Key learning outcomes:

  • Implement an incentive program to lift your sales team’s enthusiasm, productivity and results.
  • Recognise the need to reward all team members, not just the same few who consistently achieve the best results.
  • Acknowledge the benefit of a short time frame for programs.
  • Establish reasonable and achievable targets to ensure motivation remains high.


There is nothing salespeople like better than a good competition or a reward for a great result. Sales incentives are a good way to encourage positive behaviour or boost performance over a defined period of time. Following are some guidelines we have developed from working with sales teams for over 20 years, which will ensure you get the results you are looking for from your incentive program. We also give you some ideas for incentive programs that you can implement in your business.

Incentive program guidelines

1. Keep the program time frame short

Salespeople tend to focus on the short term. This means that you have a greater chance of success with short-term programs. We find that running several four to six-week programs over the course of the year works better than a single program that runs over a full year. Shorter programs tend to keep interest and energy high.[wlm_ismember]

2. Reward the right thing

It is important to design a program that rewards the behaviour or result that you want to drive or focus on. For example, if you’re trying to build a pipeline of future sales, the program should centre around generation activities. Or if you want to drive sales in a particular product, the target or competition should reflect that.

3. Give everyone a chance of winning

It’s best to design an incentive program that rewards not just your top performers, but also offers incentives to up and coming team members. Of course, top performers are always going to do well and they should not be penalised for their high performance. The key is to come up with a program in which everyone has a chance, so it isn’t only about the same few people who regularly achieve the best sales result.

4. Set realistic targets

When designing an incentive program it is important to ensure that you set achievable targets or prizes. The aim of the program is to boost performance and therefore there should be an element of “stretch” targeting. Remember, however, that if a target is set too high, it will actually work against you; for example, it can demotivate the team.

5. Provide updates

One of the great advantages of an incentive program is that it can provide some extra buzz and energy in the sales team. Having a system that updates participants as the program progresses can help to build excitement and provide motivation. You can do this through email, on your intranet, in your sales meetings or simply with a tally board placed somewhere where it is visible to the team. Results should be published at least once a week to keep the program front of mind for everyone.

Incentive program ideas 

1. Group target reward

An all-team reward such as a lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant is a great way to promote teamwork and it ensures all contributions are acknowledged. This is also one of the easiest programs to set up and run. You simply set a target for the behaviour or result you want to focus on for the period. For example, it might be a sales income target for the incentive period. It is worth noting that this is one incentive program that can work well over a slightly longer period to coincide with quarterly results. If the target is reached then you take the entire team, including any administration or sales support staff, for a nice dinner or lunch somewhere a little special.


2. The sales raffle

This incentive program operates just like any raffle, where the winning ticket receives a prize. Ideally, the raffle should run for a four to six-week period. Staff receive a set number of tickets in the raffle for completion of certain tasks or activities. Here’s an example of a raffle run in a car dealership:

The great thing about this program is that it gives everyone a chance to get tickets in the raffle and win a prize. A new salesperson, for example, could focus on making prospecting calls and the more established employee may get tickets by making sales.

At the completion of the incentive period we suggest you set up a variety of prizes in a central location – a meeting room is ideal. This incentive program works best if you have a larger number of small dollar-value prizes rather than just one or two large prizes up for grabs. As a guide, you should have 50 per cent more prizes than the size of your team. For example, if you have 10 in your team you should have 15 prizes, or if you have 4 in your team you should have 6. You can also add to the excitement by providing some drinks and snacks or perhaps incorporate the prize drawing in a breakfast meeting.

The raffle gets drawn with first person out of the barrel getting first pick of the prizes. Try to vary the prizes to add to the excitement. You may want to set a limit on the number of prizes one person can win so that everyone has a chance of winning.

Note: You may consider including support staff by adding a category for activities such as administration or compliance to create a more inclusive program.

3. The point system

The point system works in a similar way to the raffle in that points are allocated for the tasks and activities you want to focus on. Using the example above, rather than getting tickets in the raffle for the various activities, you get points. Once again this incentive program works well over a four to six-week period. At the end of the time period points are tallied and rewards allocated based on results. You need to set a prize for each category of point scores. It works well if you use a theme, for example “A night out on us”. Here are some ideas:

Make an event out of the prize-giving by revealing the final tally at a sales meeting, a breakfast meeting or an after-work get-together.


These are three ideas for incentive programs that we like to use because they promote participation and enthusiasm among employees at all levels. The most important thing to remember with incentive programs is that you are trying to boost in performance in a particular activity during a specific period. Use this article in conjunction with others in our “Sales training” section to ensure you get the most from your sales team.[/wlm_ismember]

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