Non-cash incentives for sales: Do reps really care?
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Non-cash incentives for sales: Do reps really care?

Conventional wisdom suggests that salespeople are pretty hard boiled. When it comes to incentives, money talks and everything else walks.

Well, it turns out that reps do have a softer side. And they respond to non-cash rewards, just like everyone else. At least to certain kinds.

A 2012 survey of 312 sales organizations looked at what kinds of incentives, other than cash or cash equivalents, were offered and which were most effective. Not surprisingly, nearly all respondents said that money is the best motivator. But “recognition for a job well done” was a strong runner up.

Warm and fuzzy?
As the study notes, sales departments have been getting warmer and fuzzier over the year: “acknowledging the holistic needs of salespeople is … a politically correct 21st-century necessity.” It’s no longer considered a best practice to treat salespeople like hungry lions at the zoo, throwing wads of cash into their cages instead of red meat. Now you have to treat them like humans. With feelings.

What’s encouraging, however, is that the politically correct approach also turns out to be the financially correct approach. A pat on the back is not only valued, but valuable.

Specifically, the study found that sales organizations with formal recognition programs

  • were more likely to attain team quotas (85% vs. 74%)
  • had higher customer renewal rates (71% vs. 67%)
  • had a higher percentage of reps achieving quota (59% vs. 56%), and
  • had a higher percentage of first-year reps making quota (47% vs. 42%).


What do these recognition programs look like? According to the survey, public recognition is a critical element. It’s good to tell reps when they’re doing well. It’s even better to praise them in public. And it’s especially powerful if you can foster peer-to-peer recognition — getting reps to speak up on behalf of other reps. Despite the notion that reps are lone wolfs who view their colleagues with suspicion, it seems they really do value the respect of their peers. In fact, the report found, best-in-class sales organizations exhibit a high degree of teamwork among reps. Further, the study suggests, this is just the sort of attitude that can be enhanced through the use of non-cash incentives. Non-cash incentives can do more than motivate individual performance; they can also be used to encourage reps to work better as a team.

Source: Aberdeen Group (2013). Non-cash incentives: Best practices to optimize sales effectiveness.

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