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Is your incentive program structure limiting your sales growth?

Jul 10, 2017

Written by: Dave Smith
(View Author Bio)

If your sales incentive program is producing fewer results than expected, it may be time to examine your design approach.


At BI WORLDWIDE, we use the principles of behavioral economics to create the best engagement strategies on the planet. We work with expert academics who advise us on the latest research on human behavior, engagement and decision-making. We use non-cash rewards and recognition to engage and motivate employees and sales teams. Check out our case study library to see how our customized and results-driven solutions have helped clients all over the world.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing Your Program

Often the tools and tactics we think will help sales really take off wind up falling flat. What’s worse, by the time you discover they’re not working as planned, you’re further into the fiscal year — and even further behind on hitting your targets.

If sales incentive programs are taking up more of your time and money while producing fewer results, it might be a good time to examine your design approach. BIWORLDWIDE contends that these are the top three most common assumptions holding back your sales incentive success.

1. “We pay our salespeople to hit their quota.”

Salespeople are tasked with reaching or exceeding a sales quota your company generates. Whether it’s a lack of talent or experience or simply being content at their current income level, fewer than 50% of sales reps actually hit their numbers. Pair this fact with the belief that salespeople shouldn’t earn awards unless they reach their assigned quota for the quarter or year and you’ll be:

  • Turning your back on potential sales lift from more than half of your team.
  • Missing an opportunity to shift many of the “didn’t-make-its” to “hit-their-numbers” participants by engaging them in your incentive program.

Remember, reward all of your growth achievers.
Your best performers have less room to grow because they’re already closer to being maxed out than your middle players. In a study of over 150 companies’ incentive programs, we found that less than 30% of an incentive program’s lift comes from the top 25% sellers. So, if you only offer awards to those who hit their quota, you’re missing out on 70% of the real opportunity.

To maximize your program’s potential, you need everyone engaged and motivated by awards that can increase sales. Create award goals that are appropriate for individuals’ run rates — no matter how they’re performing against their quotas. You can expect strong results from your top 20% and you’ll also give your middle and lower performers a fair chance to achieve their goals.


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Dave Smith

Dave Smith

GoalQuest Product Director

Dave has over 40 years of experience in sales, marketing, product management and incentive program design. Over the past 12 years, Dave has designed and implemented over 650 GoalQuest incentive programs with Fortune 500 companies. Dave has also written whitepapers and booklets on topics surrounding growing salesforce results through high-performance incentive program design.

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