A Fresh Perspective On Sales Incentives

Today we welcome Steve Cox as a guest blogger. Steve currently leads the Business Development team at Maritz Motivation and he brings a fresh perspective, with a twist of fun, to the conversation.

It all started with the Northwood Elementary Physical Education fund-raising effort in 6th grade. The school needed funds to update the school’s equipment. Someone in the administration (aka Northwood Elementary’s VP of Sales) thought, “How could we get a 10% lift in revenue that would enable us to meet our fundraising goals?” And BINGO, along came the “Adventure Land Sales Competition.”

Every student was invited to join in the effort. Turn on the charm, smile and sell the most raffle tickets to potential “clients” otherwise known as neighbors, family members or local shopping mall patrons, and you’d win two tickets to Adventure Land! Runner up got you $15 and third place netted a real whopper of a prize, a coupon for a free burger!

Wow, a true sales incentive. It didn’t matter if you were the smartest, most athletic or most musically inclined. The contest was aimed at engaging as many students as possible to help drive incremental revenue for the school. Little did I know there was an ulterior motive for the school! All I knew was that I wanted to go to Adventure Land so watch out neighborhood here I come!!

It was the right reward for the right audience with the right rules to drive engagement and participation. Initially, every student had an opportunity to get their name on the leaderboard as sales kicked off – just like any good sales contest or incentive. The competition was short and sweet allowing just enough time to achieve the school’s objectives and to maintain a 12-year-old’s attention. Remarkably on target for any sales incentive to be honest.

Too many sales contests and incentives today are over-engineered, slow to evolve and hard to measure. It seems as though people pay attention early and are generally intrigued out of the gate. And then as they dive into the “rules,” they find things complex with lots of caveats on how to qualify and win. That was the beautiful thing about the Adventure Land Challenge: simple rules, motivating rewards and enough reinforcements to keep us engaged.

Like any sales contest, things started to shake out as the program went on. The number of people on the leaderboard started to decline. And in the final stretch of the contest, you could see it was becoming a two-person race for the top prize. In the final few days of the competition, little did I know that good ole Ron Rubeck was such a brilliant sales leader disguised as a PE teacher. He knew all too well that Tammy Fetters and I were neck and neck at the top. And he also knew we were both motivated to catch a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Each opportunity Mr. Rubeck had he’d remind us about the prize and how close we were to achieving success. He made me feel like he was truly interested in my success! In the end, Tammy edged me out by one darn ticket. Really? One ticket? The dream of a day at Adventure Land was gone. If only I’d knocked on a couple more doors. At least the $15 runner-up prize helped soften the blow a little. You could buy quite a few Matchbox cars with that kind of money back in the day.

As it turned out this sales contest accomplished exactly what I think we all hope for from our own sales teams: engagement, participation, new sales and memorable rewards. If you think about it, don’t we wish all of our salespeople remembered last month’s spurt or incentive for as long as I’ve remembered this one? Every time I see an amusement park there’s a subtle reminder of the program. Oh, and by the way, congratulations Tammy!