Get Executives on Board

By Malcolm Fleschner

When properly run, sales incentive programs are unquestionably effective at achieving a range of corporate goals– not only increasing overall sales, but also fostering teamwork, reducing turnover, improving morale and promoting personal development. Yet as Richard Gaeta, president of the Marblehead, Massachusetts-based Premier Incentives notes, because of ignorance, misinformation, personal experience or any combination thereof, some top-level executives remain unconvinced about the value of running sales incentive programs. Asked for the most common objection he hears from such managers, Gaeta says their concerns typically boil down to money.

“Upper-level managers usually misunderstand the value of these programs,” Gaeta says. “They see them as an expense rather than an investment where they can actually measure and track ROI. Incentive programs are as much marketing vehicles as anything else a company uses to reach and keep their clients. It’s just not considered traditional or mainstream marketing. We keep hearing about the importance of building and fostering client relationships. Incentive marketing programs bring the company and client together in such an interactive, positive way that truly enhances and constantly reinforces the relationship like nothing else.”

When confronted with an executive who’s worried about the potential costs of running sales incentive programs, Gaeta suggests the best strategy is to focus on what clearly matters most to that executive: the bottom line.“Our program, which we call the ROI incentive program, is an investment with a highly accurate, predictable Return On Investment,” he says. “When you can show a positive return in the form of increased sales and profits, there is no sound reason not to move forward with a customized ROI incentive program. To show customers how we can help them achieve their goals, we typically begin with a thorough interview process to understand the unique challenges they face. Then we create a structure for reaching quantifiable goals through a total analysis of the company. We’ve found this to be the most persuasive approach.”

Asked how not to make the case for sales incentives with recalcitrant executives, Gaeta offers a simple piece of advice.“Don’t tell them that you can do a great program for a lot less money,” he explains. “That immediately sends the wrong message and raises a red flag. If they’ve been running these types of programs for a while, you’ve just told them that they’ve been overcharged. But if it’s a brand-new program, they will immediately focus on the program’s expense, rather than its value. The way to approach decision-makers is through education and value, not dollars.”