Some managers still think money is one of the best sales team incentives. Here’s why they might be wrong.

Most sales jobs include some commission incentive to keep salespeople motivated. But monetary rewards only go so far. More and more managers realize that sales team incentives have to go beyond cash.

For example, Steve Benson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Badger Maps, says, “Salespeople are much more complex than that. There are things that you can do to motivate them on a much deeper and sustainable level.”

Benson’s reminder is a good one. It’s true that we all go to work to earn a living, but the motivation to do a job that’s above and beyond typically comes from somewhere else. But how do you inspire that motivation, and how do you know which sales team incentives will work for your teams?

sales team incentives

Know what drives your team

Before thinking about the sales team incentives, you need to know what it is that drives each of your employees. This is challenging because different things motivate people. Some may thrive on recognition while others may work harder for paid time off or achievement of status.

To find out what inspires your people, talk to them! Take them out to lunch, have regular one-to-one meetings, pay attention when they express something. Doing so will be crucial in figuring out how to incentivize them.

sales team incentives

Know your goals

Linda Babcock, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, asked a group of executives to weigh the quality of a set of closed deals. Unexpectedly, the executives disagreed about which deals were good and which were not. Babcock’s conclusion was that these executives weighed different parts of the deal in various ways.

This study demonstrates what is too often a classic case of miscommunication. If you want your salespeople to succeed, they need to know what they’re striving for in the first place. They may understand individual sales targets, but if they don’t understand what it is the company is trying to do as a whole, or what kinds of deals are best for the company, they’re not going to be able to close the kind of deals you want.

sales team incentives

Reward the actions, not just the result

Judah Ross, Regional Sales Director at Education Partners, suggests that managers, “reward the actions. Don’t just focus on closes and revenue. It’s important to reward other KPIs as well.”

Some of the KPIs Ross refers to might be targets for cold calls, scheduled demos, and other outreach and lead generation. Rewarding these targets with things like gift cards, paid time off, team dinners, or other fun out-of-office activities can give salespeople an extra boost beyond just meeting their quotas.


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sales team incentives

Celebrate successes publicly

It’s becoming increasingly common for sales offices to include a bell or a gong or something else that will catch the entire office’s attention to recognize a win. It may sound a little over-the-top to some, but this is an easy and fun way to recognize those who are doing well, which not only motivates them to keep doing well, but also motivates others to do better. (What salesperson doesn’t want to be in the spotlight for a minute or two?)

If that’s a little too disruptive for your office, you could send out an office-wide e-mail that recognizes a person or team that’s recently closed a deal, or maybe have a salesperson of the month whose picture goes on the wall. Whatever you choose, the bottom line is that people like to be recognized for doing a good job. Build a culture that does that through sales team incentives and you’ll have salespeople who want to succeed not just for themselves, but for the whole company.

sales team incentives

Coming up with team incentives

Individuals work hard for their keep, but cohesive teams work harder. If the sales team incentives you offer are really for a whole team, instead of competing with one another, they’ll collaborate so that everyone can win. Team dinners or group outings are natural rewards to offer, or if you want to go big, you could offer a team vacation where the whole team goes away together for a few days. This not only incentivizes, but it also builds the cohesion that keeps the team working well together.

One of the biggest perks to team incentives is that they encourage teammates to look out for one another. If someone is falling short of targets, teammates with group incentives are more likely to reach out to counsel, mentor, or otherwise help someone who’s struggling. That’s the kind of teamwork any business wants to see, and maybe especially in sales where the bottom line is company—not individual—success.


lead-managerlead-managerHelp your team manage deals and increase your sales with affordable CRM technology. Schedule a free demo of our lead management software today!


What methods of incentivizing sales teams have worked for you? Share your ideas and successes in the comments below.