At Blueboard, a lot of our conversations with revenue leaders start in a similar way:
We pay our reps well; their comp is what keeps them selling. We offer rewards to celebrate and retain our top performers and we run SPIFFs and sales contests when we need sellers to accelerate or change direction. Cash is great … but not always. Too often, we struggle to get sales reps to notice, to participate, to care. We need something different, something that cuts through the noise—a real wake up call.
Things we’ve heard:
“We're in the home stretch of the fiscal year and need our reps to not only come through on these numbers but to make sure we're building pipeline for next year.”
“We've been running cash/gift card SPIFFs and people have become numb to them. We need something to really wow the team without breaking the bank.
“We've changed course and need to focus the team on the right motions and products and need incentives alongside our comp plan to help chart the new direction.”
Companies in North America spend many billions of dollars on cash and non-cash incentives every year trying to drive consistent, high performance. Sometimes, those incentives work. Too often, they don’t. Why?
Behavioral psychology tells us that behavior change happens at the intersection of two forces: Motivation (is desire to do the behavior low, high, or somewhere in between) and Ability (is the thing we want reps to do easy, difficult, or somewhere in between). Effective incentives have enough perceived value relative to how easy or hard a thing is to do to drive action.
That’s the key: Do sellers perceive your incentives as valuable?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as rip and replace: There’s no single “magic bullet” incentive that will feel valuable enough to every rep. But what we have seen work in our 10+ years of building results-driving sales incentive programs for leading companies is variety. Novelty, unpredictability, incentives that feel ever-fresh, and incentives sellers can share.
To that end, here are 6 non-monetary incentives to consider layering into your sales compensation and incentive programs
#1 Experiential rewards and incentives.
When it comes to incentives with high perceived value, experiential employee rewards are hard to beat. There’s no doubt that cash incentives are easy, fungible, and provide instant gratification, but they also tend to disappear into a person’s paycheck. When you reward reps with experiences, like a trip to Disneyland with the family or a bucket list vacation with their best friends, you’re able to cut through the noise in a different way.
“We ran a single-day contest and all sellers had to do to qualify was to create one deal, which is a pretty easy ask in our sales cycle. We were giving away three $500 cash prizes and I believe we had fewer than 20—out of 200+ reps—qualify for the cash prizes. With cash prizes, there’s no hooplah; it’s literally just direct deposit like everything else.” – Sales Manager at an enterprise software company
That’s why we recommend adding experiences to your incentive program mix—especially if you’re asking reps to do things that feel particularly hard like generating future pipeline when they’ve already met this quarter’s goals or focusing on a new motion when they can still make money in an old motion. For this stuff, you need to get sellers’ attention. And, with experiences, you’re able to:
Give them something tangible, shareable, and novel to work towards, and
Disassociate the reward from monetary value so that it feels different from the comp they’re already earning.
Beyond breaking through the noise, experiential rewards are a non-monetary incentive and form of employee recognition that have a rippling impact on the rep, their loved ones, and your team culture and employer brand.
When your people get to pick an experience from a curated menu (like what we provide at Blueboard!), they have a real opportunity to challenge their comfort zones, indulge in a passion, or learn something new.
One of our top sales reps at Blueboard, for example, was terrified of the ocean and decided to use their Blueboard reward on ocean survival and scuba lessons. This was something they never would’ve done for themselves if not given the opportunity to pick it out of a menu and actively challenge their comfort zones. Now, scuba diving is a part of almost every trip they take and they credit Blueboard for helping them break that barrier and experience life in a totally different way.
“You get a cash reward and you think you’re gonna book that dream trip, but so often, you don’t. It goes towards all the life things. And if you do, you aren’t giving your company credit for that trip. If your company provides you an all-expenses paid experience—where you don’t have to book or plan anything, it’s all taken care of—they’re going to brag about it to all their friends, to their networks. It’s … my company sent me on this amazing trip; I got to do this, I took my grandkids etc.” – Senior Account Executive at an SMB services company
Another reason experiential rewards have such high perceived value? They’re generally shareable, which means sellers can get time back with loved ones and share their reward with the people who supported them while they worked so hard to help your company achieve its goals.
All of this makes it more likely that reps will tell stories about their rewards—building buzz for the incentive program itself and boosting your internal team brand and external employer brand.
Here’s what it looks like when an employee gets rewarded with an experience they can tailor to their interests and share with a loved one:
If you’re looking for inspiration, Blueboard’s experience menu and products menu has thousands of experiences to choose from. Some of our favorite non-monetary rewards for employees include:
Trekking through ice caves in Reykjavik.
Unwinding with a luxurious spa day.
Meeting llamas in Machu Picchu.
A night out before a Broadway show.
Discover how to wow reps and drive performance with experiences.
Most of us spend at least 40 hours a week at work. That adds up to roughly 160 hours a month, or around 2,000 hours a year. And your top performing team members are likely putting in way more than the standard 40. In fact, research shows top performers are more likely to face burnout, which means programs designed to inspire high performance should also support recovery—or be balanced by programs that support recovery.
No matter how much your employees love their jobs, they’ll always appreciate a time away from the office to invest in themselves. This is why granting time off is an effective non-monetary incentive for employees.
Let’s say one of your sales engineers spends several long nights working to help an AE close a complex deal. Once the deal is closed—won or lost—you could reward that individual with a day off to unwind—whether that’s by spending time with their family or treating themselves to a solo spa day. This is an impactful way to demonstrate that you recognize your employee’s hard work and also care about their well-being as an individual.
Some Blueboard clients choose to pair an experiential reward or incentive with time off so their people feel fully able to unplug and recharge. This is a particularly effective strategy when employees are working at a high level for a long period of time and you need to emphasize recovery to sustain and retain them in the long haul.
When it comes to rewarding your top sales performers, a luxury President’s Club is always worth considering. This type of high value reward is for the best of the best—the reps (and for some companies, sales support folks!) who meet and exceed their goals all year long who you absolutely do not want to lose.
Pre-2020, few leaders were considering anything other than a group President’s Club trip to reward top sales reps. But the ups and downs of the past few years—not to mention the influx of younger sellers into the workforce—have highlighted gaps in our understanding of how to best motivate top salespeople.
The idea of the ‘coin-operated’ sales rep has been around for a long time. But Odi Bosah, Head of Business Development of Blue Yonder, put it well: "The commission takes care of itself. The more you do, the better you do, and the more money you make. So what can you do differently to incentivize people?"
Whether you decide to do a group trip or a more personalized President’s Club, this particular incentive should feel exclusiveandVIP, without creating too many headaches for your team.Get more tips on how to determine the right kind of President’s Club for your sales organization from Blueboard’s VP of Sales.
President’s Club offers a great opportunity for reps to brag about their success and for your company to get credit for rewarding reps (and their families) for all their hard work—all of which builds employer brand.
#4 Professional (or personal) development.
Another characteristic of high performers? A desire to grow and develop. When you’re thinking about non-cash incentives, consider incentives that will inspire action and simultaneously help your employees achieve their personal development goals.
With Blueboard sales incentives, professional development and skill building experiences are a part of our curated reward menus. That means you can incentivize reps with the experience of their choice, including development experiences like career coaching, learning a musical instrument or a language, or honing a hobby.
From a sales team culture perspective, professional development is always a worthwhile investment. Outside of an incentive program, consider providing a stipend so employees can pursue their desired learning and development activities or sponsoring career coaching sessions so people can up-level a skill of their choice. You might bring in speakers to address topics of interest for your team.
At Blueboard, we host bi-monthly “lunch and learns” as non-cash incentives for employees featuring Blueboarders or friends of Blueboard to share their knowledge with the rest of the organization. We’ve covered topics from cultivating coaching skills to understanding the art of networking to discovering your love language in the workplace.
It’s a win-win: helping employees develop personally will not only lead to their success professionally but will also demonstrate that you care about them outside of the workplace. It also doesn’t hurt that LinkedIn’s Workforce Learning Report found that 93% of employees would stay at their company longer if it invested in their careers.
#5 One-on-one time.
For employees who respond better to in-person interactions and more personal expressions of gratitude, one-on-one time with their manager is a great non-monetary reward.
Why? Managers exert a lot of influence over an employee’s job satisfaction, personal well-being, and likelihood to stay at a company. There’s a reason why 57% of employees have left at least one company because of their boss.
So instead of a $100 cash incentive, suggest managers take their high-performing employees out for coffee or a nice lunch. The opportunity to spend individual time with their boss outside of their normal work environment might do way more than a small monetary reward.
#6 Words of appreciation.
Sometimes, thoughtful words of appreciation are the best way to inspire your people—especially if you’re focused on building a culture that facilitates consistent high performance. Note that words alone likely won’t cut it if you’re asking reps to do something that requires major effort of behavior change. That said, authentic acknowledgement of a job well done can do a lot to amplify your reward and recognition programs.
When it comes to words of appreciation, be sure to mix it up—you don’t need to limit yourself to the standard forms of written communication like email or slack message. Consider more creative approaches, like collecting kind words from the employee’s colleagues in a card or sending a personalized note of appreciation.
Boost employee retention and performance with non-monetary rewards.
When it comes to non-monetary rewards for employees, there’s so much more room for flexibility, creativity, and positive impact compared to cash bonuses. Our Sales Incentives Tool Kit and Sales Incentives Planning Guide are two great references to help get you started with building out a non-cash sales incentives program for your organization.
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Blueboard is the first enterprise rewards and recognition platform powered by hand-curated experiences. From helping people connect with family and friends, to escaping the everyday, Blueboard employee rewards are the best way to inspire and care for your top people.
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