Don’t Make a Mess of the Message

By Malcolm Fleschner

“Communication breakdown – it’s always the same.” Belting out these lyrics Led Zeppelin front man and heavy metal rocker Robert Plant lamented the difficulty he felt expressing his feelings for a certain young lady. If Plant had been a sales manager instead, however, one might have suspected he was singing about a failed sales incentive program.

That’s because, as the folks the online employee recognition solutions provider eMaritz point out, regardless of prizes, length or goals, effective communication often determines whether a sales incentive program reaches expectations or falls short. With incentives, effective communication means participants understand the following four components:

  • The program’s objectives
  • What they need to do to attain those objectives
  • What they’ll earn for reaching the objectives
  • Where they currently stand against those objectives

Communication also is not a one-shot deal. Your salespeople will be best served with frequent updates, reminders and motivational messages. eMaritz breaks down the communication strategy into five key areas.

1. Tailor a theme.
Much like a company logo, a contest theme makes all communication materials instantly recognizable to participants. When choosing a theme, try to make sure that it will appeal to everyone involved. Keep the message simple and try to package it all with a memorable phrase and visual reminder.

2. Build a site for all eyes.
In today’s business environment, there is almost no excuse for not having a dedicated Web page for your sales incentive contest. The page should serve as the starting point for everyone involved while highlighting program rules, communications and training, award choices and administration.

3. Hear ye, hear ye!
The program’s announcement email is absolutely critical. In it you establish the contest’s tone and begin to inform and excite your participants about what’s coming. It is your call to action. The announcement email should define objectives by explaining the overall goals and what will be expected of participants, outline the rules as simply as possible and give salespeople an idea of just what they can win from realizing their objectives.

4. Keep it up.
With follow-up emails you maintain the momentum you established during the announcement and keep people updated on their progress, while keeping the program visible. So in your emails, remember to remind participants of their objectives and recognize ongoing accomplishments.

5. Announce the winner.
Announcing your winner or winners is the most fun part of the contest, so make the most of it. Plus, celebrating success actually enhances the program’s results while establishing the tone for the next time around. Since salespeople appreciate recognition in front of their peers, make sure all your participants know who won – and how much you appreciate everyone’s efforts.