5 Keys To Running a Successful Sales Incentive Program

February 7, 2014 Deb Broderson

A successful sales incentive program is the outcome of good planning and teamwork. They don't just happen.  Whether you are tasked with planning for a new Sales Incentive Program or trying to improve results of an existing one, here are five keys to a successful Sales Incentive Program.

Five keys to a successful sales incentive program

Sales Incentive Program goalsKey #1 – Clearly define your goals

Involve your sales team in determining the sales incentive program goals and definition of success is step one. Without first defining what business goals you want your company to achieve, it’s going to be very difficult to show how sales performance goals are going to positively affect the company as a whole. And without those goals defined, the success of your sales team cannot be measured.  Be mindful of the sales cycle for your product for determining the goals and duration of your incentive program and remember that goals should be modeled on the SMART methodology: Smart, Measureable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related.

 Key #2 – Understand what motivates the sales team

As you design your sales incentive program, consider incenting on new behaviors, such as selling a new product, meeting higher quota, taking new learning quizzes, etc. Balance the incentive with regular employee performance and add social recognition to the sales incentive program. Not only does recognition affirm good behavior, it also garners a sense of friendly competition when peers see others being acknowledged. In a recent Aberdeen study, among best-in-class companies, 57% of respondents said besides financial compensation, that internal recognition for positive performance, or a “job well done” was their top motivator for sales success.

Key #3 – Communicate often

The launch of your program is critical, but ongoing communication with participants is equally important. Plan a multi-channel strategy that incorporates all available communication vehicles and think about their best use. Bulletins might include a scorecard or a leader board showing how individuals or teams are doing. Feature success stories, selling tips, or maybe just a mouth-watering photo of a grand prize. Regular communications keep the enthusiasm high, and that’s what drives people to achieve the results and behaviors you want from your sales incentive program.

Key # 4 – Show sales (and the company) where they are making an impact

Sometimes, when sales incentive programs are run, there is a tendency to say “hey, we sold more than last year, last month, last quarter, etc., so the program must be successful.”  While that may be true,  it may not be because it is  not taking into account market conditions, other programs being run at the same time, general sales trends or anything else that may skew your results. The credibility of your metrics and the future of your budget is directly tied to how you analyze and report program success.  Measure and evaluate from the planning stage, through the program lifecycle. Build a balanced approach that includes a way to isolate the effects of the program. Control groups are ideal for sales incentive programs and surveys are a great way to capture participant input.

 Key # 5 – Use technology smartly

If you are in a small company, spreadsheets, web forms and stand alone tools may work,  but for  anyone else,  smart use of technology will help your program succeed, provide much needed reporting and analysis tools and allow integration to key data sources.  As you plan your sales incentive program consider how gamification would enhance participant engagement levels.  Include social recognition so participants can share accomplishments.  Integrate with CRM and/or PRM tools to improve both the participant experience and the quality of data.

While there is no magic answer, careful planning and design will help you manage a successful sales incentive program.

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