Broaden your sales incentive focus and reap the rewards

Motivate the middle 70The standard scenario of any sales team can pretty much be summed up like this:

20% are gurus, 70% are core performers (kicking it somewhere in the middle) and 10% are lagging behind. Businesses spend more than a trillion dollars annually on their sales force – more than they invest in any other promotional tactic.  But are we throwing all this money and effort at the right people?

Your sales gurus are already nailing it.  We’re not suggesting you don’t recognise their hard work, but consider what would happen if you focus more of your attention on changing the behaviour of the people who can deliver more.

It’s time your core performers got some attention.

Everyone is in the running.  How do you keep your sales incentives and contests interesting if the top performers always win? Research suggests that multi-tiered targets paired with the right rewards have the most impact in nudging your core performers to hit the next level.  Implement first tier targets that are easily achieved by core performers and step it up to targets that are typically reached by sales gurus.   You will motivate your ‘middle 70’ to take gradual, attainable steps to higher achievement.

It takes teamwork.  ANZ realised a 24% increase in bottom line growth and 53% lift in the number of products sold when they changed the focus of their sales incentive program.  Historically the program targeted only their top 10% of employees.  The revised approach offered incentives for all team members; from sales people to employees whose involvement was crucial to the sales process.  As a result, performance improved across their middle band of sales professionals.

The right reward.  Money doesn’t motivate 9 out of 10 sales people.  Even if they state a strong preference for cash, performance is improved when people are in pursuit of a non-cash incentive.  But what are the best incentives to engage your core performers?  Unfortunately there’s no black and white answer to this, because individuals are motivated by different things.  Whether it’s career opportunities, training and development or tickets to the movies – give everyone the option to choose what will inspire them to deliver their best.

The good news is that a little motivation will take you a long way.  If your middle sales people perform even slightly better – you will mutually reap the benefits.

Start by broadening your focus.


Sources:  Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement, Seek, Harvard Business Review, Steenburgh and Ahearne, Channel Business Solutions, Talent Management Online

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