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Money may talk, but we eventually stop listening

Jun 01, 2015

Written by: Tim Houlihan
(View Author Bio)

Sales managers are usually trying to do one thing: increase sales.
Even with well-crafted incentive and compensation systems in place, they sometimes miss their objectives.

Travel experiences vs money awards for employees and sales reps BIW Latin America.


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.

Most Sales Managers admit that designing the perfect bonus and incentive system is no walk in the park. Some say it is myth or legend because chasing after the perfect motivation tool is like hunting unicorns: it’s an illusion.

How do we develop incentive systems that motivate and reward employees to maximize results? The answer is more straight forward than you may expect, but let’s start with the illusions.

 I have a feel for these things

Sales managers have a gut instinct for what works and what doesn’t. Their gut tells them that sales people are coin operated and that more cash on the table is the way to get them to perform.

Research (not surveys, but actual results) on performance has revealed the psychological tripwires that drive results and money only get us so far. Sure, money talks, but eventually we stop listening.

 To deliver the maximum amount of motivation, use incentives and rewards that are non-monetary – in other words, rewards where the cash value of the reward is NOT explicit to the recipient. That means: don’t use cash or cash equivalents such as debit cards or retail gift cards for your incentives, even though your reps say they like them.


And the price is...

How could the cash value of an award not be explicit? How could. The Price is Right be the longest running daytime game show on television? Is it because everybody already knows the actual price of the products and we love seeing everyone win? No. It’s because we think we know the prices of the products, but don’t. The game is fun because of this illusion. However, your sales problems are not illusions – to solve your motivation issues, you need hard facts. Money talks, but eventually we stop listening.


Have you ever heard your co-workers, employees or family members say something like this?

“Everything I decide to do is exactly the right thing and always works out, except when situations conspire against me or some crazy unforeseeable circumstance pops up. Most of my co-workers fail because they missed seeing huge warning signs and made poor strategic bets. “

“Not me. I’m not saying I’m right all the time but my decision-making is sound. Also, I’m a better-than-average driver, invest wisely, never have credit card debt (well, any amount to speak of), know a good deal when I see one, and I know my preferences for products with clarity. “

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