Motivating To Learn And Sell

By Malcolm Fleschner

The typical sales incentive program rewards salespeople for closed sales. Some of the more progressive sales organizations also incorporate rewards for accomplishing tasks that lead to sales, such as making a prescribed number of cold calls or asking existing customers for referrals. But today’s truly thoughtful and forward-thinking companies are beginning to reward reps for completing training courses, according to Wendy Tinker, founder and CEO of UpSellUSA (, a Seattle-based application service provider for the incentive and eLearning industries.

“By taking a holistic view of sales incentives, training and rewards, sales organizations can reap additional benefits,” she says. “A simple program that includes participation in a product sales training course as a prerequisite to entry in a sales contest increases reps’ product knowledge, allowing them to sell more deeply. We have statistics that show salespeople who take product sales training have the ability to sell between 30% and 300% more product than those who don’t. While training may not make people better salespeople, it gives them a greater depth of knowledge about what they are selling and allows them to upsell more easily.

“Most of the programs we design include a training component that ties in with sales incentives. When sales reps have multiple ways to earn rewards, such as training and sales incentives, and are able to pool their reward points for various activities, it gives them additional opportunities to earn more valuable items.”

Tinker says she’s definitely seeing a trend in the incentive business toward integrated sales and training incentive solutions. “A year ago UpSellUSA was one of the few incentive companies talking about learning incentives,” she explains. “Now there are several new incentive houses paying attention to this growing need. It is still a matter of educating the market. Our client, Microsoft, quickly realized that encouraging resellers to take training resulted in a significant increase in online training. Combining UpSellUSA’s learning management system and its incentive system has allowed resellers to earn reward points instantly when they take online training.”

Tinker adds that these programs provide benefits to the corporate bottom line as well as to front-line sales executives. “The primary benefits for salespeople,” she says, “are the rewards they receive for spending time learning about products and the deeper product knowledge they obtain, which in turn increases their ability to make bigger sales. Most savvy salespeople understand the correlation between sales training and sales success. They just don’t have the motivation to take the time to participate in the training.

“The benefits to the sales organization are similar to those provided salespeople – better product knowledge equals bigger sales. A comprehensive sales program can save both time and money. eLearning allows a company to train a geographically diverse group of salespeople in a consistent way and saves money on travel to sales meetings. While online learning cannot replace all live training – most advocates of eLearning promote a blended program with salespeople given a variety of opportunities to learn – putting sales and product training online can provide measurable ROI.

“We see ROI in several areas: travel expenses are drastically cut, trained salespeople sell deeper and rewards increase participation in online training by dramatic numbers. The first eLearning program we launched,” says Tinker, “saw an increase of 2,500% participation. We regularly track increases in online learning participation when we offer points to learners.”