Feature Article - November/December 2020

Moving the Performance Needle

Incentives & Rewards Help Boost Performance

By Deborah L. Vence


Sometimes employees and sales teams need a bit of motivation, which is why incentives and rewards are being used more and more to help inspire and encourage better sales. And, research shows the growing support among companies for incentive programs.

The Incentive Research Foundation's "The 2020 Top Performer Study" revealed that the most successful companies increased their support for incentive programs on numerous levels since the previous study was conducted about a year earlier. The study included 400 participants from three sectors: technology (38%), financial services (32%), and manufacturing/automotive (30%).

Top-performing companies indicated dramatic increases in their support of incentive programs over last year, according to the study. The most notable increase was in "excellent ratings" of staffing to support program, which nearly tripled from 2019 to 2020 (excellent ratings increased from 19% in 2019 to 53% in the 2020 report).

We talked to industry experts about how to boost employee and sales performance using rewards and incentives, the types of programs that are effective for improving performance, as well as any caveats or other factors to consider when creating incentive programs.

Boosting Employee & Sales Performance

"Getting the best from your sales force is crucial to maintaining growth, hitting KPIs and helping your business to progress toward its goals," said David Gould, president of the Incentive Engagement & Solution Providers (IESP), a strategic industry group of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA), and CEO of CR Worldwide.

"Most businesses feel the pressure of competition, which makes finding a point of difference or a way to stay ahead of rival companies imperative to business success," he said. "Sales teams inevitably feel this pressure as they are at the forefront, pushing your product or service and convincing customers that your way is the most desirable."

He noted that "It's keeping these sales teams motivated and keen to seal the deal that can be the difference between leading the market and falling behind your competitors. Never underestimate the importance of a motivated workforce. Employees who want to succeed and are empowered to do so, will strive to deliver stronger performances and better results for your business."

A good sales incentive program can transform sales operations and keep teams motivated and happy.

"Sales incentive schemes will give your teams an additional reason to do a good job, by giving them specific rewards-driven targets to work toward," Gould said. "The idea is that individuals will achieve an award when they reach their KPIs, which makes them ever more keen to get there. Incentivizing your team, where they can earn rewards for their hard work, can build increased loyalty across your sales force as their effort and achievement is actively acknowledged and praised."

Better sales can be encouraged by building a culture of rewarding your sales force.

"It also shows that you are willing to go further in supporting your business goals and the people who help you to achieve them," he said. "Giving a little something back to your staff through incentives programs makes them feel appreciated and valued, which in turn improves loyalty and staff engagement. When your staff [is] passionate about what you do or sell, then the customers will naturally pick up on this and want to buy into that enthusiasm.

"The right incentives, with the right rewards, can capture the attention of your staff and inspire them to work harder, provide better services and ultimately deliver stronger results for your business," Gould said.

Incentives enable companies to engage their staff in a way that promotes healthy competition and team cohesion.

"Teamwork can be transformed along with improved sales results and loyalty to the brand. Morale, staff retention and performance are boosted," he added.

Cindy Mielke, director, channel marketing: incentives, Tango Card, and an IESP board member, said "Rewards for employees and sales teams are valuable contributors for boosting performance within those recognition and incentive programs.