All Motivation Is Local

By Malcolm Fleschner

There’s no question that sales managers have plenty on their plates these days. So when corporations began removing responsibility for running sales incentive programs from local offices, many sales managers probably were glad to relinquish this burdensome task. At headquarters, central marketing teams took over and converted all the different, far-flung incentive programs into one large, all-encompassing contest.

While this new approach has, as intended, largely removed administrative headaches from local managers, the effects on motivation quality have been mixed, at best. Assessing the results of the centralization of corporate incentive programs, the experts at the online incentive solutions provider SalesDriver ( suggest that it’s time to return programs to local managers. Here’s why.

1. Competitive juices stop flowing.
Competition is a driving force among salespeople. Competition is also more intense among people who know and interact with each other. Pitting thousands of reps across the country – or around the globe – against one another undermines the personal side of people’s competitive spirit.

2. Comparison is difficult.
How do you compare the performance of hundreds, perhaps thousands of reps? You find the lowest common denominator – something such as net new revenue. But if large-account reps are measured on percentage growth of current customers, while small-customer teams focus on net new customers, judging them all on net new revenue makes no sense. The performance of individual salespeople needs to be judged based on what each rep is directed and expected to do. This simply can’t be accomplished across a large national or international sales force.

3. Rules are too complex.
Larger programs, by necessity, have more detailed and complex rules. To accommodate so many reps and the host of associated variables, more and more rules are required. As a result, reps walk away from the program launch lugging a dictionary-size contest rulebook that they promptly shelved. Simple programs drive results; complex programs are ignored.

4. The result is a wait-and-see attitude.
When a program runs across multiple sales offices and involves hundreds of salespeople, updating results can be time consuming. Reps want to know their successes are updated immediately for all to see. Waiting a week, a month or an entire quarter to find out how they’re doing saps reps’ energy and undermines the program.