Which is a more powerful motivational carrot – a high-end travel incentive or the cash equivalent? According to Rodger Stotz, vice president, managing consultant for leading incentive solutions provider Maritz, Inc. (www.martitz.com), a well-thought-out travel incentive can prove significantly more effective at driving bottom line results than a cash incentive with an even higher dollar value.
To support this claim, Stotz cites the example of a financial services company he recently worked with. "The client was the credit department of a very large corporation," he explains, "and their salespeople were responsible for selling financial credit products to other corporations and large investors. They had introduced a new product and offered $10,000 to anyone who sold a certain number of these products in the first six months. Despite this incentive, the products didn’t really move much. So we took a closer look and realized that part of the problem was that the salespeople were already making six-figure salaries, and many had spouses who were also earning substantial salaries. They had a fairly large disposable income and even a $10,000 incentive didn’t really grab their attention."
The solution, Stotz explains, was to take that bundle of cash and repurpose it for the kind of travel experience such high earners would value.
"The new incentive we developed was an all-expense-paid trip for two to New York with limo service, a stay at The Plaza, Broadway shows, dancing at the Rainbow Room and gourmet dinners at fine restaurants. This trip cost about $7,000 per couple, significantly less than the original $10,000. And sales took off. Not only that, but as soon as the salespeople came back from New York their first question for the managers was, ‘So where are we going next?’"
Stotz is quick to note that travel incentives can also work with sales reps who may not have yet achieved such high-roller status. Another client he mentions used a travel program focused exclusively on new sales recruits, not only to motivate them, but also to encourage them to stay with the company.
"This company was also in the financial services sector, and they offered a regional travel opportunity to all the new reps who met their yearly quota," he says. "They basically set the bar so that about 60 percent of the new hires for the year could achieve it. In other words, the salespeople had one quota for the first year, which was then bumped up when they got into their second or subsequent years.
"This accomplished a couple of things. Number one, it provided motivation for the new players who were just getting started. It gave them the motivation to say, ‘Hey, I can do this,’ and reinforced this as a business they could be successful in. But it also, as we say, primed the pump. They and their spouses had now experienced one trip. When they got their new quota, they were motivated to be on the next trip as well. The organization has found this to be an extremely valuable investment to get new people up and running with some success and then to get them acculturated into the organization and into the idea that they can achieve the goals necessary to take these trips."