5 Keys to a winning sales incentive plan.

Incorporating a sales incentive plan is one of the best ways to motivate your sales team.

Sales directors are always looking for ways to motivate their sales team. Incorporating a sales incentive plan is one of the most typical forms of increasing motivation levels and improving sales.

There’s a reason why 90% of top-performing companies use incentive programs to reward their sales teams. Properly structured incentive programs can increase employee performance by 44%.

The key, however, is getting it right.

How to develop a winning sales incentive plan

Designing a winning sales incentive program isn’t as simple as setting a target and offering a reward to anyone who achieves it. For it to be successful, you need to carefully consider how your program is structured.

Start by analysing your business to understand your sales challenges, environment and people. From there, you need to design a solution that meets your objectives; making sure to incorporate these key aspects of a successful sales incentive plan.


1. Make the incentive rules easy and communicate widely

As soon as an incentive program becomes too complicated to understand, your sales teams are going to lose interest (and motivation). Keep the plan simple and easy to both understand and administer.

You also need to develop a strong communication strategy to keep participants updated and engaged throughout the program. Integrating rewards and recognition into broader organisation communications is vital. This, along with offering excellent support and training throughout the program.

Working with sales incentive program professionals will ensure that your incentive plan is structured in a way that is easy to execute. You don’t need to figure it all out for yourself.

2. Role-specific incentives

In many organisations, additional expertise is often needed to assist frontline sales staff in the sales process. Other roles include customer-care experts who provide excellent pre- and post-sales support to customers, as well as advisory salespeople who have in-depth knowledge of an industry and can give presale guidance. 

These roles all contribute to the final sale, and for the entire team to continue to work harmoniously together, it’s essential to cater for role-specific incentives.

Once you have determined which roles are most useful for addressing your customers’ needs, identify the desired goals and behaviours for each role and motivate employees through various incentives.

3. Goal-focused

IRF research has found that top-performing companies favour goal-based structures in their incentive programs. Only 57% of average performing companies used sales-based quota programs while 80% of top-performing companies did.

Other research from the IRF has found that quota-based incentive programs work best. Programs that reward performance, based on meeting or exceeding goals, generate the most positive results.

The goals need to be challenging but achievable. And the focus on promoting a particular behaviour should not conflict with everyday organisational goals. Your chosen plan needs to reward behaviours that your company promotes.

4. Make sure everyone has a chance

Your team will quickly become frustrated if the same salesperson keeps dominating the incentive program. For everyone in your team to feel motivated by the program, they need to believe that they have a chance to be rewarded.

It can be helpful to create different levels of participation, so your top, middle, and lowest performers can compete against their peers rather than everyone on their team. 

Recognising the contribution of top performers is critical, and should be treated as an investment in retention. But, it’s important to not forget about your middle performers. Sales incentives should be aimed at the middle 60-70% of your sales team because the top 10%-20% of reps are self-motivated and will perform to their capabilities regardless of the incentive provided.

Identify the behaviours shared by your top salespeople. Then inspire those behaviours among middle performers by using the right mix of rewards, incentives and recognition. This will concurrently help salespeople maintain focus and sales managers prove program success.

5. Think beyond money

Some of the most successful sales incentive plans include non-cash rewards. There are many advantages to non-monetary rewards. Non-cash rewards create more excitement and enjoyment as they are seen as a ‘gift’ people wouldn’t necessarily get for themselves. They’re also more memorable, because there is an emotional element to receiving them and they enjoy a higher social aspect. In other words, non-cash rewards have brag value cash just doesn’t.

Overall, non-monetary rewards generate higher motivation levels and get sales reps working harder to achieve their goals.

Examples of non-monetary rewards include gift vouchers, experiences, travel, activities, electronics, event tickets, or even additional leave days.

It’s all in the design

When designing a sales-incentive program, there is no clear-cut template that can be applied across the board. Your program needs to be tailored to your organisation and your team.

The best way to formulate a sales incentive program unique to your salesforce is to be clear on your goals and understand your team. Make sure to keep the rules simple and easy to understand and structure your program so that everyone has a chance to be rewarded.

Are you starting to formulate a sales incentive plan? Get in touch with Achievement Awards Group to develop a tailored incentive program that is specifically designed to engage and motivate your sales team.

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