Feature Article - March/April 2009

Sales Success

How To Motivate Higher Returns

By Brian Summerfield


Avoid the Award Hierarchy

A corollary of both offering a range of incentives and rewarding different levels of performance is not getting locked into a basic competitive awards structure. Returning to the example provided in Glengarry Glen Ross, we see that the contest has a first, second and third place. A truly performance-oriented program, though, encourages salespeople to concentrate on their own accomplishments, not those of their colleagues.

One way these programs can be arranged is with a flexible point system, Ryan said.

"If you're going to have a program that is offering top performers points, you might want to structure it so they can use those points in any way they want. One person might want a big-screen TV for 5,000 points, while someone else might be motivated by five 1,000-point items. There's a variety of ways to structure these programs."

Another way to set these programs up is with a performance club that acknowledges everyone who hits a certain objective.

"I think when you set up a contest, there might be a winner, but everyone else feels left out," Davis said. "I think when you can set up incentives programs that create some kind of club or membership, you establish a level of prestige that people strive for. It doesn't have to be a lot."

Davis illustrated this point with his own experience as a member of a million-dollar club at a previous employer.

"The first time you won, you got a ring with an [insignificant] blue stone in it. The second time you made it, they replaced that stone with a quarter-carat diamond. The next time you made it, they replaced it with a half-carat diamond. The fourth time you made it, it was a full carat. I tell you, at every convention I went to or sales meeting we had, every guy that made it had that ring on. I still have mine. I'll bet that ring didn't cost much, but it was such a prestigious thing in our organization. It's not just about the intrinsic value of the reward. It's much better to have some preferred status within the company like a ring or a framed picture in the hallway that only costs the organization about $50 than it is to get a $2,500 flat-screen TV, and it's more lasting."