Exquisitely Tailored Incentives

By Malcolm Fleschner

Sales-incentive experts always advise sales managers to design programs with rewards and prizes that participants will find motivational. Of course, that’s a no-brainer, right? But how do you find out exactly what your people want? You’re not a mind reader, after all.

As Jay Arthur, author of Motivate Everyone: Family, Friends, Co-Workers (Even Yourself)! (LifeStar Publishing, 2001), points out, there’s more to this issue than simply coming out and asking. Frequently your people won’t know for sure themselves or may be inclined to tell you what they think you want to hear. His solution: ask a different question.

“Ask, ‘What’s important to you about your work?'” he suggests. “The answer you receive will help you understand the person better. One might say, ‘I like the people I work with,” while another might effuse about his or her sales territory. Find out what they value and you can begin to tailor each incentive.”

Another challenge the incentive-minded manager faces when asking what his or her salespeople want is the near-uniform response of “cash.” Arthur has an answer for this one too, however.”If someone says they want cash, ask, ‘What would the cash do for you? What would you do with it?'” he says. “Although in reality that money might typically go toward that month’s mortgage or to pay the gas bill, in the world of fantasy maybe one rep would go on a ski vacation while another would sign up to learn to skydive and a third would put it in her child’s college education fund. That’s a great way to get a better clue about what they really like and dream about.”

Despite the challenges, Arthur reinforces the notion that it’s worth the effort to design tailored incentives.

“Any time you can understand what people value, how they like to spend their spare time and match what you’re offering to what they really want, you’re in great shape because that’s going to motivate them,” he says. “And in the long run you’re more likely to retain better salespeople.”

Contact Jay Arthur at www.quantum-i.com or call (888) 468-1537