Incentives for your sales team only help to achieve results if they’re launched for the right reasons, your team are on board, and the hard-work is worth it for the reward at the end.
When launching an incentive scheme it can be easy to dangle a carrot-filled-with-money in front of your team to motivate them to hit targets. However, more often than not, cash is not king. Monetary bonuses can quickly be forgotten as they’re likely to be used on household bills.
You also find employees don’t feel comfortable talking about how much extra they’ve earned. It’s the more meaningful reward that has the biggest impact. The elated feeling of receiving the reward will stay with your employee far longer, reaping further motivational benefits even after the prize has been and gone. They will also talk openly about it to all of their colleagues, thus keeping the campaign fresh in everyone's minds.
When introducing an incentive programme my team of reward consultants work to a magic three-step approach. Follow these three steps and watch your staff become engaged, driven and ambitious.
1. The purpose
The first step is not rocket science, but it’s an essential first step to take. You need to be clear about why you’re looking to launch an incentive. Is it to boost sales? Is it to motivate your team to retain clients? Is it to encourage an up-sell? Set a concise purpose and it will give everyone a definite goal. The CEO and his Board need to support it and be seen to walk the talk too. This purpose needs to be clearly communicated to everyone involved, at the start and all the way through the campaign.
2. Empower your team
Once you know why you want to motivate your team, it’s important to get them on board from the very beginning. They need to be involved in the initial design of the scheme, how it is to operate, who makes decisions and how rewards are communicated. Ask them what will incentivise them. What kind of rewards do they want to see? This initial conversation will engage your staff who will stay interested right up until launch. Make sure you take the feedback on board and implement it into your programme. People will lose interest again if they don’t feel they have been listened to.
Think about how your team can take part in the actual programme too. A mechanic that empowers employees is always the most powerful one. Enable employees to nominate awards and participate in feedback. For example, if your purpose is to encourage your team to hit their sales targets, there could be a function where peers can nominate peers they feel have gone over and beyond their role for an extra prize on top. Adding an extra layer where staff feel they can control an element of who receives the prize will add an extra motivational boost and bring the team closer together.
3. Meaningful reward
There are times when cash can be the right prize - for example if the campaign ends in January and everyone wants to pay off Christmas. However, more often than not, money is not the ideal prize – even if your staff may think it will be!
A good benefit is something meaningful and memorable, such as a weekend away. This kind of prize will create memories that will stick with your employee. These memories last a lot longer than a pot of money. People will talk openly about this kind of prize too, which in turns encourages other team members to do well.
Group travel incentives are a great way to honour employees. Having teams travel together allows them to mark the occasion and experience the trip as one. In turn this bolsters a strong bond between colleagues. You also get a real sense of comrade and staff leave that destination motivated and engaged. It doesn’t have to be expensive and the payback lasts a long time.
Finally, there is one last step that mustn’t be forgotten – communication. Having done the easy part of the three steps, this is the cement that makes it come alive, gets people excited and keeps the team interested throughout its shelf-life. So many schemes fail on this one aspect.
Talk about how well it's going to reinforce the programme - use cases of success, make awards visual and personal, have posters in staff areas, send regular email updates to let everyone know what's going on, and most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate the awards.
By Bill Alexander, CEO at Red Letter Days for Business