Psychology and World Religions.