When you design a sales incentive promotion, don't start at the top
Sales incentive programs have traditionally focused on rewarding the top producers in a company. What is missing from most programs is that selling within any company is about teamwork. Building a sales incentive program from the ground up will do more for your company than just increase the bottom line. It will make every employee a salesperson.
Who enables the sales rep to do their job? The support staff, from Account Support to the Receptionist, (or the Director of First Impressions). The better they do their job, the more time your sales reps have to sell. The fewer errors made, the faster contracts move and checks flow. The best sales incentive promotions include everyone down to the file clerk. The key is the support staff is rewarded not on the performance of the salesperson they work with, but on the performance of the entire sales force. A support person won't feel penalized because they work with the "rookie" sales rep. This encourages everyone to pitch in and help wherever they're needed and builds teamwork throughout the entire staff.
Incentivize the behavior you want to encourage in your staff. Simply "increasing sales" is too vague and only addresses sales reps' efforts. What is your response time to new inquiries? Five minutes, one hour, one day? How much business are you losing because in the time is takes a sales rep to return a phone call, the prospect has moved on to the next company on Google Search? And how can your support staff help out? Incentivize them to backup sales reps on new inquiries, training them to gather the necessary information from prospects so sales reps can then follow-up with a quote. Are contract reissues increasing as sales increase? If not, sales reps may be spending so much time chasing new business they're failing to follow-up on current sold clients, your easiest sales. Can you implement a program for account support personnel to follow-up on contract reissues giving sales reps more time to focus on new and large accounts? Empower the support staff to go beyond issuing contracts to actively helping increase the company's sales.
Lots and lots of winners and very, very visible. Incentive programs are about reinforcing behavior you want repeated so recognize it immediately and do it often. Don't wait until the program is over to hand out all the goodies. It's like running a race. Each time you pass a mile marker, it's a little victory. When someone shouts your name, it encourages you to pick up the pace. If rewards are handed out only when the program is over you lose most of the power of the incentive. Dangle the big carrots but don't forget the small rewards. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals. Every time a check comes in for new business, reward it. Response time on new inquiries goes from 45 minutes to 25, reward it. An account support person comes up with a faster and more accurate contracting process, reward it. Your desktop support person brings in 5 new business leads, definitely reward it!
The goal of a sales incentive program is to make the company more successful, so get the entire company involved in the program. You'll not only build profits but also community, loyalty and teamwork among all your staff.
Julie Davis is the Research & Development/Sr. Accounts Manager for SCA Promotions of Dallas, Texas. With 30 years of experience in advertising and promotions, she is a promotions consultant and speaker working with clients on local, regional and national programs. SCA Promotions is one of the world's largest prize promotion companies, creating and underwriting results driven B2C and B2B promotions.