Employee Recognition

Real Talk: Modern Sales Recognition & Incentives [Webinar Recap]

It's widely believed that salespeople are coin-operated. They make the sale and, as a reward, they get compensated. While compensation is the leading incentive in sales, how you reward and recognize your reps has a long-term impact on the success of your business. 

We joined forces with Modern Sales Pros for an awesome conversation on how to recognize your sales reps in a more meaningful way. Our panelists included: 

  • Richard Sgro, General Manager at Modern Sales Pro (moderator)
  • Kevin Yip, our very own Co-Founder & COO
  • Paul Butterfield, VP of Global Revenue Enablement at Instructure
  • Stephanie Middaugh, Head of Sales Enablement at Divvy
  • Kevin Cragun, Director of Sales Operations at Domo

If you’re planning to build a modern sales incentives program, grab a copy of our Modern Sales Incentives Planning Guide, and check out the full recording and our key takeaways below:

The relationship between employee recognition and engagement.

A high employee engagement rate is one of the most coveted metrics on sales teams because it’s seen as an indicator of other positive behaviors, such as retention and productivity levels. In the workplace, there are three factors that tend to have the biggest impact when it comes to employee engagement: 

  1. Perception of leadership
  2. Career development opportunities
  3. Employee recognition (being appropriately recognized for your contributions)

Of all three factors, employee recognition is the lowest-hanging fruit. So nailing the way you recognize and reward your sales reps can have a huge impact on your employee engagement rates, as well as your overall business outcomes. In the next few sections, we’ll share the top recommendations from our panelists to help you determine how to choose, design, and communicate awesome sales incentives for your reps. 

1. Understand what your sales reps really want.

When sales leaders assume their reps are only coin-operated, it leads them to offer incentives like cash bonuses, which are impersonal and boring. As a result, they can feel like a slap in the face for your sales reps. Stephanie equated this experience to an uncle giving you a gift card or check for your Christmas gift - shouldn’t they know me as a person? 

When someone who is supposed to know and care for you personally (your manager) puts such minimal effort into a gift for employees, it can be hurtful. Instead of making these assumptions, figure out what your reps actually want by using the following inputs:

Employee data.

All of our panelists recommended using surveys as a way to collect feedback on how your reps want to be recognized. But don’t just ask them to force rank their top three preferred sales incentives. Instead, ask a more open-ended question like “what’s the most exciting SPIFF you’ve ever received?” This encourages your reps to really think back on past incentives and which ones made them feel the most appreciated. It also increases your likelihood of receiving more creative and unique ideas. 

Cultural significance.

Once you have your employee data, pair it with something that has cultural significance to your organization. For example, Kevin C. shared that there’s a longstanding tradition at Domo where top-performing sales reps receive a company-branded baseball bat when they “hit it out of the park.” Even though a baseball bat wouldn’t mean anything as much at another organization, for the sales reps at Domo, it’s a recognized status symbol that reminds them of their accomplishments. 

Ideas from leadership.

Finally, your sales leaders are likely full of great ideas that they’ve carried over from past teams and organizations. Make sure all of their suggestions are taken into consideration, along with the employee data and culturally significant ideas. 

By marrying all these inputs together, you’ll get a holistic view of what your sales reps are looking for when it comes to rewards and recognition. 

2. Craft an impactful sales incentive program.

Once you have a sense for what your sales reps want, it’s time to package up those ideas into a cohesive and impactful program. Set your recognition and rewards program up for success by making sure it checks all the boxes in the following categories:

Exclusivity and achieving that “cool factor.”

Does your program have the “cool” factor? Sales reps aren’t going to be motivated by incentives that are mainstream. It needs to be exclusive and something that they actually covet. For instance, at Instructure, Paul shared that every Account Executive gets to pick their favorite celebration song. When they close a deal, their song is blasted over the entire sales floor so everyone knows who the rockstar is. It’s a motivating way to recognize your reps in a way that makes them feel special. In today’s remote workplace setting, sales leadership can continue to share those favorite songs or music videos for the team to play over Slack, or to kick off their next sales team meeting.

Designing democratized programs that reach a wider group of reps.

Many sales leaders make the mistake of designing a program with only the top 5% of performers in mind. This excludes the other 95% of your team and doesn’t drive outcomes at all levels. So make sure your program contains incentives that are a stretch for top performers but also feels motivating for those in the middle. As Kevin C. recommended, view this as an opportunity to create a journey for your sales reps instead of making recognition feel exclusive to only those who continue to overperform.

Offer rewards that are relevant to our current state and conditions.

Finally, it’s important to be conscious of current circumstances. Right now, we’re in the middle of a pandemic which means that our incentives may look a bit different than how they would have six months ago. At Divvy, Stephanie shared that they hosted a competition where the prizes were home office-related items, such as fancy ergonomic chairs and a decked out monitor setup. Because people are working from home and looking to make their experience as comfortable as possible, these incentives were a huge hit and motivated everyone to perform their best. 

At Blueboard, we’ve continued to evolve our In-home and Close-to-home experience menus to ensure every employee has access to choose an exciting sales reward that aligns with their personal comfort zones. Some of our favorites include the The In-Home Sommelier Experience (an artisan wine tasting by Consorzio Wine), Chill Out on the Lake (a boat rental for you and your friends), Golf Getaway at Home (an in-home golf simulator), or Cocktail Crafting (six months of classy cocktail kits).

Just a few of our favorite In-home and Close-to-home experiences. 

3. Effectively communicate your program.

For your recognition program to be a success, sales reps have to be aware of it first. This is a great time to lean into your sales enablement function to make sure your reps are being communicated to in a way they can understand. Below are some communication tips to make sure everything - from the launch and beyond - are a success. 

Diversify your tactics.

Instead of doing one big announcement during the next all-hands meeting, try to drop nuggets of information about the program across multiple platforms. This will help you generate excitement and provide information in a way that’s not overwhelming. Add a mention in your company newsletter, set up reminders on Slack to the whole company or email people colorful flyers or sample menus that contain all the details of the program. At Blueboard, we handle the heavy lifting when it comes to program education and evangelization. For every new partnership, our standard service fee includes creation of a branded landing page to house program details, Slack integrations and additional co-branded collateral for you to distribute.

Secure leadership buy in

Sales reps are always looking for more visibility with their leadership team. For this reason, getting leadership involved in the promotion of your program is critical to generating excitement and awareness. When your CEO is the one to announce your recognition program and makes it clear that it’s important to him or her, your sales reps will be more motivated knowing that their actions will be noticed by the leadership team.

Even while working remote, consider having your VP of Sales, CEO or other senior sales leaders personally call contest winners to congratulate them, or when working with Blueboard, have senior leaders celebrate their recognition stories (photos or feedback from their experience) at your all-hands meetings. This not only continues to celebrate the hard work of your employees by sharing their stories, but also creates the opportunity to build more awareness around your incentive programs (reminding others to participate, and motivating the team to work harder to earn that next reward).

Build anticipation.

The best sales incentive programs have a lot of hype and marketing behind them to encourage employee participation. At Blueboard, we call this “building anticipation.” With Blueboard, reps get to choose their favorite experience ahead of the contest start so they’re consistently motivated to work towards the reward that’s most meaningful to them. And as winners are selected, you can share their recognition stories to inspire others to keep charging towards their own goals and metrics.

It’s time to move past the misconception that salespeople are only coin-operated. They, just like any other employee, want incentives that are meaningful, personalized, and memorable to them - and at the end of the day, are more exciting than what they’d expect from that uncle at Christmas. 

Looking for new ways to motivate your sales reps towards growing revenue goals? Learn more about our President's Club offering, sales incentives offerings and connect with our team to discuss your program goals online here. We make it incredibly easy to send rewards and look forward to helping you crush your revenue goals.

Until next time,


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