Sales Incentives: Make Your Programs Cut Through The Noise

Our team has just returned from a week-long research roadshow where we were fortunate enough to speak with presidents, vice presidents, sales managers, territory managers, inside sales and outside sales (you get the picture) people from all walks of the appliance and consumer electronics industry.  Our tour took us literally from coast-to-coast of the USA and we were really fortunate to be able to talk to some super sharp, knowledgeable folks.

As luck would have it, in our first interview of our first day, one of them really challenged me with a way that 360 could add value to our offering to him as a distributor of luxury appliances.

He said:

“I think that the incentive business has really changed into the entitlement business and that is that all brands are now giving and paying sales incentives.  Therefore as a distributor of appliances, we’re trying to be competitive in the business, but at the same time we’re always trying to reduce our costs. If 360 could help us be more competitive and help us reduce our costs, that would be valuable.”

‘Lucky me,” I thought to myself; “I have a whole week to tour stores, speak with the people who are making the final sales to the consumers and ask them exactly how to help solve the problem of how to make sure your sales incentives aren’t getting lost in the crowd.”  I will cover the cutting costs part in another post; here are six learnings, straight from the front lines:

Make it easy for them.

This touches on two roles that someone might have who is entering sales spiff claims for your brand. One is the salesperson herself: when that person isn’t on the sales floor, they are not selling and that situation doesn’t really work for either one of you. Your program should be simple enough that they don’t have to set aside massive amounts of time to dedicate to entering claims because whether they’re doing it during their work hours or their off hours, they would definitely rather be doing something else.

The second role is that of someone inside your customer’s business who enters claims on behalf of the entire sales staff. In the case of this person, they have the demands of their whole in-house team on their shoulders and they need to know that your brand is doing everything possible to make their job easier and saving them as much time as possible. If your claims are too much of a drain on their resources, this could put limits on their organization’s engagement with your brand.

Offer them visibility into the redemption process.

Nearly every salesperson we spoke with stressed that if there is an issue with their claim, they want that issue pointed out to them and they want to have an opportunity to correct it right on the spot. What they don’t want is to have claims partially paid or put on hold with no explanation of why.

Have an answer for them.

A salesman in Memphis said it best: “if there’s an issue with my claim, I don’t want to have to call my district sales manager, and maybe that takes 2 days, then he’s got to call the right person and they’ve got to look into it and before you know it, the whole inquiry takes a week or a week and a half.” This is tied to both of the above points – if your front-line sellers know that they have a strong contact point who can resolve any claim problems fast (preferably on the first call) then they are going to be continue to see your brand in a more favourable light.

Pay them fast.

100% of the salespeople I spoke with on the tour, when we asked them what they like most about their favourite programs said that they like when they get paid quickly.  This just makes sense, doesn’t it? You perform an action due, at least in part, to the anticipation of receiving an incentive. Once you have completed your end of the deal (the sale) you are looking to receive the other end (the payment) as soon as possible, period.

Offer something special to your big shooters.

If your current sales incentives programs don’t offer a bonus for the super performers, you are missing an opportunity to bring out the best in people who are highly motivated simply by knowing that they are at the top of their game.

At the end of the day, all of these people are going to work to make a living but the great thing that we saw on this trip is that the will to do truly excellent work is still alive and well out there.

So, offer some secondary bonuses on top of your programs; whether it be top rep at a store, in a chain or in a territory. As they told us in Little Rock, “it doesn’t even have to be much; it’s just nice to know that you’re appreciated for doing your best.”

Pay them cash.

There is no shortage of debate on this issue within the fulfillment industry but the folks at the front lines let us know loud and clear that companies can keep their points systems, travel rewards and branded goods. As our new friend Mike in Nashville said, “People come to work to earn a living, not an inflatable boat.”

360 sent our team on the road to gather data from as many different users of our system as possible in order to ensure that we are doing the best job we possibly can for everyone. In the process, we gathered a ton of useful, actionable data about sales spiff programs that we will be sharing in upcoming posts and reports.


Jason King 360 IncentivesJason is the Content and Community guy at Connect with Jason on Twitter