What Incentives Can Mean For Your Sales Staff

Article about
print friendly version

What Incentives Can Mean For Your Sales Staff

May 10, 2018 by Mark Maier

I have recently gone through some evaluations of pacing reports from the last couple of years at the Media property I work for and the results were not that shocking.  The higher percentage of sales to goal we were at on the 1st of the month, the better the finish...no real surprise but Print/Digital properties are notorious for not entering a month at 85% or greater...in other Media properties, that is the benchmark.  What kind of bonus or incentive could I offer to motivate my reps to enter the month at 85% of goal or if they start the month at 100% of goal? I know what hitting those numbers will do to our overall sales effort if they hit even the 85% at the start of the month...they will hit or blow through the goal.

What incentives work for you?  The Center For Media Research reports that cash isn't king with most people...


According to a white paper from BI Worldwide, money used as an incentive yields positive results up to a point. However, when money is not the optimal reward to get extra effort from people, when considering financial efficiency, ROI, or total results, there are superior alternatives to cash for incentives.

When sales reps are offered cash incentives, says the report, they perform at a lower level; When offered non-cash prizes, they perform at a higher level. In nearly every case when measuring a motivator meant to improve performance, non-cash outperforms cash all the time, says the report.

When their team needs to meet an ambitious sales goal, managers frequently turn to incentive programs. These programs are a well-established method of motivating employees to perform at higher levels, with similar success. Most sales managers admit that designing the perfect bonus and incentive system is no walk in the park.

How do we develop incentive systems that motivate and reward employees to maximize results? Review this white paper from BI Worldwide to learn more.

Knowledge @ Bi: Motivation At Work, by Jan Ketil Arnulf.

“Of course, we are motivated by money. However, what else are we motivated by?,.. challenges, says the paper.

The market is full to the brim of theories, recipes and consultants that help leaders motivate their employees. The simple answer is, of course, money.

Theories of performance-related pay and bonus systems therefore have a sizable share of the motivational market. There is, however, controversy about the impact and importance of such systems for performance in organizations. How far can we get with performance-related pay, can it have harmful side effects, and are there alternatives?

The magazine “Economist" revealed that while workers at the start of the industrial revolution worked in inhumane conditions, they still had it better than in slave-like conditions in the countryside. That is why they came.

In countries such as China and India, people continue to flow from hopelessness to marginally improved conditions because of paid employment. They go from poorer to richer regions, from lower to higher education and from dying to thriving industries.

The prospect of better wages drives a large global migration and motivates young people around the world to fill schools of all types in hopes of a more prosperous future. With such a powerful motivator as money available, maybe managers should not need anything else. Why is it not enough to portion out money in a sufficiently clever way to achieve competitive motivation?

In a mature market, work of the same value will receive the same pay. The employer cannot pay for better motivation; this only leads to lower profitability. He also cannot, to any large extent, withhold money until the results are available (performance pay), because employees can go to more reliable payers.

This is where psychology takes over as an explanation. The question of “money, and what else" is quite literal. When the most powerful motivators for people's behavior lose their power because everyone has them, it becomes necessary to find other ways to increase the stakes.

For the most financially interested, there is again some leeway in trying to tweak salaries. In some places that works, but the main reason why leaders should take an interest in psychology is quoted as: “Will the employees' brains be able to respond as desired to the different forms of payment?”


In 2000, the psychologist Daniel Kahneman received the Nobel Prize for having demonstrated exactly this: The human brain can be influenced by money, but we have no precise sensory organ for the most intricate calculations.


We work for money, but for many other things too, such as the feeling of self-respect, camaraderie, sense of achievement and purpose. It is the interest in this side of human beings that provides increased value in a developed economy. Therefore, it is profitable for managers to be concerned with motivational psychology.

The issue of money as motivation is, at its core, neither political, nor psychological. Logic, statistical sense will get you far.


This article is published in Fudan Business Knowledge, September 2014, a digital magazine published by the Fudan University School of Management.



Related Categories

Read Comment this Email this0 Comments

Readers Comments
No comments have been submitted to this Article

Leave a comment
* Name
* Email ( will not be displayed )
* Comments

Security Check
* Required
When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment. If you subscribe to the LPG Maillist you will also be sent a link to confirm your email address, and to validated that you want to be part of our maillist. To create a live link, simply type the URL (including http://) and we will make it a live link for you. HTML and Javascript Tags are not allowed. Comments that are considered spam will be deleted, Please keep the comments and links relavent to this Article.

Share this article with others.
* Your Email
* Their Email
* Required
When you enter your email address and their email address, our server will send them a link to this article. If you check the subscribe box, you both will also be sent a link to confirm your email address, and to validated that you want to be part of our maillist.