Curing IADD (Incentive Attention Deficit Disorder)

By Malcolm Fleschner

If a sales incentive contest is going to motivate members of a sales team, it has to maintain their attention throughout the length of the contest. Yet for any number of reasons – most of them the result of poor planning by management – sales reps frequently become discouraged or distracted in the midst of an ongoing contest. When participants lose interest, points out As Michael Dermer, president and CEO of the gift certificate incentive solutions provider IncentOne (, a sales incentive program is in deep trouble. Dermer identifies three primary reasons why reps tend to lose interest in a contest.

“First, the program may not match up well with the needs and interests of the reps,” he says. “This might be because the rewards are perceived to be inadequate in terms of their perceived value to the rep or the reward just does not speak to them. Second is lack of communication of the program results. The reps remember there is some goal, but because the details are not reinforced they forget or get distracted. The third and probably biggest problem is poor contest design. Look for the cause of the lost interest in the program design. Lost interest is a symptom of poor contest design, not a cause of poor results.”

Dermer adds that companies often give too little thought during the program design stage to developing a strategy for maintaining reps’ interest. “I can’t tell you how often this kind of significant planning work is not done,” he says. “Currently, I think about 90% of the upfront effort is spent working out budgets, which leaves precious little time for developing the program. It’s why you see the same old-same old and the audience is not as motivated as they could be. Our theory is that you need to spend the majority of your time on understanding the business objectives and developing the plan that is going to get you there. Then you should talk about budgets. Maybe you need to reshape plans or alter the objectives based on budgetary constraints, but at this point the focus should be on the program goal.”