Feature Article - May/June 2015

Motivated Sellers

Technology, Increased Competition Top Sales Incentive Trends

By Deborah L. Vence

U.S. companies spend billions of dollars on sales incentives every year. Rewards and recognition programs continue to be used to influence behavior and motivate, with the ultimate goal being to help encourage people to attain a certain goal or goals.

And, today, experts say, one of the main trends in sales incentives is the influence of technology, along with the fact that the sales environment is becoming more and more complex than ever before.

"Sales professionals are struggling with the heightened trends of disruptive competition, protracted sell cycles, and prolonged product and service integration," said Brad Callahan, vice president, business solutions, Marketing Innovators International Inc., Rosemont, Ill.

"Adoption of new technologies related to big data, global, mobile, and social applications and agile knowledge networks underscore the challenges and complexities of today's sales environment."

In this issue of Premium Incentive Products, incentive industry pros discuss the trends in sales incentives, as well as the various benefits and challenges associated with sales incentive programs.

What's on Trend?

The continued impact of technology on program design and operation is the biggest trend in sales incentives right now, said Paul Hebert, vice president, solutions design, Symbolist, Grapevine, Texas.

"With the newer technology, a program can be designed and launched quickly in order to either capitalize on market movements or competitor programs. Sales incentives can also be hyper-targeted by product and audience," Hebert said.

To boot, "Award options are becoming more e-commerce capable," too, "connecting the Internet shopping experience into the program reward experience," Hebert noted.

Customers also are changing the way they buy, by becoming more sophisticated and demanding, and raising their expectations on a regular basis, Callahan said.

"They are seeking partners who challenge conventional wisdom, proactively bring innovative ideas to the table and provide the thought leadership that can guide them through their process," he said.

Increasingly, top organizations are addressing such challenges by transforming the performance of their sales teams. This includes the development of social selling, versatility, integrity, active listening, prescriptive thinking, and leading and shaping decisions, all of which are necessary to superior selling.

For that reason, the application of incentives used to drive and reinforce transformative sales management is evolving as well.

"We see many organizations utilizing connected systems and data to profile better and segment sales performers along a new continuum grounded in analysis, insight and precision," Callahan said. "Sales promotions and incentives are more targeted, personalized, purposeful and compelling."

This includes the smart application of incentives, simple game-like mechanics and systems to motivate people to do things that would not ordinarily excite them.

"Today, direct selling organizations are developing a more balanced incentive approach throughout the sales talent management lifecycle, from onboarding, development, growth to retention. The same holds true for channel sales as well, from enrollment, conversion, immersion to loyalty," he said.