Seven Steps to Driving Results

By Mark Sullivan

Sales executives rely on incentive programs to drive results. Creating a successful program that increases sales – and profits – means knowing what drives people within the organization, channel and/or marketplace, correctly budgeting for the program and measuring the return on your investment.

While there is no single – or simple – answer as to what motivates a team, Mark Sullivan, vice president of SalesDriver, and the person responsible for leading SalesDriver’s growth strategy in the performance incentives market, offers these seven steps that will make things easier.

1. Determine audience and theme. Define your target audience and set a program theme. Giving the program a focus and carrying the theme through to the end are extremely important. For an internal program, consider focusing on an initiative already under way within the company.

2. Test your formula. Make sure the commission plan is sound and competitive, and that it incorporates noncash rewards to drive specific results and behaviors. One proven guideline is to invest between 3% and 5% of a person’s annual income in noncash rewards and recognition, and to give that individual a choice of rewards. Don’t stop at the sales staff. Include the customer support team, sales engineers, administrative staff, and any third-party channels that affect the program objectives.

3. Plan for the rollout. All incentive managers understand that the program launch is critical – but it can’t stop there. Stay in touch with participants throughout the program and fine-tune the elements as necessary to ensure they deliver on the original objectives. For example, in a program focused on product sales, monitor product results and adjust the product mix during the program, if necessary. Also keep the program active by communicating with participants regularly and recognizing individual performance.

4. Identify motivating partners. Sales executives today need to go beyond their own sales force and engage resellers and channel partners. Finding new, innovative ways to gain mind-share with these channels is critical. Many program managers look for a turnkey solution that will guide them through the steps necessary to approach these alternate sales channels and quickly launch a program that will deliver results.

5. Communicate with participants. Watch out for upfront sizzle that later fizzles. No matter how spectacular your launch or how compelling your theme, communication with participants throughout the program is key to success. Unless you’re in touch with them, many participants will not remember even the initial program objectives. Send email messages that relate to the program theme or post bulletin board messages (electronic and actual) to keep the theme and goals alive for the duration of the program.

6. Inform participants about requirements. Tell participants everything they need to know about the program upfront. Will they need additional product or service knowledge? Roll out that in conjunction with the program. Providing participants with what they need to know could be as simple as putting price lists, competitive information or spec sheets online and integrating them into the actual incentive application.

7. Provide feedback. A Web-based incentive program gives you the unique opportunity to get information from the field or resellers through simple surveys. You even can tie an incentive to completed surveys. This keeps two-way communication flowing and gets everyone in the program engaged in providing immediate feedback when required. This is also the time to measure the results of your program and see if it delivered the desired return.

Focus on driving results; set your budget correctly; use a solid program theme; use communication tools to keep everyone engaged; and extend the program to all sales channels. Before you know it, you’ll be driving results!

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