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What to Avoid in Your 2017 Sales Incentive Plan

Nov 02, 2016

Written by: Tricia Mikolai
(View Author Bio)

How often have you received a one-size-fits-all t-shirt, only to find that the “one size” was modelled on the physique of an average adult from back in the Middle Ages? About the only thing that works for “one size” is a scarf.

Not only is the one-size philosophy inconvenient, but it also ignores that people like options. They prefer to customise and want something that works just right for them. Retailers have certainly picked up on this: do you want a single, double or triple burger? A black, white, rose or silver case? Two, three or four shelves on the bookcase? The list goes on…

Knowing that people spend time looking for just the right fit, it’s important to utilise this mindset when planning your sales incentives.

What to Avoid: One Size Fits All

The individuals on your sales team are motivated differently:

  • Top performers: intrinsically – that is, they are self-motivated.
  • Middle performers: extrinsically – they need rewards and recognition.
  • Bottom performers: on-boarding – that is, they are still learning how to be successful in the organisation; or exiting – they are being managed out of the organisation.

However, the majority of incentive programs are designed with a “one size fits all” approach: at the end of the year, the people who achieved X will get Y. This will only motivate about 20% of your team.

Here is the Scenario

When the year begins, you communicate the new targets and share the resources, marketing and product launches that will help them achieve their goals. At this point, everyone is excited. They see the potential and feel like they have a chance to succeed. After the first quarter, a large group of people know that they have lost some ground and probably won’t make it up. After the first half, a significant amount of people think they’re out of the running and go back to working at a comfortable pace. By the end of the third quarter, only a small group is still giving maximum effort to earn that year-end recognition.

Throughout the course of the year, you’ve missed out on any incremental sales that about 60% of your team could have brought in, simply because they’ve been eliminated from the long-term targets.

What to Implement

Definitely keep the long-term goal – this creates focus, sets priorities and motivates top performers to compete. But remember, there is still a significant audience that won’t achieve that goal – yet they can still contribute more to the business.

Design a team-based incentive that provides rewards for achieving milestones.
Create one or two short-term goals that reward people for increasing sales activity over their average.
Recognise people frequently for demonstrating the right sales behaviours.

How to Implement

For a successful incentive structure, you need three things:

  • Vivid, consistent communications
  • Frequent, transparent measurement
  • Inspirational, tangible rewards

And you don’t have to do them all on your own. Incentive design experts can provide case studies, rules structures and ROI models to demonstrate how this change from one-size-fits-all can motivate your entire sales team into greater success.

A meaningful, exciting incentive program will not only shift your Middle into higher gear, but once the word is out about how your company values your entire sales team, you’ll entice other strong, external candidates to want to be a part of it all.

At BI WORLDWIDE, we specialise in taking a tactful approach to creating a high performance sales culture. Take a look at our E-book, “Move Your Middle Sales People Onto Higher Ground” or speak to us about how our expertise can apply to your specific culture and goals.

Tricia Mikolai

Managing Director BI WORLDWIDE - Oceania

Tricia Mikolai is the Managing Director of BI WORLDWIDE – Oceania region. With almost a decade of experience in behaviour change programs, Tricia is responsible for leading multiple successful initiatives to help Fortune 1000 companies drive performance improvement. She is committed to sharing her knowledge and experience with business leaders to help them drive and sustain business results.

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