Top Three Questions to Ask When Designing a Sales Incentive Program

Sales incentive programs have the power to spark passion within your sales force. Especially in a competitive market, there is increased pressure on the sales team to go the extra mile. Recent studies show, successful incentive programs can motivate sales people to go above and beyond, boosting their performance anywhere from 25% to 44%. There is no one-size-fits-all program – a reason why there are so many different systems and approaches. But, successful incentive program design always begins with good questions. Start by asking these three key questions:

What is it that we are trying to achieve through this incentive program?

The goal of most sales incentive programs is to modify participant behavior to grow sales and keep sales reps engaged. Answering the questions below will help you better define your objectives:

Am I rewarding the right behaviors and performance indicators? Without understanding what needs to be rewarded to achieve the company’s overarching goal, it is very difficult to bring value to your program. This is an important conversation that you need to have with all stakeholders involved with the program. Incentives help modify sales rep behavior so using them in an efficient way is essential in achieving your sales revenue targets.

Have you established attainable goals and rewards to target your top, middle, average and under performers? There’s an adage that states the top 20% of your sales team generates 80% of sales. These top-tier employees tend to claim most of the praise and available rewards, leaving future top-tier producers hidden in the crowd and feeling unvalued. An effective incentive program also targets promotions to the next 20% tier of capable employees, laying the motivational groundwork for their entrance into a top-tier.

What is the overarching goal of my company? Am I targeting the right behaviors to achieve that goal?  If the goal of the program is to increase referral sales and that is not clearly targeted by the program, then the program is set up for failure. Referred customer usually have a longer tenure with a brand so promoting referrals can increase the number of loyal customers. The point of the incentive is to really understand the customer, cater to their needs, and provide the right solution. However, if you decide to reward all sales equally, then reps would sell at all costs because this is the rewarded behavior.

Do my desired performance objectives align with a worthy reward?

If the program is designed correctly it should produce results that optimize workflows and increase engagement. Clear rules for the program need to be set up and communicated with the participants. Below are a few questions that will help you better understand a successful program design.

Are the goals achievable? Is everyone getting a fair shot? Goals are supposed to be challenging but if the targets are set out too far, there is a loss in engagement over time. The goals should be set where everyone gets a fair shot at achieving them. The idea here is to drive more engagement and with more sales targets being achieved, sales growth will follow.

How motivating is my plan? If your program is structured to get sales reps to sell more than they currently do, you are motivating them. Remember, this includes all sales reps, not only the high performing ones. Also rewarding behaviors such as attaining additional trainings or certifications can go a long way in creating a company culture that rewards higher education.

Are my reward choices in line with what employees prefer? For an incentive program to work—for employees to be engaged—there must be a reward that has a high perceived trophy value and is appropriate for the desired goal. If the goal is to boost sales performance, a once in a lifetime travel opportunity reserved for the best-of-the-best remains one of the most powerful motivators. Through travel incentive opportunities, morale is boosted, productivity is heightened, and employees return from vacation re-energized and ready to make sales. Prepaid reward cards are another great reward solution. Prepaid reward cards provide the flexibility, freedom, choice, and all-around motivational power you need to drive success. Plus, with the convenience, variety and customization that prepaid cards offer, it’s easy to see why so many companies are choosing prepaid rewards for their corporate incentive programs.

Am I communicating program rules and updates clearly with my participants? It may seem obvious that communication is an important element in incentive programs, but far too often communication is the most overlooked piece of the puzzle. Even the most exciting, big budget program runs the risk of failure if your message is not articulated clearly, thoroughly and often to those you wish to reach.

What tools and processes are necessary to produce the desired result?

Am I using the best tools to monitor and run this program? One of the most important part of running a sales incentive program is having the right platform with the tools you need. Running sales incentive programs offline and through spreadsheets can be cumbersome, inefficient and costly. You need a nimble, web-based platform where participant and program interactions are recorded, analyzed, and utilized to enhance the program as well as the participant experience.

Is my platform simple enough for the participant to stay engaged? If your platform is too complicated for the rep to interact with, program participation will be lower than expected. This is a huge problem with a large number of incentive platforms, they are too complicated and don’t offer any real value to the participant.  In order to ensure high engagement levels, a simple, easy to use platform is key.

Do I have access to real time reporting? Are all the program interactions being recoded and reported to me? Metrics drive sales incentive success. Be sure you are gaining valuable insights into your program and your participants with intelligent reporting that tracks: participant enrollment, progress, claims, top performing products or locations, awards funded, redemption and more.

We hope these questions help you figure out how to build a successful sales incentive program, as it pertains to you.

To discover more about these programs and how they can boost your revenues click here to contact us. JNR is a proven single source for strategic partnerships and solutions, offering an experienced team of employees, progressive technologies, best industry practices, and a network of worldwide resources, which support our ever-evolving portfolio of unique, effective and memorable business solutions.

Written by: Shay Malhotra, Marketing Manager | Card Services & Technology Solutions

Incentive Industry Spotlight: Wellness Incentive Programs

Wellness Programs are starting to gain more attention in the workplace as empirical evidence outlining their value becomes available. Companies worldwide are searching for ways to reduce the effects and associated costs that the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases are having on the workplace. A Forbes article states that “poor health costs the U.S. economy more than a half a trillion dollars a year” in absenteeism due to illness and the cost of payments for disability and workers’ compensation.

One way to combat these startling figures is to introduce a Wellness Program into the workplace. These programs are designed to reduce medical and insurance costs by encouraging employees to take precautionary actions to reduce risk factors associated with certain chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors.

An article released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “employers benefit from workplace health programs through increased employee attendance, enhanced productivity and lower insurance costs”.

A Wellness Program should be viewed as a form of preventative maintenance. These programs, when designed with the employers’ population data in mind, can help save employers money on direct medical costs, workers’ compensation and disability costs as well as reducing replacement and recruitment costs associated with absenteeism due to injury or illness.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2013 RAND Health Employer Survey gave the following list as common Wellness Program elements:

  • Screening activities such as blood pressure measurement
  • Preventative interventions such as lifestyle and disease management
  • Healthy Living promotions such as gym membership and healthy food options
  • Structural  and contextual changes to the workplace including perks for taking the stairs and changes to corporate policies and culture

A critical piece of a successful Wellness Programs is a high participation rate. RAND Health found that participation in voluntary screening and management initiatives may remain low for companies who have implemented these programs on their own.

Companies find that employees are either reluctant to participate or participation rates drop off after the initial implementation of these programs.

One way to solve both of these problems is to introduce a Wellness Incentive Platform to support the pieces of your Wellness Program. These incentive programs encourage and reward employees who take part in the initiatives and show that the company values healthy and happy employees.

Incentives should be tailored to the specific workplace so that the wellness incentive program is sustainable and has lasting effects. For the following companies, small investments into incentives for individuals harnessed striking results:

  • National Business Coalition on Health found that Caterpillar Inc. was able to garner a 90% participation rate by offering a reduction in health premiums of $75 a month for employees who completed a health-risk assessment.
  • Houston City set a $25 monthly payroll surcharge for employees who did not complete three health related tasks per month. They found that introducing this penalty resulted in 90% of employees completing three or more of these tasks.
  • Florida Blue was able to achieve an 18% increase in employees with two health-risk factors or less by offer rewards for $10 up to $500 for completing different health related activities.

Experts find that just a $100 investment in incentives per employee per month can increase the participation rate to 75% or higher.


By JNR Incorporated

Written by Stephanie Thomas


JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies of many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.

Photo: “Health Screening and Disparities Press Conference” by Maryland GovPics  is licensed under CC BY 2.0