20 Sales Incentive Ideas That’ll Motivate Your Sales Team
A sales incentive is any reward or recognition (beyond a sales rep’s normal typical compensation) given as a gesture of acknowledgment, appreciation, or celebration for their accomplishments and contributions.
Sales incentives are an important part of keeping salespeople motivated and engaged at work. Don’t underestimate the importance of this; employee engagement is about more than just attitude at work. Companies whose employees are engaged enjoy higher retention rates, higher productivity, and over 20% higher profits than those with less engaged employees.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about sales incentives, including what they are, why they’re so important, how to implement them with your team, and a few of the most effective options.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is a Sales Incentive?
- Why You Need a Sales Incentive Program
- Types of Sales Incentives
- 20 Sales Incentive Ideas
- How to Implement a Sales Incentive Plan
What Is a Sales Incentive?
A sales incentive is a reward (monetary or otherwise) given to a sales professional to recognize work they did that contributed to the success of their individual goals or those of their organization, or otherwise exceeded expectations.
Sales incentives are given in addition to standard compensation components like base salary, commission, and/or bonuses. They’re used to motivate, and subsequently reward, salespeople toward meeting or exceeding specific sales goals.Lead your team to successTrack, analyze, and standardize what’s working
Why You Need a Sales Incentive Program
Sales incentives are a great way to give recognition to your employees. They provide both a gesture and a physical reward to employees that recognize the effort they made that contributed to the success.
And a word of caution: don’t consider sales incentives an “add-on” or a “nice to have.” Employee recognition is extremely important; lack of recognition is nearly tied for first when it comes to what gets most in the way of reps’ ability to succeed.
Sales incentives improve many aspects of sales performance. They increase productivity, improve employee engagement, and increase employee retention and job satisfaction.
Nearly 80% of employees report that recognition is what motivates them to work harder. More specifically, they report an increase in productivity after being recognized or rewarded.
And, in today’s sales world where salespeople are only afforded about one-third of their day for actual selling activities, this productivity boost is extremely important.
When employees know they will be recognized for excellent work, they’re nearly 3x more likely to be highly engaged on the job (which has tons of benefits).
Sales incentives help motivate employees and keep them engaged as they work toward sales targets and larger organizational goals.
In a survey of over 30 CEOs, the majority responded that rewarding employees have the biggest positive impact on employee retention.
A 2020 Deloitte study found that almost half of the surveyed employees would stay at their company if they were incentivized with bonuses or other forms of compensation.
And with employee turnover costing anywhere from 1.5 – 2x the lost employee’s annual salary, sales incentives can offer a huge ROI if they’re implemented correctly.
Types of Sales Incentives
There are many different sales incentives that may work for your individual sales team. In general, each of them will fall under five specific categories.
1. Role-Specific Sales Incentives
Role-specific sales incentives are incentives that are given out according to the awardee’s unique role and responsibilities. This incentive structure helps sales reps improve the performance expected of their specific role and can help optimize the pipeline as a whole.
2. Split Sales Incentives
A split sales incentive is an incentive structure in which the reward is divided among however many participants who contributed to the recognition-worthy outcome.
A split sales incentive can be split evenly, or according to custom criteria.
This format can be especially beneficial for companies with long, complicated sales processes, or those that otherwise involve multiple collaborators. Split sales incentives help ensure that everyone gets recognized commensurate with their contribution.
The key here is to make sure that the incentive structure is clearly defined ahead of time. There shouldn’t be any surprises or changes to the format once the sales cycle is in motion.
3. Presales Incentives
With presales incentives, sales reps might receive a reward or other recognition at specific points of the sales process before the deal closes.
Presales incentives can be very effective and, in some cases, even necessary for companies with especially long sales cycles or difficult sales objections. Presales incentives can keep sales reps motivated as they navigate a long or challenging sales pipeline.
4. Omnichannel Sales Incentives
In today’s digital age, most sales take place across two or three different channels — sometimes even more. The prospect is now in the driver’s seat for most of the process, and may ultimately decide to purchase at a moment when the sales rep isn’t necessarily there to close the deal themself.
Omnichannel sales incentives account for that, and reward reps based on the contributions they made throughout the process, regardless of the linearity of the buyer’s journey.
5. Analytics-Based Sales Incentives
Analytics-based sales incentives used direct data and sales metrics to determine how and when to reward sales reps. This format also allows sales managers to incentivize based on the specific behavior that the data shows will help the team reach their goals.
Tip: Boost team motivation and productivity with our free guide on running effective 1:1 meetings.How Sales Managers Can Maximize 1:1 Meetings (Backed by Data)Proven strategies for 1:1 meetings that’ll give reps confidence in their day-to-day and drive higher revenue across the team.
20 Sales Incentive Ideas
Sales incentives can have a huge impact on a sales team’s performance, and they’re surprisingly easy to implement. There are a variety of sales incentive ideas that range from free to costly, and low-effort to complex (but highly rewarding). Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Cash Bonuses
At the end of the day, as blunt as it sounds — just about everyone appreciates cash.
Some of the most highly-motivating sales incentives are financial ones, and cash (or a digital equivalent) with no strings attached is pretty much universally appreciated.
You can make this kind of incentive, even more, motivating by gamifying or otherwise customizing the reward structure and schedule.
2. Salary Increases
Another way to offer a financial sales incentive is through scheduled or unscheduled salary increases. In some organizations, these are known as a raise. A salary increase may be performance-based, or according to a pre-scheduled percentage.
If reps know that their standard salary will increase permanently once they reach certain milestones, they’ll be more likely to be engaged in their job performance.
3. Gift Cards
If you want to offer a monetary sales incentive but want to make it feel like more of a “gift” than just straight money, a gift card might be a good option.
Gift cards are also great because you can personalize them for just about any scenario: local restaurants, popular online retailers, and even Visa gift cards can all be welcome sales incentives for employees.
Tickets to local events or attractions can also make great sales incentives. Consider offering tickets to things like concerts, sporting events, festivals, theater performances, and more to show your employees recognition for their hard work.
5. Travel Vouchers and/or Experiences
Travel perks make fantastic sales incentives, and offer enough options to fit just about every resource level. Some ideas for travel-based sales incentives include:
- Taxi, Uber, or Lyft vouchers
- Airline miles
- Hotel vouchers or upgrades
- Paid trips/vacations
These can be especially welcome rewards in a post-pandemic world where people are really starting to enjoy travel again. These travel perks are sometimes work-based, but to really fit them under the “incentive” category, reps should be able to enjoy them during a time of leisure.
6. Team Trips/Retreats
Some companies incentivize their employees for outstanding performance with the promise of an all-expenses paid company retreat. These are often highly valuable experiences that offer employees access to both exciting leisure activities and enriching professional development opportunities.
Just be careful not to frame a “mandatory retreat” as a fun, engaging experience if it’s really just going to be a bunch of meetings. If you’re going to sell this as a true sales incentive, you have to make sure it’s a highly rewarding experience — professionally and personally.
7. Company-Sponsored Nights Out
If you’re looking for a way to provide smaller sales incentives on a more frequent basis, you might consider rewarding high-performing employees with a night out on the town when specific goals are met.
This could be a great way to incorporate presales incentives into your sales incentives program.
8. Tech Gifts/Tech Upgrades
For sales reps in certain fields (or those with a personal interest), new tech gadgets can be highly motivating sales performance rewards.
This is another sales incentive that can fit a range of budgets; everything from new earbuds to new iPhones to new laptops would likely be greatly appreciated by employees on your team.
9. Donations to a Worthy Cause
Although it’s not a reward given directly to an employee, a donation to a worthy cause makes a lovely sales incentive — especially when it’s part of a larger overall incentive program.
But do your research ahead of time — this incentive can only be fully effective when the donation recipient is chosen based on the employee’s preference. A charitable contribution toward PETA probably won’t go a long way with a BBQ enthusiast. Check in with your employees about what matters most to them.
10. Website or Newsletter Features
For a free and incredibly easy way to incentivize employees, you might consider highlighting high performers in your newsletter, or in a prominent place on your website.
For some employees or businesses, this type of reward might be on the less significant side of the scale, but it can be a meaningful component of a more thorough reward schedule.
11. Professional Development
Some sales reps can be highly motivated by the opportunity to attend valuable professional development events like trainings or workshops. Access to valuable mentorships can also be a motivating reward for sales reps meeting their goals and hoping to accelerate their success.
12. Promotions and Role Progressions
Depending on a salesperson’s preferred career track, they may be motivated by the promise of predictable career advancements. If a sales rep knows that they’re guaranteed to advance as long as they hit certain targets, they’ll be highly likely to work as efficiently as they can to reach them. This sales incentive pairs nicely with others like salary increases and life perks (later in this list).
Like cash, PTO is virtually universally appreciated and can be a valuable sales incentive that will motivate salespeople to reach their targets. This is a great example of a sales incentive that can work at any point throughout the sales pipeline and can be scaled in magnitude to match the achievement.
14. Stock Options
Not every company has the ability to offer them, but for those that do, stock options can be very lucrative sales incentives for employees who earn them. These can be complex, so make sure your organization works closely with a corporate accountant before implementing an incentive like this.
15. Office Modifications
For employees who are in the office full-time, an office refresh can be a great sales incentive. A new office chair, a cool standing or walking desk, or a communal leisure room are all great examples of office upgrades that can be used as sales incentives.
Memberships to places like gyms, theater clubs, and recreation centers can be exciting and motivating sales incentives for certain sales reps. These are usually memberships that help improve a work/life balance and will enrich employees’ lives outside the workplace.
17. Online Learning/Subscriptions
If you work in a field that includes frequent updates that are published behind paywalls, you might consider offering free access to those resources as a sales incentive.
You can also offer a sales incentive by paying for employees’ access to paid personal or professional development portals that complement the employee’s goals, wants, and needs (personal or professional).
18. Subscription Boxes
For a strictly fun sales incentive, there are tons of subscription boxes on the market — enough to fit just about any need, budget, or reward preference.
From alcohol and spirits to new designer clothes to video games, there are virtually limitless ways to customize this incentive (which makes it much more likely that it will be highly motivating to those who receive it).
19. Life Perks
Some sales reps — especially those who are supporting more than just themselves — may be highly motivated by “life perks.” Life perks are things like:
- Stipends for childcare
- Access to doggy daycare
- Free parking spaces
- Access to frequent flyers clubs
While these things may individually seem small or insignificant, they can really add up for busy professionals who are also managing a busy home life. Anything that takes something off an overflowing plate can be highly motivating and rewarding to sales reps.
20. Transportation Perks
Field sales reps will greatly appreciate travel incentives, like an improved gas reimbursement rate, upgraded rental cars, free public transit fare cards, etc.
In order to truly incentivize this, make sure the reward goes beyond what you should be provided through your basic responsibilities as an employer.
If, for example, you require your employees to drive at least 50 miles a day as part of their sales role, you should be reimbursed at least a certain percentage of that mileage as far as gas money goes.
The incentive needs to go beyond that. You could, for example, cover gas in full, or offer regular oil changes on top of the reimbursement rate.
How to Implement a Sales Incentive Plan
Though they take some planning and management, sales incentive plans are actually not terribly complex to implement. And, fortunately, the ROI is often tangible and fast, making it easy to understand just how “worth it” sales incentives can be.
The following steps can help you implement a sales incentive plan with your team.
1. Ask For Personal Preferences
Rewards are most effective when they’re carefully matched to employees’ preferences and desires. Different rewards (and timing) are motivating to different people, so it’s crucial that sales managers take the time to get to know their employees’ personal preferences when it comes to being recognized.
And this goes for more than just the actual reward — make sure you find out whether each employee likes to be recognized publicly or privately, too.
2. Set Goals With Tangible Metrics
In order for employees to reach goals effectively, they need to know exactly what they’re working toward. Make sure your sales goals are clearly defined, as well as the metrics and schedule you’ll use to measure progress towards them.
SMART goals can be very helpful in upholding these goal requirements. Writing goals in the SMART format enables sales reps to keep careful tabs on their progress as they work to meet them.
3. Offer a Variety of Options
Sales incentive plans are not one-size-fits-all. They can only be effective when there are rewards that fit the preferences of everyone on your team. Make sure you offer a variety of sales incentives. They should differ in scale, type of reward, and timing of implementation.
4. Allow for Multiple Winners
Sales incentives are not meant to be a team competition. Employees are not rewarded because of how much better they did than others on their team; they receive sales incentives as a result of their own performance. Your sales incentives should always allow for multiple people to receive recognition at any given time.
Do you use sales incentives with your team? Which are the most popular? How often do you offer them?
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