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9 Recommended Ways to Incentivize Your Sales Team

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9 Recommended Ways to Incentivize Your Sales Team

id you know 66% of employees are motivated to stay and excel at their jobs because of an incentives program? If your sales team isn’t performing as well as they used to, it might be time to refresh your incentives. We asked sales experts and shop owners to weigh in on the best motivators for their top salespeople. Plus, we’ll tell you which incentives to avoid at all costs.

The reality is that incentives help companies recruit and keep top-performing salespeople. If you’re not in tune with what actually motivates your team to shoot for the stars, you risk losing your A-players, as well as profits. Companies that actively incentivize their employees enjoy a 27% rise in profits, a 50% increase in sales, 38% above-average productivity, and a 50% increase in customer loyalty levels, statistics show. 

Top Tactics to Incentivize Your Sales Team


1. Use a strong commission and bonus program.

Most professional salespeople are motivated by commission and bonus programs. “The best way to design commission and bonus programs to drive strong performance is offering a tiered structure that creates positive reinforcement to overperform in the period to unlock more compensation,” says JP Hunt, co-founder and president of InkSoft. He also recommends a year-end bonus to keep salespeople motivated all year long. A bonus can also act as a strong retention tool. 

On the flip side, Hunt says, 100% commission and bonus programs are the least effective way to manage sales compensation programs. “When a team member isn’t salaried, they don’t behave like an employee, so it’s harder to manage them,” he says. Any commission or bonus program you put in place should be simple to understand, which should help to remove any uncertainty around compensation.

Sell like a pro:

Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images, recommends setting up a commission system that pays out more on the back end. “The higher your sales go, your commission percentage grows,” he says.

For example, sales up to $500,000 have a 5% commission, and then sales of $501K to $1 million earn 6 percent. “If they’re willing to work more, give them a financial incentive to help you grow your sales,” Potter says. “No one works harder to earn less money.”

2. Offer incentive choices.

Every salesperson on your team is different, and they’re motivated by different rewards. Companies that give employees the right rewards for achieving their sales goals report a 79% success rate in making those quotas. Build incentives offerings based on your company's budget range and set realistic goals for your salespeople, so they earn the reward they want. 

Financial bonus incentives, time off increases, flexibility to work and test sales strategies, and progressive salary growth are big (and doable) motivators for any business. “Most of our team would rather see their salary or position grow or receive financial rewards to use when they want, rather than one, fixed incentive,” says Parker Evensen, sales manager at Gunther Motor Co., a car dealership in Florida.

While Evensen says that a fixed prize like “win a trip to X destination” are exciting and build morale and competition, most salespeople prefer to choose their own financial or time-off reward. “You can offer a top monetary monthly prize for the top salespeople, but include other flexible options, he says. 

3. Make your people feel valued.

Evensen’s team gets coins that they can give to other employees to recognize them for a small or larger achievement. Salespeople need to feel their work is valued by their manager and company to stay motivated. You can offer praise privately, via a company-wide email or lunch. In addition, invite your sales team to get involved in decision-making or to lead new initiatives in your shop.

4. Encourage working together before competing.

“A whiteboard list with everyone’s sales numbers or call quotas might be a lot less effective than you think. This can be read as a management style that ranks and shames those who aren’t doing as well.”  
Kristine Shreve, director of marketing and outreach for Applique Getaway

Having a competition-first climate can cause people to disregard each other as colleagues and demotivate people in a temporary sales slump. If you foster collaboration, your people will function more like a team. Try like setting group goals against your shop competitors or creating a program that encourages team members to mentor each other.


5. Allow salespeople to flourish and run with ideas.

Salespeople are often risk-takers and people who love to try out new things. Allowing them the room and encouragement to try new things, like using a totally different prospecting tactic, is its own reward. If one of these ideas results in new customers or orders, that’s another opportunity to reward them.

“Most top salespeople are internally, rather than externally, motivated,” Shreve says. “Their motivation comes from wanting to be good at what they do, from helping their clients and providing goods and services those clients need. Making sure they have the information and tools to do the best job possible are good motivators.”


6. Don’t forget to celebrate small wins.

The sales ecosystem in your shop is a busy one, with prospects in all stages of the buying cycle. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask your salespeople to track daily wins, like finally converting a prospect they’ve been chasing. While you don’t need to announce these wins in meetings (although you can), congratulating them on a win and recognizing them for it increases morale big time, studies show.

“Not all businesses can afford to pay high commissions, bonuses or give cool gifts. However, all companies are capable of providing recognition.”
Elias Diaz, director of sales at tech platform Virtudesk

7. Offer individual and group awards.

When you create an award series (extra points to you for purchasing physical trophies), it helps people become excited to earn public praise, and an award to display in their office. Plus, other team members will talk about the win and congratulate each other. “Recognition is key to empowering your employees,” Diaz says. “This allows them to be validated for the great work they have done, and it’s something that can stay with them longer.” Diaz recommends including awards like “Quarter 1 Top Performer,” “Highest Percentage Closing Rate” or “Top Performing Sales Team Member.”

“It’s also important to recognize employees who struggled at first but have seen great improvement along the way. Praise them for overcoming their struggle with awards like 'Most Improved Performer Award' or 'Overcomer of the Quarter Award.'”
- Elias Diaz,
director of sales at tech platform Virtudesk


8. Don’t hesitate to do something bigger or more memorable. 

At NGA Promotions, President and Chief Branding Officer Shawn LaFave, along with his team “did something big” for the distributorship’s director of operations. “Even though it wasn’t part of his job description, he did everything we needed to do to qualify for grants and loans to keep our staff employed during the pandemic,” he says.

“We went out and bought him a Large Big Green Egg cooker as a thank you. He was extremely grateful and still talks about it all the time.” LaFave recommends thinking creatively about incentive rewards.

“Sometimes, it pays to make a grand gesture. Buy a new set of tires for a staffer. They’ll remember that longer than a $100 gas card.”
Shawn LaFave, President and Chief Branding Officer at NGA Promotions


9. Run a competition or sales game the right way.

It’s always fun and different to run a sales contest here and there to motivate your team. However, you’ve got to do it the right way to keep people engaged. Here are tips to make it work for your print shop or distributorship:

Make it short. While people are excited about a contest, they won’t want to keep up the pressure for more than a few weeks

Make it simple. Focus on one particular thing: making the most calls, setting up the most appointments or closing the most sales.

Track and broadcast results in real time. “If you set goals or an internal competition, you have to follow through on it,” Evensen says. “Do the daily record tracking, update any internal tools you’re using to track progress.”

Make it team-based. While you can run individual prizes, when you make it team-based top performers won’t always win and up-and-comers won’t always lose.

Present the rewards in a timely way. “If you don't follow through and take your initiatives seriously, your sales team won't either,” Evensen says.

Your Top Takeaway

A properly structured incentive program can increase your employees’ performance by 44 percent. The incentives that work best for your salespeople depend on your company culture. A good place to start is by simply asking your sales team what types of incentives motivate them and which ones make them want to hop to a new job. Then, review your current incentives program and see where you can start making positive changes today. 

Aug 21, 2022