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Go get it!

Yesterday we put our emotions into overdrive while discussing legacies and impressions that last a lifetime; today let us take a practical look at planning incentive schemes that push Sales teams to higher levels of performance.

Incentives schemes that work!

A few years back the telecom company that I worked with ran an incentive scheme for the entire channel sales team.  They were given number targets for the entire year, with quarterly expectations clearly specified – seasonality in sales was taken into consideration while dividing the target across the year. Every Sales Executive was given a Record-book to note his Sales data and it had to be signed each month by his boss (usually the owner of the dealership) and a representative from our organization (the local Operations Head).

Cash prizes and gifts were on offer for people who met expectations. The prizes were given away by the Regional Business Head at a gala function – the program was a runaway success. Story over.

No!! I am not done yet. The gifts and cash prizes were not the highlights of the program! A year-long series of Sales Training programs were announced along with the scheme. In order to win the highest level of incentives the Executives had to attend all the training programs proposed in the series – which happened once every quarter. Participation and performance in the training program were also recorded in the Record-book. All those who got through the post-training assessments with good grades got certificates and at the end of the year all Sales Executives who had successfully completed the entire series of training, and achieved the Sales Targets, were given Credentials which stated that they are Certified Sales Professionals.

More than the cash, the medals and the material incentives the Certificates were valued by the achievers. I am sure even today they are displayed at the Executives’ homes with pride.

The idea is to hit upon winning formulae, like this one, to make your incentive programs effective.

What is the purpose of the program?

–          To achieve a number target (number or revenue)

–          To promote a specific product or service

–          To promote business in a targeted area

–          To promote business in a defined segment


The scheme needs to be exciting; it should stretch the players to the limit, and still be achievable. The program design should ensure that the desired goals are met by the organization.

The reward could be items of everyday use, scholarships, a vehicle, a holiday package or just cash (but it is best to avoid giving cash in such schemes – these schemes are over and above salaries and bonuses). The intent of such programs is to drive specific goals that need special focus.

The schemes can be created on themes too – one organization I worked with had an all-male sales team. So our incentive programs would have a shirt in one month, a tie the next month and another accessory like a trouser-belt in the 3rd month. Or there would be a portfolio bag one month, a high-quality pen-set and a mobile phone the month after that. There would also be Gold Coins and home appliances on offer at other times. The idea is to provide something useful, something that keeps the team interested.

Education, training and certificates were the big draw all the time.


Incentive Programs can be of varying durations – the one I described earlier was a year-long program. But you can run shorter ones that could be anywhere from a day to a month long; it’s best to run the scheme when sales are hard to come by – the first week of the month or in a lean season. The scheme is run to prompt additional activity that would bring in business.


The requirements and the conditions are to be specified – what constitutes achievement needs to be clear to avoid disputes. The deadlines and the documentation need to be mentioned with great clarity. I have had to respond to angry team-members who thought they had met requirements and were being unfairly disqualified – the ambiguity in the terms drawn up for the scheme being the reason for their wrath.

A smartly designed scheme run at the right time can help the organization achieve its goal and keep the Sales Team motivated. Excellence all around!

  1. Jamy
    June 30, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Good one Jay! On a slightly different note, one thing that keeps me going is Trip Advisor ratings for the resort I work for. For me moving the rating up by 0.5 from 4 now to 4.5 in the near future is incentive enough to try and get maximum Customer Satisfaction. I know that most people would say that it is a target, a challenge a test of someone’s commitment- I don’t really care, I am going after it. For me it is an incentive that I have created to motivate myself and thereby try and pull the team together to achieve more. No certificates, cash or commendation letter but a gentle pat on the back from the Executive level is the best way of recognising the effort. Your conclusion piece is what got me to write this much..lol!

    • JayadevM
      June 30, 2012 at 6:17 am

      Hi Jamy

      Now that you have read both pieces on Incentives and R&R you should be in agreement with the practical and emotional aspects.

      Thank you for including your thoughts here.

  2. Raaj
    July 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Yes Jayan… I complete agree with your point of view… and Jamy’s too…

    The sad part is that there are very few organizations (or not enough of the right people within)… who have the vision, knowledge or capabilities to put such a program in place. Most of them are so bull-headed that they refuse to even copy/replicate or even adapt (with modifications) something that seems to be working in another organization!

    I am sure you have shared these ideas with the heads/decision-makers that you yourself meet as part of your work/consultation Jayan; I am interesting in knowing – on a percentage basis – how many of them willing come forward as say, “Yes Mr. Menon, I think that is a brilliant idea, show me how to implement such a program in my organization?” or something positive like that… You let me know.

    The only hope is that some people who have experienced such programs (like the one who framed the certificate) or the one who refuses to part with his wristwatch (I think I know this person) and many such others… have the good sense to advocate such programs where ever they are now.

    The hope that people in organizations will come up with ideas on their own…. is likely going to take a couple of generations, if not more.

    • JayadevM
      July 2, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Raaj

      You are right. It’s tough to find people who would run such programs. Happens in the MNCs and the best Indian organisations – but after that we are chasing mirages. Talent Development and a structured training are alien concepts.

      There is need for many more visionary leaders.

      And you do know one of the gentlemen I mentioned in my article.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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