Flights of Fancy

By Malcolm Fleschner

Sales managers looking to both inspire salespeople to peak performance and reward that performance lavishly know that nothing stirs the motivational juices quite like a travel incentive. But as with any aspect of the manager’s job, there’s a right way to run a travel incentive and a counterproductive, demotivational, ill-advised way. Dee Defino Kustusch, manager of marketing sales for American Airlines, offers the following suggestions for elevating your travel program to new heights:

Give ’em the WIFM
Salespeople are glad to know that you want them to increase sales for the company by 20 percent, but what’s in it for them? Tell them at the beginning of the program, then tell them again, either monthly or quarterly, depending on the program’s length, and keep it up. A recurrent tickler-type message is great for keeping that incentive fresh in the rep’s mind.

Who wants what?
Give your salespeople options in redeeming their travel reward. Don’t assume that a trip to Cancun is going to appeal to everyone – what if one of your reps hates the sun and tends to get heat stroke? And you don’t want to send someone to Aspen if they refuse to set foot anywhere the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

Use it to unite
If you have a far-flung sales team, a well-communicated travel incentive can help bring them together. When you teleconference or hold quarterly meetings in person, integrate the incentive into the agenda. That’s part of the task of leadership – keeping people tied together and giving them a sense of purpose. The incentive can be an important part of that.

After words
When a peak performer excels and then is rewarded, convince that peak performer to share the experience. The people on your team looking to improve will benefit and tell themselves, “That’s how she did that? OK, I can do that, too.” Her testimony helps explain how she applied her efforts, strove for results and reaped the rewards. It’s very interesting what it does to a room when 500 people watch their peers detail the benefits of success.