Offer Choice Incentives

What’s different about sales incentives today, compared with five years ago? For one thing, the trophies all read “2001” instead of “1996.” But on a more substantive level, the advent of Web technology has revolutionized the entire sales incentive process, from program development to reward delivery. According to Jerry Colletti, author of Compensating New Sales Roles: How to Design Rewards that Work in Today’s Selling Environment (AMACOM, 2001), along with great power the Web also brings greater responsibility to the managers designing those incentives.

“Five years ago we had a mindset of offering the same reward to everyone,” he says. “Today we have to question whether that’s really what we want to do. Whether it’s travel, merchandise, whatever you’re offering, people want more choice. So it becomes important to ask the question, ‘Do we understand what motivates and what is valued by the plan participants who are going to be affected by these programs?'”

The Web helps answer these questions, says Colletti, delivering options for conducting surveys, hosting chat rooms and calling for volunteers among spouses and spouse equivalents. The key, he underscores, is to recognize the different demographics reflected in your sales organization. “Just look at it from a common-sense standpoint,” he says. “Young people in their 20s are going to value certain things differently than people in their 40s or 50s. For younger people the national recognition trip or sales meeting may be the only vacation they get this year, so a great incentive for them might be three additional days past the national meeting to stay with their spouses and enjoy the facility. On the flip side, however, salespeople with longer service may have young to teenage children, so it’s harder for them to get away. They may not be able to take advantage of that trip opportunity. So the object is to make informed decisions about the choices you’re going to provide, and the best way to do that is to give the reps input.”