How to Create Winning Sales Incentives for Your Sales Team

Sales people by definition are numbers-driven. Sales is a profession where people feel motivated to meet or exceed their sales goals, and where every sales person always has an eye on how their sales numbers look for this particular quarter. While sales people have always been motivated by earning their next commission or sales bonus, there are other ways to create powerful incentives to improve your sales team’s performance that go beyond numbers.

Here are a few ideas for how you can create fun, engaging sales incentives to help get the most out of your sales team:

  • Dazzling prizes: In addition to cash bonuses and the standard commission that pays your sales team for their work, look for more creative ways to incentivize great sales performance by giving your top sales people some kind of special prize. The idea in choosing prizes for sales incentives is to give them something that is not only financially valuable, but that also conveys status and prestige, and that the sales people might not be likely to buy on their own. For example, you could give your top sales people a new iPad, or a new smartphone to use for work. You could offer them more paid vacation (which doesn’t directly cost the company any money). Or you could offer your sales people their choice of awards, based on their personal interests and hobbies. If your prize-winning sales person loves to golf, offer to buy a set of new golf clubs. If your top sales person loves to cook, pay for a series of private cooking lessons with a top chef. People often work harder for specific goals that are tangible – it’s easier to visualize a set of golf clubs than a simple number.
  • Team-building experiences: If you have a team of sales people, remind them that they are all on the same team by offering sales incentives based on team performance. For example, if your sales team can exceed a quarterly revenue goal by a certain percentage, offer to send the whole team to Las Vegas for the weekend. Or rent a nice facility for a celebratory retreat. Take your sales team to a dude ranch, hire live entertainment and have your team invite their spouses and significant others, or host a wine tasting where your team can sample wines they might never have tried before. By making your sales incentives based on team performance, you are giving your sales team an added incentive to not only boost their performance, but to collaborate and become closer as a team.
  • Perks and prestige: Some sales people find their biggest motivation not from money or prizes, but from the recognition of their peers. One way to provide social recognition is to give your top sales performers special perks at the office – for example, being assigned a special parking place right outside the building, or getting special recognition at team meetings, or being invited to participate in special advisory sessions with top management. If your top sales people know that their opinions are especially valued, they will be more likely to stay with your company. And lower-performing sales people will know that the best way to move up within the company and to have the ear of management is to keep boosting their sales performance.
  • Gamification: Many sales organizations are starting to explore “gamification” options for Salesforce.com and other CRMs, where their sales people get to use special features that reward them for spending more time and engaging more with the CRM. For example, there are apps for Salesforce.com that provide special “badges” and “missions” targeted toward specific activities in the sales cycle, whether that is lead generation, appointment setting or nurturing sales leads. You don’t have to buy expensive software to try this tactic at your own company – just take a look at your sales process, figure out which part of your sales funnel needs more attention, and then make a game out of rewarding sales people who focus more time and effort on those activities. Instead of rewarding people only for sales, you can reward them for doing a better job of prioritizing the right activities that your team needs to focus on to generate more sales leads and close more sales.

Creating sales incentives is not all about money, it’s about creating a more cohesive sales team by recognizing people’s contributions and rewarding them based on their specific interests. Not all sales people are the same and they don’t all respond to the same incentives. But if your sales organization can demonstrate that you understand how to motivate your top sales performers, you’ll be more likely to keep your sales people happy and keep them working for your company for the long term.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 1

  • Great article; agree on many of the points. A few notes from my experience: (a) You need to structure contests in a way that motivates ‘everyone’ and not just your typical top performers. Ways to do this are to create multiple ways to win and team based environments. (b) When reps fall behind they tend to stop caring about the contest. The best contests are designed in a way that keep everyone motivated throughout the duration. (c) You don’t need fancy, expensive prizes to motivate your team. You just need to find things that make them care. Some of our customers use free days of PTO, special parking spots, dinner with their VP Sales etc. to motivate on a reduced budget. (d) Use of real gamification tools doesn’t have to be expensive, per your note above. For example, a company can leverage FantasySalesTeam for as little as $15/rep/month including integration with Salesforce.com.

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