Incentives ABCs – Always Be Communicating

By Malcolm Fleschner

Today’s business professionals are inundated at every turn with a so-called firehose of information. As a result, sales managers are forced to come up with ever more creative means of bringing attention to ongoing sales incentive contests.

According to Maritz Incentives, one of the nation’s top professional performance improvement companies, the most successful sales incentive programs include communication with reps at least once a month. In fact, with one customer Maritz supplemented a traditional print campaign with a more interactive Flash movie. As a result, participation and sales reporting went from 72% to 92% in just 10 days.

So how do you develop an effective communication plan that will excite, energize and inform your contest participants? Maritz suggests first developing a comprehensive strategy for the duration of the contest. Instead of planning a series of separate communication pieces, try to build an integrated program wherein each successive communication builds on and reinforces what came before. As you decide on the media, messages and timing, bear in mind that your goals are to inform, educate, promote, provide feedback and celebrate successes.

Early communication pieces should accomplish different goals. Begin the campaign by generating initial awareness and building excitement about the program’s possibilities – for the salespeople not the company. This is the time to explain goals in depth and dramatize award possibilities.

You also might want to create a theme that will carry through the entire contest. Themes offer a chance to explore your creativity and can tie into the prize. If top performers will be sent to Hawaii, you might incorporate leis, beach attire, surfboards and volcanoes into the communication pieces you send out.

As you communicate throughout the contest, remember to take advantage of the opportunity to encourage – you want to enhance participants’ self image and personal involvement with the contest. Also, remind your salespeople that they work for a great company and are doing laudable work by getting the message out to customers.

As a final note, the folks at Maritz point out that today’s sales incentive contests represent sizable corporate investments and ROI is not always guaranteed. Delivering the greatest return requires nothing short of full and enthusiastic participation from the sales team. With a well-thought-out communication program in place, your chances of breaking through the firehose to get that kind of participation increase considerably.