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Sales Incentives To Boost Performance

October 11, 2018

One of the most important questions sales leaders ask themselves is, “How can I further motivate my team and boost their performance.” Good sales leaders actually ask this question often, constantly striving to improve their numbers across the board. Over time the best motivators have learned that incentives tailored to their individual team members needs can gradually drive change in behavior and work to the benefit of the business. Incentive programs work so well, in fact, that U.S companies spend over $90 billion dollars a year on managing their plans and strategies with regards to non-monetary incentive programs alone. The evidence is out there, incentives work, if you understand them.

Types of Salespeople In Your Team

Before you start dishing out incentives like candy, it’ll benefit you to take some time and consider the type of salespeople within your team. The reason for this is that the individuals in your team will have different reactions to different types of incentives; simply, what works for one, may not work so well for another. Fortunately, in most organizations, this can be broken down into three major performance types.

  1. Laggards

    Laggards are more or less as the word itself is defined, they’re people who have a tendency to under perform and drag their feet a little. That’s not to say they aren’t a valuable part of your team, but they’ll require a bit more guidance, mentoring, and gentle prodding to keep them focused and improving.

  2. Stars

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, your stars are your rainmakers that seemingly are able to tackle any challenge with confidence and a smile. They don’t normally need much encouragement, as they’re driven by their own internal performance and career goals. Most sales leaders are former stars who have worked their way up the ladder, so they tend to relate well to each other and motivation comes naturally in general conversation.

  3. Core

    Your core members tend to make up the bulk of your team. Since they don’t require quite as much attention as laggards and they’re not quite as self-driven as stars, they sometimes get overlooked despite that they have the greatest potential to really advance their sales as they work towards becoming stars themselves.

What Types of Incentives Are There?

Now that you have a better understanding of the types of performers on your sales team, it’s time to start considering the different incentive options you have to boost their performance. As we mentioned previously, you’ll want to tailor your incentives to the group of performers. Just imagine how one of your laggards would react when he’s encouraged to meet the same quota as one of your stars? He’ll likely feel overwhelmed and more discouraged at the seemingly unattainable task. Likewise, your stars would probably scoff at a reward-based incentive like a free lunch if they’re used to pulling in big clients with even bigger commissions. Knowing your team is the first step in motivating your team.

So, what are the most common incentives you can start using to boost performance?

  1. Monetary

    Money-based incentives are perhaps the oldest of all the strategies we’re going to outline in this section. These are normally reserved for employees who have met or exceeded expectations on their targets. These can be as simple as a lump-sum cash bonus, or they can be more internal to the business, like offering stock options and profit-sharing. Contrary to popular belief, monetary incentives are not always the best motivators, but they do work very well for employees with dollar signs in their eyes that are determined to increase their compensation by any means necessary.

  2. Rewards

    Reward-based incentives include things like prizes or gifts, and they can be as extravagant or as frugal as your companies budget allows. For example, employees that meet their monthly target could be gifted a fruit basket, movie passes, or a gift card to their favorite coffee shop, or perhaps something with a bit more of a wow-factor, like the latest tablet or an E-Book reader. When determining what type of reward to offer, you need to consider the work required by the employee, and you want to ensure the perceived value of the reward matches the expectations of the target.

  3. Experiences

    For many employees, the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of the work week can be seen as a highly lucrative incentive. If your budget allows, offering your top performers an experience-based reward like say, a weekend away at a local spa or tickets to a highly-sought after concert or sports event can really encourage your team to deliver their best efforts. Not only are you rewarding their performance, but you’re showing them that you understand it’s equally as important to give them time to be themselves and do things they enjoy which alleviates burn-out, boosts morale and results in them coming back to the office fresh-faced and ready to work.

  4. Career Development Opportunities

    For employees with advancement at the forefront of their mind, career development opportunities are a worthwhile incentive for two reasons. For starters, it shows the employee you value their commitment to the team and reinforces your commitment to them. It shows them that you not only enjoy having them on the team but that you’re excited about them improving their skill set for the betterment of themselves and the business as a whole. This is a great way to encourage your team to stick with you in even the most challenging of times, thereby creating a more stable work environment while reducing turnover. Secondly, it works as a wonderful incentive to encourage that employee to keep shooting for the next notch on the ladder. When employees feel like their personal needs are acknowledged, they trust you more, which leads to them being happier at work and snowballs into increased performance.

  5. Educational Incentives

    Much like career development opportunities, education-based incentives work great for employees that are thinking about their role with their future in mind. Providing them with the opportunity to go back to school for a certificate or diploma that will help them advance in their career, whether it be by adjusting their work hours to accommodate the class schedule, or providing assistance with tuition, you help build that same level of trust and respect that ultimately all employees are looking for.

As you can see, there are many different ways to look at incentives beyond simply monetary rewards. A great way to get a feel for what incentives will work for your team is by considering the type of performer they are currently and tailor their incentives appropriately while giving them the attention and support they need to meet their objectives. One thing that’s key to remember about incentives is that you don’t want to change your team’s behavior in such a way that they’ll only be motivated to perform when a prize is on the line, so consider offering incentives after an employee has already surpassed expectations and without announcing it ahead of time. If you’re strategic and consider the most effective times to implement them, incentives can give your team the motivational boost it needs to outperform your competitors.

Put those insights into practice.

Set your team up for success by improving their performance through gamification.

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