Using incentives to drive business growth

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If sales are the engine of your business, sales incentives are the high-octane fuel needed to drive performance. This is an ever-popular, tried-and-true tool used to energise sales teams to sell more by qualifying for and winning great prizes.

The incentive is a noun that describes an object or experience that can be earned by meeting certain criteria. The mechanic is quite simply being rewarded for hitting specific targets says Claire Storm, Co-founder and Director for Airshot, an innovative digital toolkit that boosts communication and collaboration across business value chains.

With years of experience in the incentives industry, Claire believes that without a data-driven, structured approach to incentives – and plenty of internal buy-ins – companies will find themselves wheel spinning. “A sales incentive programme without the right blueprint could cost you a bundle of time and effort and leave you with lack-lustre returns. Worse yet, you won’t get the revenue results you want from your employees,” says Claire.

“When it comes to running incentives, many companies have formed bad habits. I have seen too many businesses put their entire incentive budget and plough all their creative juices into promoting the campaign rather than into the detail that will push their sales teams further. All too often, it’s about creating a poster of a magnificent beach, adding some colourful cocktails, dropping a speed boat onto the water and use a catchy campaign name – without focusing on what actually needs to be achieved.”

While the creative process has its place because every incentive does need a carrot, the work does not end with a flashy design. Claire suggests considering these fundamental rules for your next incentive:

1. Transparency

Don’t hide the results in a secret vault for all eternity! The announcement of the winners should never be a huge shock or surprise. Using regular leaderboards, the results will drive the desired behaviour change and ensure that your sales force keeps working towards the win! Transparency also opens you up for healthy internal competition where your sales teams will begin to rally each other – I don’t need to win, as long as I beat Bob – giving you an unstoppable team that is fully engaged with the goal.

2. Performance PLUS Participation

When you are drawing up the mechanics of the competition, include measurements based on performance as well as participation. Performance is the integer that defines success so be clear on your goals up front whether its growth percentage, number of sales or profit improvement. The more focused your revenue goal, the easier it is for your sales team to understand and achieve it.

Participation is just as important. Be sure the goal is clearly communicated and mention it over and over in a way that drives two-way engagement. Make it compulsory to respond to surveys, submit photographs, re-arrange an office or store front. This is not about making unnecessary work, it will encourage buy-in and put your sales team into a positive headspace that says: “Game on!”.

3. Target GROWTH across the board

Incentives must always create growth. Although the criteria and mechanics may well be constructed into more user-friendly objectives, the end result of everyone’s efforts must always equal growth. Your end game is to shift the behaviour and performance of every single player – not just the top five performers who are likely to win anyway.

4. The Size of the Prize

Great prizes rock but they can also be so polarising. Weirdly, even a big-ticket prize can be off-putting if it doesn’t hit the right note with your audience! There is huge merit in creating smaller, more frequent rewards. These can equal the playing field and ensure a higher level of active participation. Plus it gives you an to the opportunity to create incentives within an incentive in order to push the ‘bottom’ players along.

“Incentives that work focus on clearly defined goals that change behaviour to drive sales growth. Starting with the end input will put your salespeople in the driver seat and help you fuel record performance,” Claire concludes.