Incentives for All

By Malcolm Fleschner

At many corporations, decisions about sales incentive contest structures, rules and prizes are made at high levels and then farmed out to the various regional offices. Sales managers then are expected to promote the new programs and encourage the reps in their charge to drive toward the sales goals established by corporate management.

Yet as Brian Galonek, president of the Massachusetts-based All Star Incentive Marketing ( points out, few companies think to motivate the motivators by offering incentives to national or district sales managers as well. Galonek suggests this is shortsighted, however, since managers often are driven by the same motivational hot buttons as front-line reps.

“It is a widely held belief that managers will be satisfied when they see the bottom-line results in terms of sales,” Galonek notes, “and to some extent this is true. Human nature being what it is, however, everyone wants to be justly rewarded for making an extra effort and often the success of a sales incentive program is based on everyone going above and beyond.

“When managers are not included, the work involved in properly launching and managing a program might not receive their best effort, causing it to slide down the list of priorities. This is not a conspiracy on the part of managers to damage the success of the program, it simply is human nature that the program may not receive the same amount of attention it would if the managers were being rewarded directly for their efforts.”

Galonek adds that offering incentives at every layer below the decision makers is the best way to ensure the program does not hit a bottleneck in the hands of one manager who has not been properly motivated to launch and manage the program for success.

So what’s the best way to go about getting sales managers in on the incentive action? It’s not that complicated, says Galonek.

“Incentives for managers should be directly tied to the performance of the sales force they manage,” he says. The formula might be different for each program, but in general managers should be rewarded in proportion to the sales force. If sales representatives receive 10 points for every $1,000 in incremental sales then the sales manager should get 1 point, assuming the sales manager has about 10 salespeople under his or her control. Managers should be working from the same Website or catalog and redeeming from the same award pool as the sales force so the perception and reality is that it’s a fair program for all. A bonus point competition also should be considered with top-performing managers awarded bonus points based on their success.”

There is, of course, more to motivating managers than simply offering them incentive prizes. Many will make a greater commitment to a program they have some control over. So while Galonek cautions against giving managers too much leeway to rework corporate incentive programs, he does suggest giving local offices some flexibility.

“The foundation of the program should be set by corporate,” he says, “which is to say that the goals should not be flexible. If the company’s goal is to increase its customer count by 10%, one manager should not be able to restructure the program with an entirely different goal. The flexibility should come in the form of implementation, which means how many points are awarded for each action within a range, how many bonus points are given to the top salesperson in a division, how often points are awarded and in what format.”

All Star Incentive Marketing provides incentive and promotional product solutions for employee motivation, sales incentives, customer loyalty, safety and brand recognition programs. For more information, visit