The Thrill Is Back

By Malcolm Fleschner

Do you wonder whether or not your sales organization’s incentive rewards need to be updated? If you’re not sure, here are few warning signs:

– The restaurant gift certificates you gave away are only redeemable for early-bird dinners.

– The celebrity you chose to kick off the contest in style is best known for starring in ads for adult incontinence products.

– You tried to encourage reps by reminding them that the Boca Raton hotel where they’d be spending a weekend featured more than a dozen shuffleboard courts.

Okay, these examples are a bit silly, but as a recent article in Incentive magazine points out, more and more of today’s top-performing salespeople are coming from Generations X and Y. For these younger reps, the traditional beach vacation or designer watch may be just too static a reward to genuinely stir the motivational juices. As a result, more extreme incentives – that emphasize high-adrenaline experiences over luxury or relaxation – are growing in popularity. So says Jane Reifert, president of Incredible Adventures, a Sarasota, Florida-based adventure travel firm.

“Extreme is becoming more mainstream,” Reifert told Incentive. “You may not remember that your boss gave you a cruise, but you will remember a flight in a MiG-29 that takes you to the edge of space.”

For those looking for potential rewards that appeal to a slightly younger set, Incentive singles out the following four adventure-travel options:

1. Pulling Down Serious G’s Zero-Gravity Corporation in Dania Beach, FL, takes groups up in a modified Boeing 727-700 for a steep climb followed by a free fall back to earth, giving passengers the feeling of weightlessness. During that 25 seconds, they float around as if they were astronauts freed from the earth’s gravitational pull, bouncing off the walls, spinning and pirouetting in simulated zero gravity. Along with the memories, participants also receive photos and video footage of the experience to bring home with them.

2. What’s in Your Sights? Fighter Combat International in Mesa, AZ, takes pairs of participants up in highly maneuverable Extra-300L aircraft to engage in mock air combat. The day begins with preflight training where the Top Gun wannabes learn the basics of fighter piloting, then it’s into the cockpit with experienced pilots, who take the aircraft up to an altitude more than 10,000 feet high. That’s when participants take over the stick, and face off against one another mano a mano. Flights conclude with aerobatics featuring complex maneuvers and multiple g-forces.

3. Howdy, “Pardner” Salespeople eager to get in touch with the nation’s western roots couldn’t do better than with Scottsdale’s Arizona Cowboy College. Not for those short on stamina or strength of spirit, this college offers a hard-core scholastic experience, featuring six days of herding, branding, roping and driving cattle, much of which is done on horseback. For city slickers eager to breathe fresh air, six nights of sleeping on a bedroll under the stars should prove more than sufficient

4. The Most Dangerous Game of TagEcologically minded sales organizations might like to take advantage of a unique incentive opportunity the Mote Marine Laboratories in Florida will begin offering in June. Called the Predator Package, this program features three days spent with scientists, first in the lab’s shark tanks and then out on the open sea attempting to capture, measure and tag hammerhead, bull and tiger sharks that are equipped with sophisticated tracking devices. When the tag data are recovered, typically a year later, participants are sent information about how “their” sharks are doing.