Send ‘Em Packing

By Malcolm Fleschner

Industry surveys tell us that travel, when it’s done right, is consistently ranked by sales professionals to be the number one motivational incentive. Why is that? There are two reasons, says Laura Yates, vice president of sales for Cornerstone (, a Massachusetts-based incentive consulting organization.

“First, of course, is the reward itself – the benefit of getting to go to some exotic or entertaining locale,” she explains. “But second is the psychic reward. No one wants to be labeled as the guy or gal who didn’t get to go to Paris. And when you’re there you know that you’re among the crème de la crème being wined and dined – those memories last a lifetime.”

Unfortunately, Yates says, too many sales organizations neglect to put much thought into choosing the right destination and accommodations for their teams.

“You have to know your audience,” she says. “Is this the type of crowd that is well-traveled enough that only a Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton property is going to excite them? Or is it the type of crowd that will be a little overwhelmed by going to a Four Seasons? Also, think about where they’re coming from. If they live in a northern state and it’s February, perhaps only a sunny destination will do. But if the bulk of your participants are from Florida, they may appreciate either a ski program or a trip to Canada – the key is to look for a change of scenery.”

Finally, Yates suggests, take the time to create a theme around your travel incentive. This theme should be tied into all the promotions you do – expect to dedicate 10% to 20% of your program’s budget to promotion, she adds – and should also mesh with the corporate culture.

“You may already have an overall theme, such as President’s Club, but then each year you can add a different sub-theme to that,” she notes. “So if they’re going on a cruise you might call it, Full Steam Ahead, and you can tie images of a ship into your promotions. Or you may have something purely destinational, such as Make it Maui! – but you can pull it all together as, President’s Club 2003: Make it Maui! or if you’re going to Switzerland, call it, President’s Club 2003: Peak Adventures. The possibilities are nearly limitless, but the key is to make the effort. It’s worth it when you see how psyched up your people get during the contest and as it builds toward a conclusion.”