Is your sales team motivated to overachieve?
It’s a hard question to answer, but you know a motivated group of sellers when you see them. They’re more productive, more engaged at work, and they close more deals. In other words, motivated reps are incredibly valuable — and incentives are one way sales leaders can encourage employee engagement and attract and retain sales talent.
Below, we talk more about the difference between commission and incentive rewards — including the role and importance of each — and share 12 of our favorite sales incentive ideas to reward top performers.
Commissions vs. incentives for sales
Sales commissions and incentives are not the same, but they can have similar effects. Both reward reps for performance activities, such as closing sales and driving revenue — and both are important tools to keep sales teams motivated and engaged.
The difference comes down to perception. Commissions are table stakes, and they follow a fixed, predictable structure. They are also more directly tied to the revenue reps bring in.
Incentives, on the other hand, are more like a bonus that sits atop a compensation plan. They help you push non-financial goals (such as closing new logos, for example), and boost rep motivation to overachieve their plan and quota.
Why sales incentives — in addition to commission — matter
Some sales leaders mistakenly believe that salary plus commission should be enough to motivate employees, but the war for talent means this is no longer the case. Standard compensation structures encourage reps to hit quota, but they don’t necessarily light any fires.
In addition, traditional comp plans can be complex and difficult for reps to parse — in fact, our 2022 Sales Sentiment Report revealed that 15 to 20 percent of salespeople reported a lack of full understanding regarding how they’re paid.
When your team doesn’t fully understand commissions, they’re not a strong motivating factor. Motivation isn’t all about incentives, of course — comp plans and sales goals that are well-structured and easy to understand are the foundation here. Incentives, then, serve as icing on the cake:
- Plenty of research shows that motivated and engaged employees sell more, driving more revenue for the business
- Incentives can help build your sales culture, encouraging friendly competition and fostering a culture of appreciation and high performance
- Attrition is costly for the company and engaged reps are far more likely to stay with the company
- They can serve as a recruiting tool, helping your company attract top sales talent
12 sales incentive ideas to reward sellers
The most obvious (and arguably most desired) sales incentive is to offer reps a cash bonus. But there are a lot of innovative ways to approach incentives, too. Offering non-monetary incentives, for example, can offer more impact while being more cost-effective. Plus, non-cash options actually help build and reflect your company culture.
To that end, here are 12 of our favorite sales incentive ideas that aren’t cash, including options big, small, charitable, and more.
Experiences over items
Incentives have traditionally focused on tangible items but that’s shifting. It’s no secret that reps — particularly younger Millennial and Gen Z employees — place a higher value on experiences over material items. They’re more motivated by things like travel and events versus, say, an Amazon gift card.
That’s where experiential incentive solutions like Blueboard, for example, come into play by making it easy to recognize employee performance through their own choice of experiential reward. Sellers can choose from tons of experiences, big and small, such as:
- A revamp of their home gym
- Sports tickets
- Curated travel experiences
- A mother-daughter spa day
- Educational classes on everything from blacksmithing to slinging cocktails
Professional development and education
Speaking of education, professional development and the opportunity to learn about other topics can also be a huge motivator for reps, and educational incentives can be tailored to fit all different levels.
For example, you can set up monthly lunch and learn events for the whole team to learn about a topic. You can sponsor online courses through a platform like Udemy, Coursera, or Skillshare and let reps choose the courses they want to take.
On the higher end, you can also offer to pay off student loans or cover costs for employees who choose to continue their education.
Trips and travel
Travel can be one of the pricier sales incentive options out there, but it can also be one of the best motivators and culture-builders. Remote teams, for example, benefit a ton from team offsites. Meeting up in a fun location serves a dual purpose of incentive and team-building opportunity.
You can also offer other trips for high achievers — regardless of whether your team is remote. President’s Club (or P Club) trips are one popular option to reward the top tier of your go-to-market organization with a fun trip.
Team dinners are another incentive idea that plays double-duty — as both a reward and an opportunity to improve connection and morale among the team.
Hanging out together outside work hours is a great way to help your team bond in a more casual, low-stakes environment.
Fancy dinners are a particularly great option for sales reps (outside sales reps or remote team members, for example) who aren’t in the office frequently and may not otherwise have the chance to spend much time together as a team.
Many sales incentives focus on performance — and rightfully so — but leaders need to encourage more than just deals closed. As we touched on before, attrition and rep turnover are incredibly expensive for companies. That’s why rewarding reps for time spent with the company is a good idea, too.
Beyond the underlying strategy, loyalty incentives can be just about anything. For example, here at CaptivateIQ, we offer employees a travel stipend after their first year with the company, while one of our customers creates a highly-personalized cartoon and playing card for employees after their one-year anniversary.
Incentives tailored to people’s unique interests
I admit it: this isn’t a specific incentive idea so much as a category of incentive. But often, the most personalized incentive is the most effective, and no one ever said you have to offer the same reward to everyone on the team.
Tailoring your incentives to each rep’s individual interests means you can more effectively motivate everyone. You can reward sports lovers with tickets to a game, for example, and reward reps who love to travel with airline vouchers.
The key with this strategy is to ensure incentives are of roughly equal value for the same performance.
Perks and gifts for key life events
Sales incentives don’t always have to be tied directly to performance. In fact, unexpected perks delight and surprise.
Sending a gift to employees who experience key life events is one great option here. That may include when reps get married, buy a house, have a kid, adopt a pet, earn a degree, and more.
The point is that these are times of emotional significance for your team — reaching out with a branded baby onesie, for example, encourages reps to feel more connected to and supported by the company.
Health and wellness perks
Many companies today offer health and wellness perks to all employees. But if your company doesn’t, they can be a great addition to the sales incentive program. They’re also a super versatile option that lends well to different tiers based on performance or tenure.
For example, you can cover one team member subscription to a meditation app, while offering someone else a stipend to furnish their new home gym. You can offer experiential health and wellness perks — like a yoga retreat — or buy fitness trackers for your team.
Reward their family, too
In most sales organizations, there are times when you need your team to work longer hours to get the job done — during the last week of the quarter, for example. Regardless of how motivated reps are to put in that overtime, it’s often at the expense of family time. And, in a way, their family may be “working overtime,” too.
That’s why sales incentives that extend beyond the employee — to include their family — are a great option. Sponsor a family dinner at a nice local restaurant or send gingerbread house kits to the entire family during the holidays.
Additional paid time off (PTO) days are always a good option. Particularly for teams like sales who sometimes work long, high-pressure hours, the promise of more time off for a vacation, extended parental leave, or just to relax can be a huge motivator. Plus, this is a great budget-friendly option.
Donations and charitable incentives
Sales incentives don’t always have to go directly to reps — donations to their favorite causes can be just as special. Plus, with so many employees looking to work for companies that align with their own personal values, charitable incentives can be a big recruiting asset.
You can get creative here, too. Offer a cash donation, give employees a day off to volunteer for their favorite cause, or send charitable gift cards so they can choose any organization that’s meaningful to them.
New tech and gadgets
When in doubt, new technology and gadgets are always a popular choice. You can offer a particular item, like an Apple Watch, to everyone who earns it or let them choose from a list of options.
Gadgets like noise-canceling headphones, virtual reality (VR) headsets, and fitness trackers are proven crowd pleasers. Or, reward reps with a voucher or gift card so they can choose from any new tech they have their eyes on.
Motivate high performers to boost sales
Sales incentives are a powerful tool in helping to motivate, attract, and retain top sellers — and by getting a little creative, you can develop an incentive structure that works for every rep and any budget.
Learn more about how motivating the right GTM team behaviors drives business success by watching our on-demand webinar, The Ins and Outs of Building a Performance-Based Culture.