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Reap Big Rewards with Unconventional Incentive Strategies
Motivating employees today means thinking outside the conventional trip to the tropics. According to experts, incentive ideas that address individual needs are increasingly being leveraged as ways to support, inspire, and motivate reps.
"Think about things like development and training as part of a ‘total rewards’ package," says Allen Schweyer, chairman of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance (www.enterpriseengagement.org), a coalition of organizations researching and promoting increased employee engagement in business. "Think about maybe letting your salespeople schedule their own hours or work remotely.”
Schweyer says that a company’s business objectives and brand positioning can provide an effective starting point for coming up with sophisticated, strategic ideas to inspire salespeople. Consider, for example, the notion of using a short–term transfer to an overseas office or networking trip as a reward. Schweyer once helped a company coordinate a 10–day, three–city tour of India for 15 executives sent there to network and fact–find.
“Six of the fifteen were junior executives who were being rewarded for high performance,” he explains. “The company not only wanted to recognize them, but also provide a means of exposing them to this sort of experience and groom them for future leadership opportunities. And they were all absolutely thrilled to be there."
Another ideal incentive is offering reps much–needed administrative help via virtual assistants. Virtual assistants can help manage sales professionals’ schedules, conduct prospect research, or track down leads. They can even be used to handle tasks unrelated to work.
"Top reps want to be hunting for new business, but sometimes they become so successful that they wind up getting bogged down servicing existing clients," Schweyer says. "To help, companies might provide them with virtual assistants who can take care of whatever administrative tasks are preventing the salespeople from focusing on new business development.
"The key is that salespeople can use the virtual assistants however they want. Salespeople [will] often choose this option over a trip to Hawaii, because they know the trip will relieve their stress for a week or two, but the work will pile up in the meantime, whereas the virtual assistant is going to make their lives easier for a whole lot longer."
Schweyer acknowledges that taking such an individualized approach to motivating salespeople requires more time and effort than, say, offering a new set of Calloway gold clubs to the rep with the best quarterly numbers. But if a one–size–fits–all approach doesn’t work with customers, then how could it be right for your reps?
"Maybe that opportunity to go overseas to Asia for three months would typically be hugely motivating for a top performer, but right now his wife happens to be eight months pregnant, so the circumstances aren't right,” Schweyer says. “Another rep might really value two weeks of additional vacation time, whereas someone else would prefer a 5 percent bump in base pay, and another would respond well to an aggressive target with a hefty financial goal for getting there."
A “total rewards” approach conveys a true concern for what reps need and want – and that can send a powerful and positive message about your corporate culture.
"If you have good supervisors and managers, [deciding how to reward reps] comes down to just asking people,” says Schweyer. “It takes effort, but all you're really doing is presenting a sort of buffet of options and then letting people tell you what’s going to motivate them. It’s just logical, and I’ve seen it deliver only positive results."
Subscribe to this monthly Incentives e–newsletter for more expert advice on keeping your sales team motivated and showing appreciation to loyal customers, partners, and colleagues. More e-newsletters
– Malcolm Fleschner
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