Do Your Rewards Measure Up?

By Malcolm Fleschner

As a sales professional you understand that the car you drive and the clothes you wear say a lot about you as a person, right? By the same token, says Bruce Bolger, president of the Irvington, New York-based Selling Communications, Inc., the prizes your company offers its salespeople as rewards for their efforts represent more than just an enticing carrot that encourages people to achieve. They also send a message about your company’s priorities and values.

Bolger points out that too often sales organizations ask reps to make significant changes in the way they sell or demand increased performance but don’t offer awards that measure up to the effort required to win them. Giving away cheap, low-quality awards makes companies look, well, cheap and low quality. Similarly, using cash as a perennial incentive reward or offering the same merchandise year in and year out can lead some employees to consider the incentives part of their base compensation. Instead of making these common mistakes, consider the following reward tips from Bolger.

1. Follow the basic rules. Make awards valuable enough to measure up to the actions needed to obtain them. Incentive rewards should be available to everyone who improves performance, reflect well on the company for providing them and change from program to program

2. Throw participants a curve. Consider adding an element of surprise to your incentive contests. This doesn’t necessarily mean keeping participants in the dark about prizes, but could mean a special add-on to the announced reward – people always appreciate getting more than they expected. Special extras also can increase interest and excitement about future contests.

3. Make rewards multi-tiered. Offer two or three award levels. Make the top tier a highly desirable prize reserved for genuinely outstanding performance. Add to that a second tier for significant improvement and a third tier for everyone who shows improvement. It is particularly important that the prizes reflect the performance if you use a tier structure.

4. Deliver recognition. Recognize a job well done in front of the winners’ peers. Recognition often is more of an incentive than taking home the prize. Give thought ahead of time to how you plan to announce winners and deliver the prizes for maximum recognition and impact.