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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Schneider

9 Sales Incentive Ideas

Updated: Feb 26



How to have your people always motivated, hard-working, and giving their best, using intrinsic motivation and their personal goals.


In this post you will learn:

  • How to make incentives a true win-win for your people and your business

  • What kind of incentives you can use

  • How to make smart calculations to ensure you even make a profit despite giving your team extra bonuses




Maybe you have heard the expression that sales is motivation. As the personal mood and attitude of the salesperson will directly affect her performance in her interactions with customers, there is certainly some truth about that statement. Since people also work better when they are motivated and therefore tend to bring in better numbers, there has evolved an entire industry dealing with how to get sales teams worldwide motivated. 


But there is a catch: 

As fast as you can motivate someone, that same person can also become demotivated again.


Even the best motivation is not long-lasting. Instead, motivation by its nature only lasts a very short time. Verbally pumping up people, holding motivational speeches, and getting them raving about the products and services you sell might help as long as the team is gathered in one room. But it is usually all forgotten as soon as the same salespeople encounter their first potential customer throwing objections at them and telling them to leave.

Zig-Ziglar used to say that motivation is therefore never long-lasting, but neither is having a shower. That’s why we recommend having it daily. As Sales Managers, we want to get our people long-term motivated, with as little effort as possible and the most commitment to the task as possible. What you need to lead a thriving sales force is something that gets them excited to go to work every morning. 

Something that makes them go the extra mile and achieve more than just what is expected. You need a tool to make them so proud of working for your business, that they would even stay if they get offered a better job. 


This is where cleverly designed and strategically used sales incentives come into play.



Things to consider before using sales incentives


Before we offer our team huge rewards for special performance, we should take a step back and look at our sales process in detail. Incentives have to be desirable, interesting, and one thing above all else: give a fair reward to those people who have done the necessary work to make the sale.

This clearly sounds easier than it is done. In today’s markets and with digital sales channels the direct influence of a salesperson to get the customer to buy, your sales rep might just be one of many impressions that have led to making the buying decision. An unfair distribution of rewards will cause a few team members to reap most of the rewards while causing anger, envy, and frustration among the rest of the team. In these cases, a well-meant sales incentive from management can quickly backfire and completely crush a team’s culture and spirit. To make sure your incentives do not fall into this category, here are a few thoughts to consider:


  • The performance in sales teams is seldom equally distributed. Very often there are 2 to 3 superstar sales reps who bring in the lion’s share of the new business while the rest of the team hardly hits the necessary quota. Your incentives need to be demanding and rewarding enough for the average salesperson, but at the same time, they also have to give the best reps on the team a reason to push beyond their limits.


  • In complex sales situations, there might be more than one salesperson involved, or other employees like a project manager, IT specialist, or technician will also have to actively participate in the sales process. These professionals and their input can often play a significant part in the process, which should also be rewarded accordingly. This acknowledgment of their efforts will help to bring your entire team and all persons involved together to create the best possible buying experience for the customer and ultimately also make more sales.


  • With omnichannel distribution and multiple customer touchpoints along the sales pipeline, the marketing department might also have played a vital role in making the sale. Especially if we use digital marketing processes to generate leads, the quality and quantity of these leads will have a direct influence on the performance of the rest of your sales team. Therefore, a better quality of leads and a larger quantity of leads should also be considered for a reward to ensure a fair arrangement among the entire team - even if it means involving the marketing department.


  • A fair distribution of rewards can only take place if the company has exact systems and metrics in place to measure individual sales performance. If you have no idea who really contributed the necessary work and effort to close your new customers, you shouldn’t be thinking about creating incentives. Instead, there first has to be a clear way of measuring the performance of each individual team member, especially in the case of a successful sale. Without such systems, tracking of individual activities becomes impossible and rewards might be handed out unfairly. Employees who contributed a lot of work and went the extra mile to close a sale might ultimately see a colleague being financially rewarded for it. Of course, such an employee will make sure such instances never happen again and take things easy from then on. In such cases, these incentives will not only demotivate but also create resentment among your team - this is exactly the situation we want to avoid at all costs.


If some of these basics are not set up correctly, your incentive program might do more damage than good to your team and their performance. To handle these issues, consider using the following types and structures of sales incentives:



Incentives for individual performance


If you have a handful of overperforming sales reps compared to the rest of the team, try to create an individual incentive for them. You can let them participate in overall competitive incentives for the whole team as well, but these goals will be easily achieved for these superstars and therefore not really be a source of motivation. Instead, you have to find individual incentives for these superstars based on their current potential and performances. Ideally, you do this in a personal conversation or performance review and ask the person which type of incentive (highlighted later in the article) would be most desirable for them. This will ensure you always use the right reward for the right person.


Shared incentives


In cases where more than one person or department is involved to finally land the customer, you have to make sure that the reward is fairly distributed according to the workload of each individual in the process. This might be a 50:50 split, or 70:30, or even a 90:10. The important part is that everybody responsible for helping with the sale is also compensated accordingly, even if it is just a small amount. With monetary incentives, this is easy to do. With non-monetary incentives like cars or a vacation, this will create more of a challenge for managers. Depending on the amount of money generated through the sale you could for example reward individuals who participated in making the sales with bonuses when others are handed the car or present for example.


How technical is your product and how long does it take to sell?


There are two situations where sales incentives might not have a huge boosting effect on morale and performance as intended. The first is when the sales cycles take very long, and the other situation is when the product is overly technical and might need more of a technician to sell than a classical salesperson.


Sales Incentives can be a huge morale boost, make your employees loyal, and even raise their performance - all at once. In general, salespeople are a certain breed of human beings who are drawn to financial gains and competitive performance. For 90% of the situations as a sales manager, incentives will just work fine. However, some people are just hard to motivate and simply won’t react to monetary rewards. Even non-monetary rewards won’t get them to act. That does not make them bad employees, but be aware that a certain part of your team might not really be triggered by outside events or even by high rewards. 

This happens more commonly in technical or very complex sales of industrial products where sales cycles can take 1 year and up, or also in situations where a lot of technical expertise is needed to sell the product. Good technicians are often a different type of person than the average sales rep and are thus less likely to chase rewards and status. Therefore these people might not really react even to the most generous type of incentives.


For longer sales cycles, the timespan between the expected reward and the necessary work can become too long and cause people to perceive their efforts as futile. Even effective incentives will motivate only for a short time. It is human nature to focus on the near things in time and postpone or even ignore things that will take place in the far future. With long sales cycles of more than one year, you need a very disciplined and long-term-thinking person to be motivated by an incentive that might make their life better in a year or even afterward in the future. Such people are very rare.

In such situations, you can try to use incentives that reward short-term activity such as leads generated or the number of appointments made instead of just the final closing of the sale.



The Calculations Behind Successful Sales Incentives


sales incentives calculations
Sales + Incentives = More Motivation + More Money

What if I tell you that there is a way to motivate your people and earn more money for your business simultaneously

What if you could get your team working with full commitment, while at the same time having less work with managing them? What sounds like the dream of any business owner or sales manager is actually quite simple to achieve if you just know how to set your incentives right, and understand the underlying calculations.


For example:

Let's say Jim is on your sales team. He has been with the company for some years now and does a good job, although he is not among the top performers. Sometimes he also has bad months, but overall Jim is meeting the requirements.

In your annual performance review, Jim mentions that he has not been on a holiday for the last few years even though he would like to. By openly discussing the situation he says that just too much of his salary is gone every month for the expensive car payment (he drives a brand new car), and the high rent in his urban apartment. Jim and his girlfriend would love to travel, but cash is just short every month again. You dig a little deeper and figure out that the destination he and his girlfriend would really want to see in their lifetime would be Paris.


Armed with that information, we can now create an incentive that could make Jim a top performer, make him loyal to our company, and show much more commitment to the job than any other employee on your team:

Jim and his girlfriend would like to take a holiday, preferably see Paris - but cash is always short because they spend a lot of money on an expensive car and an exclusive apartment. 

Being a smart sales manager, what could you offer Jim now?


A bad sales manager would tell Jim to sell more so he can earn more. How brilliant. 

But as a good manager we can start calculating the numbers for an incentive: To give Jim what he truly wants, and to even fulfill one of his biggest wishes at the moment, how much would it cost the business?

Let's say a trip for one week for two people to Paris would cost the company 4.000$ with flights and hotels paid for Jim and his girlfriend. Now, if Jim earns your company 8.000$ in profit for selling x amount of products, he could have the holiday paid by the company and the company would still make 4.000$ in additional profits.

So you as his manager can go ahead and tell Jim he can have his dream holiday with his girlfriend, fully paid for by the company if he manages to sell x amounts of products in a given time.


A true win-win. Guess how Jim would feel about it? Do you think he would tell his friends and family if he achieves the goal and gets paid a holiday? When was the last time any company paid for your holiday? And that is the power of a clever calculated incentive - while still making more profits in your company than usual.

To get the calculations right the incentive has to be set apart from the usual expenses like salary for Jim, etc., meaning he would have to earn 8.000$ extra profit for your business besides the usual goals he has to face daily. But still, you would not believe what kind of power people bring to light as soon as they are really motivated. And sales is motivation, at least for a large part.


Different Types Of Sales Incentives


Apart from using someone's personal goals or unfulfilled wishes as a boost for motivation to go the extra mile, here are some of the most common and effective tools you can use as incentives. Generally, around 90% of the salespeople will be happy if you offer them only one of them. And with clever calculations made for the incentive, you can really get your people moving on an ongoing basis with very little effort - and bring loads of cash into the business on the way. Every calculation for an incentive has to be based on making a profit for the company and still allowing a major upgrade for the sales rep in his or her life. The tax laws allow us to achieve this. The company can use many expenses such as a car or a holiday as mere tax-write-off, while for an employee these will make up a major expense having to be paid with after-tax dollars. This is why the company can actually pay for something that is highly valuable to an employee while fully deducting the amount from its tax burden. Thereby a business can effectively motivate our team, offer generous incentives, and hardly pay anything for all of this.


Important:

Whatever type of incentive you choose, make sure the goal stays achievable. Incentives should get your team out of their comfort zone and help them see what they are capable of achieving. Keep in mind that a goal that is realistic and clearly measurable is motivating, while a goal that seems out of reach can have the opposite effect and demotivate people!


Money is not always the ideal incentive


For most salespeople, making money will be one of the major factors of why they took the job. But motivation for your staff does not always have to be exclusively monetary.

Some people will work in sales looking for a better work-life balance. Some will work in sales because they want something with more flexible work hours. And again others might be working in sales because they are looking for something to prove their worth and boost their ego. Some people might also just want to be part of a group and feel appreciated.

Whatever the reason is people will be working at your business, there is only one way of finding out: talk to your people.


Performance reviews or other one-on-one sessions are ideal for this conversation, as there might also be sensitive personal information revealed such as family situations, long-term goals, and more. Don't just talk to your team about their sales numbers as usual and the deals they “got cooking”, talk really from one person to the other with a genuine interest in their life goals about how your company can help them to achieve those goals. Present yourself not only as the boss but as a helpful hand and a genuinely helpful partner in their life. Think long-term and really show them that you also have an interest in seeing them succeed. This conversation alone can create a boost in morale and commitment to your business. Consider these thoughts:


  • When was the last time you had a person genuinely asking you about your life goals? 

  • How supportive have they been to help you reach these goals?

  • How would you feel if someone came along and genuinely tried to help you? 

  • What would that do for your relationship with that person or business?

  • When could you ever combine life goals and a workplace like that?


Tests and studies have shown over and over again that people automatically show better results at work when they are working for someone they like at a company they value, and that also values them in return. If you have not achieved this type of commitment with your employees yet, this simple form of appreciation for their efforts would probably be the first and best place to start motivating your team before using any incentive or other forms of socially accepted bribes to get them going. By honestly valuing your people and the work they are doing for your business, even if some of them might have a few bad months then and there, you are setting the base for a trustful relationship on both sides. 


In almost every management book this emotional factor is often overlooked or not dealt with at all, since your employees have to work for you anyways. After all, it is their job, right? So why the extra praise for someone doing what they are paid to do?

Simply because this trustful relationship would be the ideal base before any other incentive motivation can be set up for your salespeople.

As soon as you have talked with your sales reps about their goals and aspirations, and have figured out what the individual person truly values you can set sail for the next stage and introduce your incentives. Here are 9 ideas for tried and tested sales incentives:



1: Honest Appreciation

sales incentive ideas
It is simple, and should be standard. Yet it is so often overlooked.

The easiest way to motivate your sales team is so simple, yet in real life, it hardly gets used in any work environment. We talk about appreciation of the person and appreciation of their work. Before thinking about bribing people to work more and stay longer, how about just having a conversation detailing how the company benefits from their work and how happy you are to have them on your team? Consider these thoughts for a moment:


  • When was the last time you really mentioned to any one of your best employees they are doing great work?

  • When was the last time you publicly congratulated someone for their excellent behavior?

  • When was the last time you really praised one of your team members in front of others for meeting their goals?

  • When was the last time an employee contributed to your company’s success and was awarded for it?


If you can’t answer all of these questions right away, maybe it is not even time to look at monetary incentive ideas. A first starting point to boost the morale of your troops could be just to acknowledge what they are doing well, analyze what could be done even better, and tell them how important their contribution is to the overall company. Good sales management starts with your daily communication and behavior as a manager. How often do you say “thank you” whenever a project gets finished? Have you kept all your promises?

Sure, being the boss is never easy. But think about the work environment you created, if it is really one people enjoy working in. Often simple appreciation is the fastest and easiest way to better morale, team spirit, and thus better sales performances.


2: Fulfill their wishes


For some people on your team, money or a directly money-related incentive like a holiday or a shiny new car is not the right thing. In your conversations and performance reviews with your staff, your job is to find out what your people value and why. The tools and options that can be used as an incentive for sales are very flexible. For example, you could offer some more time with their family through extra vacation days instead of paying with a monetary incentive. 

If someone is not motivated by money, time is usually what comes as the second place.


Another example:

Let's say Susan has been on your sales team for quite some time. And like Jim, she does a good job but nothing extraordinary. You as her manager always believed she could do better but somehow there was never a reason to go the extra mile for her.

In your conversation, you find out that Susan loves to spend time with her family and that they love to go hiking in the mountains together on weekends.


You as a smart sales manager decide to offer her a deal: 

If Susan wants more time with her family, she can have as much time as she wants

For every y amount of products sold in addition to her usual goals, Susan can take a full week off and spend the time with her friends and family and hiking in the mountains. Let’s assume a weekend trip in a cabin in the mountains like Susan loves it would cost 1.000$. To make sure the profit also benefits from this incentive we always go for twice the amount as the condition for achieving that incentive. Thus we set 2.000$ in extra profit as our criteria.

To bring in an extra 2.000$ of profit into the business, Susan has to sell y amount of products. If you really want to kick it off a notch, add some small gifts like hiking equipment or a voucher for experiences like rafting (if that is her thing) and make the calculations for y products bringing 2.000$ + the additional expenses into the business.


When was the last time you received a week extra holiday for good work? 

How would Susan feel? 

Do you think she would tell friends and family about it? 

How many people on your team could you make happy that way?

What impact could this have on your business long term?


You can do the same calculations of course with all kinds of unfulfilled wishes or desires people have. Ask openly and listen closely to what kind of wishes people might have. Examples of such non-monetary incentives might include:


  • A visit to a famous museum. 

  • Driving a sports car for one weekend.

  • A zero-gravity flight. 

  • A weekend trip into a vibrant city.

  • A weekend getaway to a spa hotel.

  • Tickets to their favorite sports game.


Any extraordinary experience that people value and want to make will do the job. 

The options are endless. A lot of people are careful about spending their money and hold back on their personal wishes for too long. There are certainly some people on your team who also have some long-held wishes they would want to fulfill but never find the right financial situation for it. This is your chance to create a clever, personalized incentive for them and help them live a better life while also boosting profits!

You help your people, and they help you. It is that simple. 


Jim Rohn said it best: 

If you help enough people get what they want, you can have everything you want.



3: Giving Public Recognition


Not only direct rewards for personal wishes can be of great use when it comes to increasing morale and motivation among your staff. Public recognition for people is one of the best and most effective ways to sincerely influence people and boost their morale. The best companies worldwide do this rigorously. And the best of all: it is free!


It can start with something very simple like a certificate for making the first steps as a salesperson in your company. Later on, it could be a trophy or medal for extraordinary achievement. Ideally, you implement a clear reward and award procedure into the culture of your company. It can start with the first steps someone is making as new hire and from then on another award for every major milestone achieved during their career.

For example, you could offer such a certificate for every salesperson who generated their first 10.000$ in revenue. If you want to boost morale among new hires and make them feel appreciated, make sure that such rewards and recognition are really easy to achieve for beginners. A goal that is out of reach can have the opposite effect and demotivate people if they know it is out of their reach. If a goal or award is intended to motivate people, make sure it is reachable with an acceptable amount of effort.


When you hand out such awards to members of your, don't do it privately in your office. Gather the whole team in one room and have them applaud their new colleague for achieving this milestone. This can have a very uplifting effect on the person receiving the reward. Public recognition among your team is so incredibly simple and costs hardly anything. For the rewarded employee, this moment feels like a full ceremony. 

A way of being part of the tribe now.


John C. Maxwell writes in his books that every person has an invisible sign on his or her forehead that says: “Make me feel important.

This simple fact can make it so easy to motivate your team and make them feel special.

Yet hardly any sales manager or organization uses these simple tactics, and thus there is so much potential for improvement that often goes untouched. 

Set the stage, and have your whole team gather in the office regularly to applaud and award those team members who have done really good work in the past days and weeks.


  • Award your employees for achieving milestones. 

  • Award them for making progress. 

  • Award them for landing their first big deal.

  • Award them for having completed the first months on your team.

  • Award them for closing a big deal.

  • And so forth.


But don’t just hand out medals and trophies. Get creative and look for reasons to celebrate your people! Start making these rewards an event in your team, and let people feel they have achieved something by giving them a new title or position - even if it is just on paper. The titles and names you give during these “rituals” can be anything from e.g. sales champion to any hierarchic position that the person has from now on. 

The award can thus be more than just a public recognition, you can “promote” them to a now full member of the company for example. It can be anything that lifts people up and feels good. The power of a decent job title alone is described in our article on sales credibility.

By giving them a great, important-sounding title you thereby also help them be more credible in the eyes of their customers. The actual difference in the milestones in needed effort doesn't have to be large, just make sure that people get recognized for it and award them publicly.

Just remember the old management saying: criticize in private, award in public.



4: Cars

sales incentive car
"You get your ride from your company? Where do I sign up?!"

The by far most underused method for incentivizing salespeople are cars. The particular reason why cars make up such a good investment for your business and your employees as a motivational boost is that as a business you have a lot of tax options to buy a vehicle that the average person does not have. Hence for any business, it is always easier to buy a fancy car than it is for an average person. And a lot cheaper. Bought with operative leasing, the vehicle and all expenses that come with it can be completely written off. As we have highlighted in other articles already, cars are legally seen as a business expense, including all their additional costs like fuel, insurance, or maintenance. Therefore cars are a mere tax write-off for companies. Did you ever wonder how some people can afford such expensive cars when they only run a small business? 

This tax-deducting strategy is the magic behind it. The more expensive the car, the less the business pays in taxes. Who would want to be humble when one can have a nice car basically paid for by the state? Apart from the economic advantages for your business, a car will be one of the strongest motivational boosters in your arsenal by far for your salespeople. 

A network marketing company a few years ago spread like wildfire because it offered people to buy them a luxury car after they had reached a certain level in their sales hierarchy - even though ultimately their distributors had to sign all leasing contracts on themselves!

Ultimately this was a clever fraud that led their distributors into trouble. The product was useless, the company disreputable, and the promise was a farce. But even despite all these enormous warning signs, this MLM business spread like crazy everywhere, because hey - people were so damn eager to get a car just for working in a company! This is the power of a car as an incentive.


Every one of us has a dream car. Or at least some car that we would rather like to own than the current one. There are always new models available, and new features coming out. So it is very unlikely that cars will ever get boring even in the far future. 

With the tax advantages on a car you can save taxes for your business, get more sales from your people, and have them raving about their jobs all at the same time with only one smart incentive! But what sounds like the magic bullet for getting people to sell more really demands clever and sophisticated calculations on your part before you can offer anyone a car within your organization. 


For example:

Let's say Michael on your team mentions that he is currently driving a 10-year-old Honda which slowly starts falling apart while driving, and that he loves comfortable cars to drive.

Why not go ahead then and offer him a brand new car of his choice with payments of 800$ per month?

Of course, Michael first has to prove that he really is worth the reward. You can add at least 100$ a month in insurance to the payments. And probably at least another 150$ a month for maintenance throughout the year. Maybe the calculation is a little conservative, but this is close to what you can expect to maintain the vehicle. And we talk about a reasonable car, nothing too fancy. That makes a quick 1050$ per month to get Michael a brand new ride he can be proud of. 


Now you can calculate how much profit Michael would have to generate in revenue to make this a worthwhile investment for both sides. If you want you can also add an extra 200$ for fuel a month. The fuel again is a business expense for you while Michael would have to pay for it with after-tax dollars. The car lowers your taxes - and brings some extra motivation and profit into the business. From both perspectives, it is a double win, making it even more effective as an incentive. 

Together with costs for fuel the expenses for the car are making up around 1250$ per month, let's say Mike would have to bring you around 3.000$ in extra profit into the business per month to make this investment a true win-win. With a conservative calculation, this would be around double the amount you will have to spend for the car plus a little extra profit just to be sure. Thereby the business makes at least the same amount in extra profit, and we even have a safety margin in case something goes wrong.


For such calculations, we should always be considering the necessary amount for the reward we hand out plus all the usual revenue the employee would bring without it. Over the year, Michael would have to generate an extra 36.000$ to make the incentive profitable.

This calculation could be adapted to all kinds of vehicles. If Mike wants to drive a Bentley, you can also do a calculation for a Bentley with the appropriate numbers. While this would really require extraordinary effort from Mike, you can test the waters by letting him run to qualify for the incentive for a few months and see how much he really can generate. If he has some hidden talents that can earn your business a million extra profit per year - then it should not be a problem at all to buy him a 200.000$ car.


A car paid for by the company is not just a status symbol for your salesperson. 

You can also add company logos on it, to make it a driving billboard for your company. The fancier the car, the more eyeballs it will attract. People who get a vehicle paid for by their company usually are also very proud of it and tell friends and family, resulting in a better reputation and additional marketing. Plus you make the life of your employee a little easier and take one major expense off their personal bills every month. Michael usually will do all that he can to ensure it stays that way and he can keep the car based on his superior performance.

Cars can even be used to attract top talented people. As soon as the rumor spreads that your company is giving its best salespeople brand new cars each, guess what job most sales overachievers in your area will consider? Once this fact gets widely known it can even attract the best people from your competitors to come to work for you. And the best of it all - it makes the business more profitable with every car you buy for the employee. You just have to love such sales incentives!


5: Vacations


sales incentive vacation
How about a week on the beach in exchange for some effort, paid by your boss?


If we put cars aside, what could be the second most popular thing in the world everybody loves to have? No, it is not what you are thinking right now. Everybody loves to go on vacation. It is already hard to find a person not interested in owning a new car, and it will be even harder to find someone who doesn't like a new car or to go on a free vacation. And sure a vacation paid for by your boss is definitely more enjoyable than a vacation you have to pay for yourself. Vacations as an incentive can come in two different types: 


Vacations as a group incentive:

This type is a company vacation, in which the best of the team get a fully paid trip. You can either bring your whole team for superior performance or only those who are the best and have qualified to be taken on the trip. To be effective as an incentive, usually, sales reps have to “qualify” to attend this company vacation. This means they have to bring in a certain amount of extra revenue, and once that target is hit they have booked their seat on the trip. The qualification criteria and who gets to participate are therefore open to everybody on the team and need to be clearly communicated throughout the company. The best of the team can thereby be regularly rewarded for over-performance with trips like skiing vacations in the winter or a trip to Caribbean islands in the summer. 


Vacation as a personal incentive:

The other option is to reward your sales employee for extraordinary work with a paid individual trip, let's say for the sales rep and his or her partner. This is a more personal incentive, usually followed by listening closely in a performance review as mentioned at the beginning of this article. It is thus a personal offer you can make for special people where it makes sense and motivates them. It can also be handed out in the form of a voucher if the individual trip is too expensive or if the sales rep prefers to choose the details by himself or herself.


Which of these two options for vacations as a sales incentive you choose is absolutely your own choice. Your incentives should align with the overall company culture that you have, however. If the environment at the workplace is good and friendly and people really get along with each other, it can even create a huge synergy to make a trip together as a team including the bosses and managers. Such a trip combined with the right activities at the destination can lead to a lot of new experiences, laughs, and memorable moments as a team.


It is a psychologically researched phenomenon that we tend to like people better the more experiences we have with them. The more time we spend together, the more such activities create new friendships and strengthen the bond between the employee and the company. 

A vacation can therefore not only serve as an incentive but can also create a better team spirit among all participants. It also shows people from a different perspective. A sales manager might be strict and tough at work, but outgoing and funny during such a trip. It can reveal the true person behind the professional relationship.

However, be aware that situations do not get awkward and people are having too much fun in the wrong way. It does no good to have the vice president vomit in front of the whole crowd after drinking 20 tequilas. I know we are all grown up, but some types of people tend to be more prone to such behavior than others. 

If you feel like this might happen in your group too, it would be better to reward your sales reps with an individual vacation. With the personal incentive, you can also choose the destination which this particular person likes best. Some want to see Italy, others want a trip to Bali. In general, individual and personal holidays are always more valued than group trips.


In both cases, the calculations for the incentive remain the same

If a trip for a week costs 2.000$ per person, this means the person has to bring in an additional 4.000$ for the business to earn it.


When it comes to a group trip, you can also let people qualify for the seats on the plane in a competition. For example: the 10 best sales reps of the company get to participate in the trip to Thailand for one week, with a minimum of 4.000$ in extra profits for the business if the trip costs 2.000$ per person. This creates even a sense of competition amongst your staff to increase the tension of who might be on the trip and who not. 

But also be sure to get the basics right for designing such an incentive: if the top 5 people win the trip, and 4 out of those 5 are absolute over-top achievers again and again, the rest of your sales team might feel like not even trying because for them it might feel futile to compete. Make sure that the vacation incentive really can positively boost your people's effort, and not just reward the best ones while blocking out others.


6. Presents


Everybody likes presents. So why not give your best team members a present if it makes them happy? 

A Present should be individualized as we all have different kinds of wishes and a different idea of what a good present could be. It can be a Shopping Voucher, a Tech Gadget, or even a ticket to a concert or sports event. To really create the strongest possible boost in motivation, it should be something people normally would not buy on their own. 


If Frank is on your team and during your personal performance review he mentioned he likes watches and you see the Seiko in his arm, why not offer him a Rolex as an incentive? 

Or if Brenda is always well dressed and she mentions that she loves to shop, why not offer her a fancy designer handbag of her choice as a present?

The calculations remain as for the other incentives. A 10.000$ handbag requires 20.000$ in additional profit for the business and so forth. A present can really be anything from a new laptop, to a jetski or even some furniture if you know people are moving to a new place right now. A few examples of what you could offer as such an incentive include:


  • A handbag for female employees

  • A watch

  • Tickets for a concert/band

  • Jewelry

  • Subscription boxes of all kinds

  • Upgrades for their office

  • Car Rentals for a certain time

  • Tickets to sports events

  • Gym or other memberships

  • Gift Cards for popular shopping websites or malls

  • And many more!


Just talk to your team and ask what would motivate them, what wishes they have, or what they might need at the moment. As a business, all these presents for your employees can again be deducted from your tax bill. We all need or want something. Your team is certainly no exception.


7. Individual Bonuses


For those sales reps on your team who are neither turned on by driving a new car, going on a fancy vacation, and not even by getting an expensive present this option also still remains. 

Some people are really just in for the money. Instead of driving a 30.000$ car, they would prefer the 30.000$ cash. 

Cash offers more flexibility and allows people to set aside a larger portion of money at once. The field of sales is especially filled with people who are usually motivated by money, so this can be a very powerful tool of influence. 

If money is not the main motivator for a person, then maybe a change in the work environment or working conditions could be desired. How about moving to a better office place, or more remote work from any place in the world?

This type of incentive is really up to the person you are planning it for. Whatever it is, you will have to figure it out during an individual conversation or performance review with your sales reps.  The same calculation for all incentives also applies here with twice the profit for the company for whatever bonus is offered to the employee. 

Simply put for this incentive, you ask people what they want, and then offer it to them if they are willing to produce extra results for the company. And then offer them an incentive that will cost half of what people have to bring into the business for it, making sure both sides have a real win.


8. More remote work


During the Covid pandemic and worldwide lockdowns, some people started working remotely from another country in the sunshine, while their colleagues were sitting in the rainy offices. A lot of people got excited about this “new” type of remote work, and even companies had record profits and productivity levels during those years.


However, as many large companies have huge parts of their assets tied up in commercial real estate, the big bosses didn’t like empty offices in the city center. So the trend reversed and even though employees largely resisted or even quit in large amounts many companies insist on people being in the office.

If your business model allows for a flexible workplace and does not need people to be physically present, offer them to work from anywhere in the world if they hit a certain quota. This allows for a much better work-life balance and is especially important for people who have a family at home. Even better this incentive is costing you zero. Therefore you can offer it to anybody who has delivered good work in the past and demonstrated to be trustworthy to work from anywhere. With a clever system for sales performance, you will always keep track of your employee’s performance no matter if they are in the office with you or not.


9. Education, Courses, and Training


sales incentive education
How about making your degree AND earning an income at the same time?

Education is highly valued in our society. Especially for younger people on your team, an additional course, certificate, or even degree can offer them better chances for their future regardless of where they will ultimately end up.

Basically, anything that can be put in your CV to look and sound good will provide decent value for your team members. The exact type of educational program you plan to offer your sales reps should again be found out in an individual conversation as everybody will have different preferences or fields of interest.

Also in this case the company can even use programs like university courses as tax write-offs, while for the employee it could mark a very decent chapter in their career paid for by the employer. Such high-priced incentives are usually also bound to a certain time the sales rep has to remain with the company. Clawbacks can also be attached to the employment contract to provide additional security to the business when offering such incentives that might stretch over a longer period of time. This means the employee would have to pay back a certain amount of the education he received if he should leave earlier.


Education as an incentive can also be used as an additional feature for recruiting.

Many people want to remain flexible and know that whatever they plan in their future life their experience will help them. The more education you can offer for your team, the more you can also expect to be an attractive place to work.


Show appreciation for efforts


In sales, even if you work hard and give it your best things can always go wrong. Clients can cancel orders for all kinds of reasons. Deals that were practically done can break apart in the last minute all without it being your fault. If someone does not hit the additional sales numbers needed for the incentive, it can also be simply bad luck. A bad month or two doesn't automatically mean someone on your team was lazy. Occasionally this situation will happen. If you offer incentives the way we discussed them, some people will work really hard but then still miss their needed quota by a few percent.

Some of these hard-working salespeople on your team might miss the needed goals by only a few percent. For example, if Mike wants the new car you promised him for which he has to generate 80.000$ in additional profit and only generates 78.000$ despite spinning his wheels during the whole year for your business from early morning to late at night - this incentive can have the opposite effect and vastly demotivate or become a depressing experience for people.


How strict you see these terms for the incentives is up to you. For the morale of the team, it will always be a good idea to show appreciation for extra efforts, even if the criteria were not met to a full 100%. Maybe in this case for 78.000$, you could offer Mike a smaller car instead to show appreciation for his efforts.

Or you could at least make it known to your team he did a great job, and give him the desired car anyway - given that your business just earned an additional 39.000$ anyway because you did calculate the incentive well as we discussed throughout the article.

I cannot tell you how to run your company. But I urge you to really make sure that if people show extra effort, and full commitment and go the extra mile for your business, then please reward them somehow. If Mike misses the goals slightly, then maybe he cannot get the SUV he wanted. But if he showed and delivered great effort - by all means, find something else he deserved!


However, don’t change the criteria for an incentive afterward even if you want to reward your employees. This might cause you to lose credibility and spread the word that people also get rewarded if they do not put in the full effort. 

I Mike has worked so hard then give him something else for his efforts. But don’t lower the criteria just to do him a favor - next time your staff might expect to be rewarded even if they miss their goals. Once this attitude has taken over, the magical effect sales incentives can have on your business will be gone and very hard to ever return.

If Mike can't have the SUV that was defined as his incentive, maybe you could get a pre-owned vehicle similar to the one he wanted. Or maybe he would like a muscle car as well which comes cheaper.


Situations like these can occur rather often when using sales incentives for your team. In such cases, it will be up to you to decide whether you give people at least a small reward or not. Looking at it from the cold, calculating side of things you both made a deal - and if they do not meet the minimum requirements they will get nothing. That was part of that deal.

But to be fair, your business still earns a lot of extra cash if you made the calculations for incentives as we discussed them and your sales rep misses the criteria only slightly. And if people struggle really hard for a certain time only to then be left with nothing and even be perceived as a loser, you will demotivate them. In extreme cases, this can even cause team members to become depressed. Incentives in such environments can also do a lot of damage to the morale of your team and therefore fail to motivate and raise productivity.


Therefore only create incentives if you really want to reward your team. Properly used, sales Incentives can be one of the best tools in your arsenal when it comes to getting your people into gear. And best of all, you get to earn much more money in your business - while your people are more motivated to work for you than ever.

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