Feature Article - September/October 2012

Problem Solving: Getting All Parties on Board for Your Rewards Program

Five Steps to Program Success

By Brian Summerfield

So, you've decided to develop a new rewards program. Congratulations! You are going to have a very effective tool for achieving sales and business objectives. But that decision is just the beginning. Chances are, you've got a long road ahead, one that involves prioritization, pitches and implementation.

A rewards program—particularly one that either takes a different approach to incentivizing a particular behavior or process or tackles a new business challenge—requires buy-in from many different parties. If any group, from the C-suite to the "feet on the street," doesn't feel like the initiative makes sense, they can derail the program by holding back resources, organizational support and individual effort.

A large part of what will determine the success of your rewards initiative is the work you put in beforehand to prepare and persuade all of these constituencies. Here are the key steps in that process.


Besides starting to plan the actual mechanics of the incentives program, you will need to figure out who you'll have to have on board from the outset. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the goals for the program?
  2. Where are the resources going to come from?
  3. Who is the intended audience?
  4. Which departments are going to be affected by the program?

The answers will help you determine the people you're going to need to make a case to early on.

Each company is different, of course, but you can expect to have to make a case to key sales executives and—eventually—your sales team.

Mike Ryan, who has been with Madison Performance Group for 15 years and currently serves as its head of strategy and marketing, said a person you'll probably have to talk to early on is the chief sales officer. That position has traditionally been more administrative in nature, but it's become more strategic in many organizations.

"It's kind of an evolving role," he explained. "Today's chief sales officer often plays 'traffic cop' to competing priorities and initiatives. The chief sales officer filters some of the sales incentives programs. Even in the short term, the CSO has a specific idea in mind as to what products will do what."

Beyond the usual executives and directors, you might want to consider bringing in high-level representatives from departments such as finance and marketing, which is tracking key metrics such as cost per each new customer brought in and wants to know how salespeople are representing the brand, Ryan said.