Structuring a Winning Sales Incentive Program

A powerful sales incentive program starts with a strong structure, fitting the needs of your brand and your sales channel to ensure you’re not only maximizing your revenue but effectively using your time and resources.

The structure of your program should consider what your sales channel would prefer and what is within budget for your brand, to ensure you garner a greater ROI.

Within the incentives world there are three main program structures that a brand can adopt for their promotions: open-ended, closed-ended, and plateau programs. Each structure has their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to running a successful sales incentive program.

In order to aid your brand on deciding what works best, we’ve broken down each structure. Here are the three most prominent sales incentive structures that your brand should consider:

Open-ended programs

Open-ended programs allow all participants who achieve a specified goal to redeem a reward.

The top advantage of this program structure is its inclusiveness. It allows associates to reach targets and receive a reward even if they are not the “top” seller. Open ended-programs would work for those brands who are looking to set the overall sales quota higher for the next year.

The disadvantage of this program however, is that spend can vary. It isn’t until the program is over that your team knows how much will be spent, which can deter brands with a set budget for their promotions.

Closed-ended programs

Closed-ended programs, much like the title states, closes off the program to a set number of associates. For example, if the set number is 25 that means that only 25 sales associates can collect the reward.

The benefit of this structure is that the budget is fixed, which means you can predict the financial outcome of this program, allowing you to allocate time and resources effectively. In addition, it can be argued that there’s an increase in competition, since there is a set number of people to win, associates might try harder to achieve the reward.


The downside to this program structure is that associates can feel discouraged when they aren’t on a selling streak. If 25 people are already doing amazing, the other 40 associates might not feel motivated to sell because they wont receive a reward. In addition, it might only propel the associates who would have sold a lot anyway.

Plateau Programs

A plateau program will reward participants if they achieve different program levels. Only when you reach a certain level or “quota”, can you move onto the next.

The biggest advantage is that it enables brand to determine and control the amount paid to associates, allowing them to predict and in certain cases optimize spend. Plateau programs also let associates know what the reward is and hones in on their individual performance.

The downside to these programs however is that they don’t aim to increase overall program performance, they’re more specific to individual performance. On that same note, participants can become disappointed and withdraw if they missed a “level” or “quota”.

Structuring a Winning Sales Incentive Program

With each program structure comes advantages and disadvantages. The program you choose ultimately comes down to budgeting limitations and the results you want from your program.  Determining which structure you move forward with should be a carefully curated marketing tactic, that propels your programs participation and revenue.

Learning how to structure a successful program is then imperative, and getting started we understand how difficult it can be. Which is why we created our latest eBook: The Essential Guide to Running Successful Sales Incentives. To help you get started with structuring your incentive program and to enhance your current programs capabilities.

From step by step processes to exclusive worksheets, this eBook is the complete package to understand and obtain the full potential of your sales incentive program.

If you’re ready to skyrocket channel performance and maximize your revenue, download The Essential Guide to Running Successful Sales Incentives now.