Are you confident as an incentive program leader?

We asked 120+ incentive program leaders 10 simple questions about their programs. As a company that designs programs and experiences to help our clients reach their full potential, we wanted to know just how confident others were when it came to how well their programs delivered on program objectives, how well they motivated their teams, and if they were operating most effectively.

It turned out that most incentive program leaders have a good foundation for their incentive programs, but when it comes to certain aspects of their program, they lack confidence. This isn’t surprising, because even the best-designed programs will need to be reviewed and tweaked to ensure they continue working as intended.

Of the respondents that took our quiz, 12% are operating as rock stars, 79% could use some help, and 9% should look at re-evaluating their program completely.

incentive audit results

Here are the top 5 concerns for leaders running incentive programs (Infographic Available Below):

1. They aren’t sure they are using the best technology available to engage and motivate their sales team.

This is an extremely valid concern. Considering just how fast technology changes in general and the capabilities that haven’t even been dreamed up yet – it’s probably impossible to have the BEST technology at your fingertips at all times. What is possible though, is partnering with a provider that is dedicated to continually finding ways to enhance your program for participants by understanding the way they live and work.

2. They aren’t sure their sales incentive engages and motivates all levels of their sales team—senior level, entry-level, new hires, and more.

Motivation is a tricky thing. It is said you can’t motivate someone else, but you can create an environment where they can motivate themselves. Creating a program that engages everyone is where art and science meet. A seasoned program designer understands the nuances of creating an initiative that can capture all levels of a sales team. For example, certain elements should appeal to the top performer who is driven by social rewards like recognition and status. On the other hand, a mid-level performer may be more connected to earning rewards based on achieving increasingly higher goals and being rewarded for learning how to be a top performer.

Best-in-class companies constantly research and evaluate their audience to ensure they are designing initiatives with all types of performers in mind. A word of warning: Survey respondents are notorious for telling you what they “rationally” want without knowing what would influence their behavior the most. This is where professional incentive strategists can help immensely. They know the right questions to ask and are experts at conducting interviews with participants.

3. They aren’t sure the sales team understands the way the programs work and how they earn awards.

When we design a program, we start by making sure the program participant is clear on what needs to be done to earn awards and how to redeem them. It is amazing how many programs are launched, run, and finalized without once checking to be sure the participant knows how to earn and redeem their awards! A simple “quiz” or contest about the program rules and how the process works could easily tell you if your audience needs more information or training on how to participate in the program. Don’t wait until the program is 75% complete to find out no one understood the rules. Do this early to ensure you don’t waste time and energy on a poorly designed and understood program.

4. They aren’t sure the awards offered in the programs are valued and desired by their sales team.

From day to day, the needs and wants of your audience will change. You cannot predict what your audience will find desirable and worth the effort. Therefore, a well-designed program will include a “catalog” of award options that is both wide and deep. Having a breadth of choices is critical to ensuring your participants can find what they want. But too many options make choosing harder. A good program will help prompt participants to filter and narrow their search down to a few items/options they can then use as motivation for their goals.

A program is always better when you can connect the effort to the award. Points, credits, and money are just too amorphous to connect to. But a new OLED TV for the big game – or that game station your child has been asking for – makes the program that much more tangible – and more likely to drive behavior change.

Don’t try to predict what your audience will want. Instead, make sure the choice pool is large – and then help them filter and narrow their choices.

5. They aren’t sure there is a positive ROI on their sales incentive investment.

Typically, the first question we ask is “How will you know if your program is successful?” That’s a great place to start the program design. There are different kinds of success metrics when it comes to sales incentive investments. It’s important to first establish which metric you want to measure for your program.

Financial ROI is important and can easily be calculated if you take the time upfront to ensure you’re collecting the appropriate data to do the calculation. In other words – build an ROI into the process. The time to start is at the beginning – making sure you’re tracking and recording the data you will need to do the math.

However, this is not the only way to judge the impact of a program. Sometimes the goals are different. For example, training and learning that can’t be attributed to a current sale (but could drive future sales), can make ROI calculations difficult.

Also, many times an incentive is required as a response to the market as a defensive strategy – to hold market share for example. In these very specific cases, the ROI may not be positive – but overall the impact was good, and the program, was necessary.


Do you share these same concerns? Or maybe you have other questions about rule structure, rewards, and technology – either way, an incentive program designer can help answer those questions and guide you to a more successful incentive program. Through strategically designed interview tactics, they can help you assess your current program, re-frame or re-create your program (including rules, rewards, communication, and technology), and continually evaluate it for effectiveness and efficiency.

incentive audit infographic

How can we address your incentive program concerns?