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Inspiration: Secret Behind Successful Incentive Program

Feb 23, 2021

If you run the same tried and tested formula with your incentive plans over and over again, the level of sales team engagement in it will eventually fizzle out. Incentives are a great way to fuel performance.

Few can convincingly argue the efficacy of incentives to extract favorable behaviour. For as long as some form of trade and commerce has existed, incentives have been used to improve business results. Why do they work? The answer, quite simply, boils down to basic human nature. For most of us, our introduction to the concept can be traced back to as early as our childhood, when our parents offered us incentives in various forms to reinforce “good behaviour”.  In the sales field, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. As enticing as your incentive program may be, it will still fail to consistently extract the optimum level of performance you seek from your sales team. But, doesn’t everyone want to be the best? Doesn’t everyone want to earn as much as they possibly could? Puzzling, isn’t it?

The answer lies in a rather interesting concept of behavioural economics - the Hedonic Treadmill. The concept explains that regardless of how interested/motivated you’re to achieve a certain goal, you will return back to the original state after some time. Hence, we need to constantly work to stay at a degree of motivation, as though we were on a treadmill.

Picture a regular treadmill. You begin walking on it. You feel absolutely fine. As you go on, you feel the blood rush through your body. The endorphins kick in. You feel good. However, gradually you reach a point where you begin to feel fatigued. The motion of placing one foot in front of the other feels almost mechanical. Muscle memory takes over and you don’t even have to think about it.  Now, apply this logic to your incentive plan, if you don’t create inspiring moments for your sales teams to keep them glued or engaged in your incentive plan, it wouldn’t get you desired results. With hedonic treadmill concept in application, you can create specific INSPIRING MOMENTS to keep motivating them and ultimately help them achieve their goals.

If you run the same tried and tested formula with your incentive plans over and over again, the level of sales team engagement in it will eventually fizzle out. Incentives are a great way to fuel performance. However, the key to a successful incentive program is change. Change things up from time to time to find newer ways to challenge your sales teams and keep things interesting. Consider this three-point plan -


It is important to set the right rules for an incentive program. It is even more important to change those rules from time to time. By changing the rules from time to time, every member of the sales team gets a fair chance to compete for rewards, if they have not won the first time around. How else will you keep the inspiration game strong?

You may argue that most modern-day incentive plans are multi-layered and intricate and may not be as easy to predict or manipulate. However, slowly but surely, the rules will become stale. Changing the rules from time to time will inspire your sales team to employ fresh perspectives and look at the business and their goals in a whole new light. They may feel compelled to try a different approach or a new strategy, perhaps.

 2. INSPIRING Rewards

When you think of incentive rewards, the first thing most people picture is cash, cash and more cash. Who doesn’t want more cash? A popular, yet extremely misguided notion is that all you have to do to get your team to perform is shower more and more cash incentives their way. However, say-do gap theories have shown us that people might say that cash motivates them but in reality, that’s not the case. Similarly, sales teams seek meaning or a sense of fulfilment or even just bragging rights, which is why it makes sense to give them something inspiring to brag about than just cash.

Get creative with your rewards. A cash reward accompanied by a luxurious weekend getaway to a swanky resort certainly sweetens the deal. We’ve all encountered someone who has beamed proudly while showing off a new car or a brand-new set of golf clubs or even movie vouchers that they have got as rewards for being the top performer.


Even if you keep rewarding your sales team handsomely to sell the same product over and over again, things are bound to get mundane at some point. Even the most motivated professionals can lose their zeal to perform if they have to sell the same product day after day. How do you create the inspiration around the same product your organisation is selling? Incentivize upselling and cross-selling of products and services to keep things fresh. Create a buzz around a new product or re-launch an old one, with a whole new and inspiring approach. Shift the focus of your team from time to time so that they do not feel fatigued selling the same product to the same type of customer repeatedly.

In any organisation, creating such an inspiration-filled culture that is driven by incentives is a proven way to boost the sales team’s productivity, and fosters a sense of healthy competition between them which in turn drives business. Going beyond the sales teams, if such programs can be extended to the other support functions of a business, this can be a great motivating factor.  After all, who doesn’t love to win? Gone are the days when people would just show up to work for a fat paycheque. Revamping your incentive program regularly can enhance its impact and improve sales team buy-in. Needless to say, this can only mean good news for your bottom line.

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